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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Breeders' Cup will return to Kentucky in 2015 -- but it won't be coming to Churchill Downs. Instead, the annual race will make its debut in Lexington next Fall.
The news was officially announced Tuesday morning when The Breeders' Cup released its three-year host strategy, which involves the race being held at Keeneland in 2015, in Arcadia, California in 2016 and in Del Mar, California in 2017.
"The Breeders' Cup at Keeneland is a homecoming for many of these great champions who were foaled and raised at Central Kentucky farms, and often sold at Keeneland," said Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomason, according to a news release. "The Keeneland team feels that sense of connection and history with the Breeders' Cup, and we look forward to offering fans an extraordinary racing and entertainment experience."
The Breeders' Cup is known as the Super Bowl of racing - with purses so high, it's the richest sporting event in the U.S. at $26 million.
Officials with both Keeneland and the Breeders' Cup say the 2015 event will be a homecoming. Many called it long overdue--something both the track and the city is ready for..
"To see the Breeders' Cup return to it's roots is a tribute not only to the origins of this event, but to the horse industry's rich heritage here in Kentucky," said Governor Steve Beshear.To see the Breeders' Cup return to it's roots is a tribute not only to the origins of this event, but to the horse industry's rich heritage here in Kentucky."
As one of the smaller host tracks in Breeders' Cup history, Keeneland said it will be making improvements to accommodate fans. 7,000 premium seats will be added for the event, including box seats, dining and hospitality areas. General admission tickets will also be available.
Mayor of Lexington Jim Gray said the city will work "cooperatively" and "creatively" with Keeneland to accommodate horse racing fans once they leave the track.
"We'll stretch in order to work with Keeneland to do whatever it takes to accommodate these fans--really worldwide--that will be in Lexington," said Gray.?
Even with improvements, it cannot compare in size to eight time host, Churchill Downs.
Breeders' Cup officials say Churchill was not chosen simply because they wanted to explore new venues in medium markets.
"It has no impact on Churchill as a future host site, this is just a new experiment," said Breeders' Cup Chairman Bill Farish.
Breeders' Cup Chairman Bill Farish said negative press received by Churchill this year had nothing to do with the decision. He said the decision was made long before the Kentucky Derby.
"There's no venue like Churchill Downs, and hopefully we'll be back there one day," said Farish.
The new schedule means the longest absence of the Breeders' Cup at Churchill. Santa Anita will become the most frequent host in 2016, taking a longstanding title held by Churchill.