SBD/Issue 40/Events & Attractions

Undefeated Zenyatta Helps Breeders' Cup Set Ticket Sales Record

Zenyatta Going For 20th Consecutive
Victory In Breeders' Cup Finale

The Breeders' Cup, which began Friday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, has hit a new record for ticket sales and expects to set records for attendance as well, said Breeders' Cup President & CEO Greg Avioli. "We have just gone over $10 million in sales and the previous record was $6.9 million in 2006," Avioli said. He cited the return to Kentucky after five years as well as interest in undefeated mare Zenyatta, who will go for her 20th win in as many tries in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the event's finale at 6:45pm ET Saturday, as reasons for the boost in sales. "It absolutely would be a positive thing for the sport of horse racing for Zenyatta to win this race and to move to 20 and 0," Avioli said. "That type of publicity is exactly what the horse racing industry needs." Avioli said that the media attention the event has drawn is three to four times what it normally is because of the presence of Zenyatta, who has been featured on "60 Minutes" and in a Sports Illustrated story, among other media outlets. Avioli said he expects attendance at the two-day event to exceed 100,000. The previous record was 96,000 in ‘09. He predicted that wagering on the races in the two-day event would exceed $200M, up from $178M last year. One reason Avioli said he expects an increase is Churchill has a dirt main track whereas Santa Anita Park, the host of last year's event, had a synthetic track. High roller horseplayers prefer to bet on dirt tracks, he said (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). Churchill Downs VP/Operations David Sweazy said that Zenyatta's presence is "helping 'considerably' to boost the prospective attendance for Saturday, when cold weather might otherwise limit the crowd." Sweazy: "We're geared up for 60,000 and up. If not for Zenyatta, I'm sure we wouldn't have that many." Last year's Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita drew 37,651 and 58,845 fans on Friday and Saturday, respectively (, 11/4).

IMPROVING THE BOTTOM LINE: In Louisville, Gregory Hall notes total wagering on the Breeders' Cup is "expected to exceed" $150M, but the Breeders' Cup organization still is "budgeted to lose money on its operations for the year -- as it routinely does." The Breeders' Cup "has operated at a loss of at least $1 million in each of the last two years." Though the organization is "not worried about that --- the non-profit group cites ample cash reserves and says its main purpose is to promote racing and fund purses for the two-day event -- Cup officials are working to improve the bottom line." Avioli said that the organization can "improve its finances by increasing the number of horses from abroad that are nominated to the Breeders' Cup as foals." Avioli noted that the agreements to race at Churchill Downs this year and next year "are 'substantially the same' revenue sharing structure that host tracks have had for years" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 11/5).

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