Del Mar, Keeneland are worthy additions to Breeder’s Cup rotation


One of the worst-kept secrets in racing was the leaking of the rotation of Breeders’ Cup sites in coming years.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Breeders’ Cups will be at Keeneland in 2015, Santa Anita in 2016 and Del Mar in 2017.

None of this is a surprise for any readers of tea leaves. When Del Mar and Keeneland announced they were tearing out their synthetic surfaces and replacing it with dirt, it was obvious there was a bigger plan in place.

In the case of Del Mar, it was even more transparent when it widened its turf course to make sure it could handle a 14-horse field.

I see these as big positives for horse racing. Del Mar and Keeneland, along with Saratoga, are considered the most interesting and exciting racing venues in the country.

The one knock against Del Mar and Keeneland is their smaller size. Even if they have to limit ticket sales, an attendance cap will only provide more cachet for the event.

In terms of customer service, Del Mar and Keeneland get high marks for treating customers well during racing season. And there will be time to plan for the inevitable parking and traffic congestion.

It was widely noted that Belmont Park and Churchill Downs were absent from the Breeders’ Cup rotation.

The New York Racing Association has undergone major changes in recent years. With key executives coming and going, the flux has not allowed NYRA and the Breeders’ Cup to be on the same page. I would go out on a limb to suggest a Cup will be in New York by 2020.

As for Churchill Downs, it has a proven track record from the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cups. The Louisville track can handle massive six-figure crowds like no other.

The key here may be the economics of hosting a Breeders’ Cup. The host track must make so many concessions to the point that hosting is more for show than for dough.

Churchill makes so much profit from Oaks and Derby days that it probably is irked about signing off a lot of revenue streams to the Breeders’ Cup coffers.

I suspect with any issue, there is a middle ground. There are too many positives for going back to Churchill, where smart business people should be able to get a deal done.

■ NHC PURSE $2 MILLION — The purse for the 2015 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship will be an estimated $2 million. Last year’s purse was $1.59 million.

The NHC is Jan. 23 to 25 at Treasure Island. Qualifiers will take place all year for the event.

The Treasure Island race book recently was fully remodeled into one of the best books in Las Vegas.

■ UNTAPABLE — Many consider filly Untapable the best 3-year-old in training — better even than Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome.

Trainer Steve Asmussen was forced to find a new rider after Untapable’s regular pilot, Rosie Napravnik, was hurt Sunday in a training spill. Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Untapable in her next start, the Grade 1 Mother Goose, on June 28 at Belmont Park.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.