The Maryland Jockey Club will host officials from the Breeders' Cup at Laurel Park on Saturday, the next step in an effort to lure the most lucrative two-day event in thoroughbred racing to the renovated track.
The Breeders' Cup, which awards $26.5 million in purses over 13 races, brings together the sport's best horses, trainers and owners every fall. It has never been held in Maryland, but state racing officials have said this would be an ideal time for that to change, given recent increases in field sizes, betting handle and breeding numbers.
Officials for the Stronach Group, the Jockey Club's parent company, are bidding to host the event as early as 2019, though 2020 or 2021 are likely more realistic targets. The company has already spent millions of dollars to add state-of-the-art barns, new luxury seating and new landscaping at Laurel. But Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for the Stronach Group's racing division, has said the company will have to continue spending on redevelopment to have a shot at the Breeders' Cup.
He has said he's confident the event will be staged at Laurel eventually. The Stronach Group has extensive experience with the Breeders' Cup, having hosted it four of the past five years at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.
Breeders' Cup spokesman Jim Gluckson said the event's organizers do not publicly discuss future sites until an announcement is about to be made. "We have a great relationship with the Stronach Group and appreciate all they have done for the Breeders' Cup as a host at Santa Anita Park and as a supporter of the Championships," Gluckson said in an email. "We plan to continue having a great relationship with them."
The Breeders' Cup is scheduled for Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in San Diego this year and for Churchill Downs in Kentucky next year. The announcement of the 2018 site came last April, so it's conceivable news about the 2019 site could be released soon.
The Jockey Club will host Breeders' Cup officials on a special "Fantasy Owners Day" at Laurel. Patrons who registered for the event will each be paired with a horse and will go through the day — which features five stakes races — as if they were one of the horse's owners. They will also have chances to interact with some of the state's leading horsemen and racing officials.
The idea is to build excitement among fans who might consider owning racehorses some day.