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Volume 24 No. 155

Events and Attractions

The Breeders' Cup is "returning to Kentucky after what will be a four-year absence," as the '15 event will "be at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington," according to Gregory Hall of the Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL. Sources said that next year's Breeders' Cup would "be at Keeneland, followed by a return to Santa Anita in Arcadia in 2016 and then Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in San Diego in 2017." It would be the "first time the fall thoroughbred championships would be held at Keeneland or Del Mar -- both of which are viewed as among the most picturesque racetracks in the country." The schedule means Santa Anita would "become the most frequent host of the two-day event; it already will tie Churchill Downs for that distinction this year at eight times." The schedule also would "ensure the longest absence of the Breeders' Cup at Churchill -- at least seven years -- despite the fact that the track has recorded the event's largest crowds and biggest betting totals." A Keeneland Breeders' Cup is "expected to involve temporary seating because the event typically has more than 50,000 people on its biggest day." Keeneland's record is 40,617. The track has "almost 8,800 permanent seats, including several hundred in dining areas that don't have track views." Temporary seating of "up to 15,000 for the Breeders' Cup would provide about 23,800 seats besides standing-room only general admission" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 6/18). In Lexington, Wincze Hughes & Patton note Keeneland "routinely attracts crowds of 30,000 or more on its biggest days." However, "logistical obstacles would need to be conquered in order for the event to be deemed a success." In addition to "limited capacity, there is concern over Lexington not having the amount of high-end hotels and restaurants found in larger markets like Louisville and Santa Anita" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LADER, 6/18).

BIGGER ISN'T ALWAYS BETTER: DAILY RACING FORM's Matt Hegarty noted Keeneland this year decided to "rip out its artificial surface in favor of a return to a dirt track, with installation complete by the fall meet this year." The artificial surface was "first installed at the track in 2006, and its fatality rate dropped sharply." Breeders’ Cup BOD members several years ago decided that they "favored siting the event at tracks with dirt surfaces on the main track." Del Mar "plans to replace its artificial surface with a dirt track after the close" of its '14 meet. The track also is "currently widening its turf course to accommodate 14 runners, considered a necessity for holding the Breeders’ Cup" (DRF.com, 6/17). In Lexington, John Clay writes picking Keeneland and Del Mar is "a bit of a departure for the Breeders' Cup, which with a few exceptions has relied on big city/big track venues" for the grand event. Yet choosing "smaller, more intimate tracks is a welcome change." Racing is "desperately trying to attract young people." Clay: "All you have to do is walk around Keeneland on a racing weekend to know the track has accomplished that" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 6/18).

The FIFA World Cup in Brazil is nearly a week old, and despite fears heading into the tournament, the "situation in South America’s largest country is hardly bleak" thus far, according to Sam Borden of the N.Y. TIMES. For those fans who "enjoy eye-popping goals, surprising results and stylish soccer, this tournament has, so far, been an incredible success." Still, from a "logistical perspective, not all has gone swimmingly, particularly for some people on the ground who may appreciate smaller details like consistent electricity, fully finished stadiums and correctly numbered stadium seats." For them, the "early returns on the World Cup are a bit more complex." The range of problems "has been broad." Some "have had to do with construction, like the visible electrical wires in São Paulo’s stadium or the workers still installing air-conditioning units and carpeting hours before kickoff in Cuiabá," while others "have had to do with employee relations." Some "have been cosmetic, like the burned-out grass in Manaus, which led workers to spray-paint patches of the field green." None of it "has been wholly detrimental ... yet each day has brought a new bump which, in many cases, is something one would never imagine as a potential problem." For instance, on Sunday in Porto Alegre, the stadium’s sound system "failed as the teams walked onto the field, leaving players from France and Honduras infuriated as they stood around waiting for national anthems that were never played." Brazilian organizers "have been a mixture of defensive and apologetic about the mishaps." There have "been plenty of avoidable issues." Some fans attending games at Arena das Dunas in Natal "received emails informing them that they would need to exchange their tickets for new ones because a portion of the seats at the stadium had not been installed" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/18). 

PUNY PROTESTS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's David Luhnow notes so far, protests against the tournament "have been small, limited to so-called Black Bloc activists." Some fear that this "could change if Brazil crash out of the tournament early, but others say that even then, the show will go on." The stadium in Natal, where the U.S. on Monday defeated Ghana, "is still surrounded by the detritus of construction." Inside, there "aren't enough concession stands -- a complaint heard in many of the stadiums." Even after FIFA "pushed Brazil to change its laws to allow stadiums to sell beer, the lack of concessions meant long lines." Scotland fan Steven Black said that he "walked right into the VIP section of the stadium in Salvador and wasn't asked for identification" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/18).

MISSING THE RAINFOREST FOR THE TREES? In DC, Rick Maese notes tournament organizers "decided to stage four World Cup matches in the Amazon ... both a unique proposition and a logistical headache." Even as Manaus and the surrounding communities "have excitedly embraced the tournament, many view the matches here as a needless endeavor, an expensive novelty that has come to symbolize the expense and waste associated with staging the month-long event." Local residents fear that the $300M Arena Amazonia stadium that "should be part of the tournament’s legacy could ultimately become just another of Manaus’s long list of problems." Right now, "nothing is scheduled for the space beyond the four soccer games." This is a "lot of money and effort for what will amount to about six hours of soccer action" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/18).