The 2019 Breeders’ Cup World Championships is remaining at Santa Anita Park.

Will she or won’t she? Can the outstanding turf mare Vasilika race in the Breeders’ Cup if her trainer is banned at Santa Anita? One of many lingering questions surrounding the event. (Image: Melanie Martines)

That’s the decision Thursday from Breeders’ Cup officials. But, they are expecting to continue grappling with the extensive fall-out from the Los Angeles-area race track’s outbreak of training and racing mishaps. Thirty horses have succumbed from racing or training injuries or other physical difficulties, such as heart problems, during the track’s winter/spring meeting, Dec. 26-June 23.

However, many questions about the event are still in need of answers. They include:

  • What happens to the Breeders’ Cup if the fatalities continue?
  • What’s the contingency plan if the CHRB suspends racing at the track?
  • Will  protests by animal rights activists detract from the Breeders’ Cup, thus overshadowing the event?
  • Will trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, a Breeders’ Cup winner in the past, be able to race his horses in the event if he’s still banned at the track?

Of special interest is Hollendorfer’s outstanding turf runner Vasilika. She’s the winner of four straight important stakes races during the recent Santa Anita meeting.

Here’s the Breeders’ Cup Decision

The official announcement from the Breeders’ Cup CEO and President Craig Fravel:

Today the Breeders’ Cup Board of Directors unanimously affirmed its commitment to conduct the 2019 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park on November 1-2. This will mark the 10th time the event will be held at Santa Anita, the most of any host venue over the 36-year history of the Breeders’ Cup.

I would like to assure you that foremost among the core values of the Breeders’ Cup are the safety and integrity of the competition and we hold ourselves, our host sites and our competitors to the highest standards of both. It is clear that meaningful and effective reforms and best practices have been implemented at Santa Anita in recent months through the collective efforts of The Stronach Group, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the California Thoroughbred Trainers, and the California Horse Racing Board.

The Breeders’ Cup fully embraces those reforms and will devote our time and energy in the coming months to further advance those efforts. We look forward to showing you, and the rest of the world, the best in Thoroughbred racing at one of its finest venues.

As always, we appreciate your support of the Breeders’ Cup.

Santa Anita: See You In September

Racing resumes at Santa Anita on Sept 26. The Breeders’ Cup is five weeks later, Nov. 1 & 2. Los Alamitos in Orange County begins its short meeting Saturday. Then, Del Mar, on the seaside in Northern San Diego County, begins its meeting on July 17. Racing concludes there on Labor Day, Sept.  2.  Racing works its way back north with another brief stand is at Los Alamitos before Santa Anita gets going once more.

Breeders' Cup Santa Anita
The show will go on for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita, despite the threat of racing at the track being suspended over ongoing safety concerns. (Image: Breeders’ Cup)

Santa Anita is under relentless pressure to curb the equine fatalities. All TSG tracks including Santa Anita are now excluding Hollendorfer, a nationally known, Hall of Fame trainer. This, after a fourth horse under his care died on Saturday morning. Hollendorfer, who lost two additional horses at Golden Gate Fields, near San Francisco, is still welcome at Los Alamitos. He can also race in New York. He has a small string at Belmont Park. Del Mar management has yet to indicate if Hollendorfer will be racing there.

The rampant speculation that the two-day, championship event would be pulled from California and re-locating to Churchill Downs in Louisville is over for now. However, industry insiders say the Breeders’ Cup remains in a  “no win” dilemma. That’s because moving the event would have been a “no confidence” vote for The Stronach Group (TSG), Santa Anita’s owner/operator, and might contribute to the end or a protracted suspension of Thoroughbred racing at the historic venue. No racing at Santa Anita would be a devastating blow to the sport nationally. TSG continues to implement new safety and medication protocols for racing and training. Additionally, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) now has newly increased powers. It can immediately halt racing at any track in the state if it feels continuing to race would be unsafe.