GULFSTREAM PARK AND THE BREEDERS’ CUP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida, hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in 1989, 1992, and 1999. The 1989 Breeders’ Cup Classic, in which Sunday Silence barely held off Easy Goer, was arguably the best Classic in its 29-year history.

The Gulfstream Park racetrack that hosted three Breeders’ Cups was razed and replaced by a facility that houses both Thoroughbred horse racing and video lottery terminals. It is adjacent to an upscale complex of retailers, restaurants, and condominiums. The scaled-down Gulfstream Park does not have anywhere near enough seats to accommodate the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

In order to expand Gulfstream Park to host a Breeders’ Cup, its owner, Frank Stronach, has announced plans to install seats to hold 65,000 people and to add two new hotels to the property. The scheduled date for start of construction is April 2013.

The hotel additions should not lack for space because there is currently plenty of parking for the shopping complex and racetrack/slots facility. It is not clear how 60,000 seats could be built around the present facility without severe alterations.

If this plan can be accomplished, it is good news for horse racing in the United States in general and the Breeders’ Cup in particular. Gulfstream Park offers moderate weather for early November racing, is easily accessible from several major airports, has ample lodging for visitors, and there is plenty to do in the Miami area besides horse racing. The only drawback is that European horse trainers may prefer colder temperatures.

Santa Anita near Los Angles offers many of the same advantages as Gulfstream Park and both are owned by Frank Stronach. It would make business sense for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to reach an agreement wherein the Cup is alternated between the two sites. If the Breeders’ Cup board prefers not to limit the Cup to these two venues, then at least the majority of the time the Breeders’ Cup could be held at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita, especially because of the predictability of moderate November weather in Miami and Los Angeles.

While a strong case can be made for having Belmont Park and Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup loop, the weather in both New York and Louisville is a concern. Multiple times I have attended Breeders’ Cup World Championships at both places and experienced the biting cold on a couple of occasions. Had the 2012 Breeders’ Cup been scheduled at Belmont Park, it no doubt would have been cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy. The history and ambiance of Belmont and Churchill are compelling, but so are palm trees and warm gentle breezes in late autumn.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business

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