OPINION: Let’s Just Hope That Breeders’ Cup Board Does The Right Thing; Moves Championship Event

(Will the Breeders’ Cup be moved? If so, where? A photo of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup venue / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

This will be the shortest “Opinion” piece in the history of Gene McLean.


And, there is a simple reason.

We simply don’t think that it takes a whole lot of convincing to do the right thing.

In this case, the only thing.

This coming Thursday, in just two days, the Board of Directors of the Breeders’ Cup will meet. While the official “Agenda” has not been circulated to the general public, at least not to our knowledge, it is widely expected and anticipated that the members will discuss whether or not this year’s “Championship Event” will stay at the announced, “official” site of Santa Anita, or if the Board will elect to move it.

Ray Paulick — if you believe his dribble and swallow his assertions that he is the astute soothsayer of all things Thoroughbred — says that the easy decision is to move the event.

Paulick goes on to convince himself that it is the wrong decision.


Imagine this.

We agree that he has the right to his opinion.

We agree that it should be — and is — an easy decision.

We disagree with his conclusion.

Per usual.

In this case, the decision to move the Breeders’ Cup is without a single doubt an easy decision.

After all, how on God’s green, beautiful, lavish Earth can the industry endorse having its’ Championship event — its’ version of the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Masters, the Final Four, Wimbledon — on a course that has now born witness to the catastrophic deaths of 30 horses since it opened its’ flawed meet on Dec. 26 and just concluded this past weekend?


After all, if it only could, the official racing oversight board in the entire state of California would have shut the recent meet down early due to all of the problems associated with the racing surfaces there. Cold. Completely. Done. Finished. It even went so far as to ask Santa Anita officials to close the meet and this racetrack due to all of the injuries and fatalities — without success. How can you ask the connections of the world’s best horses to run over it, when the official racing board didn’t want anyone, anybody, any horse to run over it?


After all, everyone knows — including the Santa Anita owners and their cast of decision-making characters — that the racetrack only gets worse and more potentially dangerous when it rains. Those in the know there have long speculated that the racetrack’s drainage system has been and continues to be  a concern. How is the “Little Princess” (er, Belinda Stronach) going to guarantee dry weather for the entire time that Breeders’ Cup horses ship in, race, and ship out? I bet she doesn’t have a direct line to that decision-maker, who controls the heaven’s sprinkler system.


Simply put, no matter how much you or I would love to see Santa Anita restored to its’ former self and reaffirmed to be the “Great Race Place” again, and you can count me as one of those, it simply isn’t possible right now. Not until something is done — to materially change the track. Not until something is done to alter the course. Not until something is done to change public opinion — in a positive way.

Not until someone has the guts to dig up that racetrack, from top to bottom, and completely redo the entire surface with a state-of-the-art track similar to the new ones established at both Del Mar and Keeneland in recent years.

Not until someone has the authority to replace the drainage system with an innovative, sate-of-the-art system that can adequately, safely, and legally drain excess rain water, treat it accordingly and then dispose of it properly.

Not until someone can test the new racetrack to ensure that it is safe, sound, and ready for competition.

Not until it is proven — proven — to be “Championship” quality.

And, peeps, I just don’t think that can be done. Not at Santa Anita. Not right now. Not before the first weekend in November.

So, that leaves the Breeders’ Cup Board with a decision on Thursday.

An easy one.

And, only one.

Move the Breeders’ Cup.


The industry deserves the best. The public wants the best. The horses need the best.

In order to recruit “Championship” horsemen. In order to retain “Championship” horses. In order to put on a “Championship” event. You need a “Championship” venue — including a “Championship” racetrack and racetrack operator.

One that has the credibility and the ability to do the right thing. One that has a proven track record for both safety and performance. One that can put on an event — to showcase the horses; to provide quality experiences for the fans; to display the pure glamour of the sport.

There may be only a handful of racetracks that can fit that description and be able to pull off such a huge, magnificent event in a short advance time.

There may be only one that can do it.

That’s for the Breeders’ Cup to decide.

But I can tell you, for sure, who can’t pull it off right now with any degree of confidence, credibility, proven assurances and safeguards.

And, that’s Santa Anita.

For now, Santa Anita has lost those ingredients and credentials. By its’ own actions and in-actions.

Trust has to be earned. Not given or granted.

Santa Anita has lost trust.

And, as a result, should lose the Breeders’ Cup.



The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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