Breeders' Cup to return to Churchill Downs in 2018

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) The Breeders' Cup is returning to its old Kentucky home at Churchill Downs.

Ending a hiatus stretching several years, the two-day event of championship racing will return to the iconic twin spires in early November 2018, Breeders' Cup and Churchill officials said Monday.

The track, home of the Kentucky Derby, has hosted the Breeders' Cup eight times, most recently in 2011.

''There's nothing like the Breeders' Cup under the spires,'' said track President Kevin Flanery.

The announcement capped a campaign by Churchill executives in the past year to lure back the event. The Louisville track has undergone more than $67 million in upgrades since the last time it hosted the Breeders' Cup. The projects include improvements to the clubhouse, a VIP section known as The Mansion and a gigantic video board.

Neither side delved into questions about the Breeders' Cup's absence from Churchill.

Breeders' Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel praised the track for its many upgrades, and acknowledged that Churchill sometimes gets ''less than a fair shake'' in the equine community.

''From my part, there's never been any question of hostility or antagonism or competition or anything else between the Breeders' Cup and Churchill Downs,'' he said.

The event is a two-day series of races in the fall that marks the end to thoroughbred racing season.

Churchill has hosted some memorable Breeders' Cup races, including in 2011 when Drosselmeyer passed Game On Dude in the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Churchill's first Breeders' Cup in 1988 was also notable. It was run in near-darkness, which didn't matter to Alysheba. Jockey Chris McCarron guided the 1987 Kentucky Derby champion through the shadows to take charge at the beginning of the stretch and fight off Seeking the Gold to win by a half-length.

Monday's announcement at the track comes nearly six months after Keeneland, located 75 miles east in Lexington, hosted the Breeders' Cup for the first time. American Pharoah capped his brilliant career there with a dominant victory in the after he became racing's first Triple Crown champion since 1978.

The Breeders' Cup has had a West Coast tilt. This year's event will be at Santa Anita Park and next year's races will be at Del Mar. Both tracks are in California.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the city has added thousands of downtown hotel rooms and taken a bigger plunge into bourbon tourism since the 2011 Breeders' Cup. Fischer said the Breeders' Cup return is something the city's racing fans have been wanting for a long time.

''There is no other horse racing city in the world like Louisville, Kentucky,'' he said. ''So in my mind, it is just proper that the Breeders' Cup certainly is a regular here.''

A decision on the site for the 2019 event will be made sometime after this year's Breeders' Cup, Fravel said.

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AP Sports Writer Gary B. Graves contributed to this report.

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