News & Views: Laurel Park’s Breeders’ Cup bid
by Frank Vespe
NEWS: The Maryland Jockey Club has submitted a formal proposal to host the Breeders’ Cup between 2019 and 2022, with its best shots coming in 2020 or later, The Baltimore Sun reports. If Laurel were chosen, it would be the first-ever Breeders’ Cup in Maryland and the first in the Mid-Atlantic since 2007, when Monmouth Park hosted.
VIEWS: The Maryland racing renaissance began in 2008 with the passage of legislation allowing slot machines in Maryland and moved into overdrive in the last few years with the numerous steps the Maryland Jockey Club has taken to improve Laurel Park and raise handle.
Now, the company has taken the next step.
“I think from an industry standpoint, it would put Laurel back on the map,” Maryland Jockey Club president Sal Sinatra told the Sun. “It would show Maryland is back as a leader in the sport.”
Maryland already successfully hosts the industry’s second-biggest day, the Preakness Stakes, and other Stronach Group tracks have proven the company’s ability to handle other big events. Since the Monmouth Breeders’ Cup, the Stronach-owned Santa Anita Park has hosted that event in six of 10 years. And this weekend the Stronach-owned Gulfstream Park will once again host both the Eclipse Awards and the world’s richest race, the $16 million Pegasus World Cup.
That gets to the next question. Can Laurel actually win the bidding?
It says here: Absolutely. Maybe in this round, maybe not, but soon.
Maryland’s experience with the Preakness, and the Stronach Group’s with the Breeders’ Cup and other events, constitute a valuable check mark on Laurel’s scorecard. The company has proven it can successfully manage major events, including the Breeders’ Cup, and that has to be a plus in its bid.
What’s more, in the last decade the Stronach Group has positioned itself as the leading player in hosting major racing events. The company knows how to make a compelling case and win a bidding process.
There’s no question that the Breeders’ Cup would be a success in Maryland. The state itself has a long love affair with the horse and a history of supporting major racing events. Gov. Hogan has pledged the state’s support of the effort to bring the Breeders’ Cup here. And Maryland’s location makes it easy for both American and international shippers to get here.
Finally, there’s this: the renovations that the MJC has undertaken at Laurel Park in the last couple of years haven’t just been about making it a better place to watch the races on a day-to-day basis (though, of course, they do that). They were undertaken with the specific goal in mind of creating the kind of high-end hospitality opportunities that have become increasingly important to Breeders’ Cup. So, even though Laurel is an older facility, in its renovated state it should cut the exact profile that the Breeders’ Cup will be seeking.
Of course, bidding isn’t the same as being chosen, and there’s certainly a distance to travel between here and there.
But if you’re a bettor – and who in horse racing isn’t, in one form or another? – then you’d have to put your money on the Breeders’ Cup coming to Maryland, and soon.