The last time the Breeders' Cup was held at Gulfstream Park, Pat Day and Cat Thief won the Classic. - Andy Lyons / Allsport
It's been almost 15 years since the Breeders' Cup was held at Gulfstream Park. Could a return be on the horizon?
One of the developments that significantly altered the Breeders' Cup landscape over the last ten years was the complete renovation of Gulfstream Park in Florida during 2004 and 2005, including the reduction of the grandstand seating capacity from 30,000 to something like a few thousand scattered around the facility. Before the final coat of paint dried at the new Gulfstream Park, the Breeders' Cup was out of the picture. When you consider the history of the track and the Breeders' Cup (the event was held at Gulfstream three times in the past, including the Race of the Century between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer in 1989), the absence of the track in the rotation has been a true loss.
Current news from Gulfstream suggests the Breeders' Cup drought could actually end in the coming years following a second major renovation to the Hallandale Beach track. According to an article at BloodHorse.com, Gulfstream is set to begin construction on "two sections of grandstand seating, two track-side hotels, and a stand-alone casino building" following the conclusion of their 2012 - 2013 meet. The article goes on to note that the new construction would increase seating to approximately 52,000, a significant increase from current levels.
As I wrote several months ago, the changing landscape of tracks across North America has severely limited locations for the Breeders' Cup. If we assume that the event will not be held at a track with a synthetic main surface anytime in the near future (and that's probably a safe assumption), then we are left with only a handful of facilities that can handle an event such as the Breeders' Cup: Churchill Downs, Santa Anita, Belmont Park and Monmouth Park. Lone Star Park held the event in 2006 but it's unlikely to hold it anytime in the near future. Former hosts Arlington Park and the not-long-for-the-world Hollywood Park are now synthetic tracks. Aqueduct held the event in the past but seems highly unlikely to ever host again.
Another warm weather location is desperately needed for the Breeders' Cup rotation, joining Santa Anita Park and complimenting the colder weather sites in Kentucky and New York/New Jersey. A Santa Anita - Churchill - Gulfstream - Belmont rotation, with a Monmouth or other facility occasionally included, would be very desirable, in my opinion.
Hopefully, Gulfstream is successful with their redevelopment and we can add a Florida track into the mix.
If you're a fan of the Breeders' Cup and hosting North America's premier event at multiple locations, this is potentially excellent news.