The Breeders’ Cup will return to Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky. as the host site for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, the Breeders’ Cup announced Saturday. Keeneland, which is also scheduled to host this year’s World Championships Nov. 6-7, will hold the 39th Breeders’ Cup Nov. 4-5, 2022. It will be the third time the Breeders’ Cup has been held at Keeneland since 2015. Del Mar will remain the host of the 2021 event.
The announcement of Keeneland as host of the 2022 championships was made in conjunction with two other pieces of news: first, attendance at this year’s event will be limited to the connections of race participants and essential staff, and without fans on-site, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Breeders’ Cup said in a press release that the decision was made following “close, continuous communications with Governor Andy Beshear, Keeneland, local and state government and public health officials and independent medical experts to fully assess the conditions under which major sporting events may expect to operate safely in the coming months.”
Additionally, purse levels will be maintained at the 2019 level, with $31 million in purses and awards. The Longines Classic will again offer a purse of $6 million, while the Longines Turf will be run for $4 million.
In February, prior to the pandemic, the Breeders’ Cup had met and decided to increase purses by a total of $4 million for 2020; that increase will now be postponed to 2021.
Under the new operational parameters, on-site attendance will be limited to essential personnel and participants only, the release said. Those accessing the grounds will be subject to strict guidelines and protocols put in place as part of Breeders’ Cup’s comprehensive COVID-19 health and safety plan, details of which will be announced closer to the event.
“While we are disappointed that we will not be joined by our fans on-site this year, our utmost priority is and always will be to conduct the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in the safest way possible,” said Fred Hertrich, Breeders’ Cup Board Chairman. “We would like to thank Governor Beshear, state and local health officials and public health authorities for their leadership, guidance and insight as we have worked to identify our options and finalize our plans. Lexington’s local community of racing fans, businesses and members of the Thoroughbred industry are the backbone of our sport, and we believe they deserve a second opportunity, in short order, to experience the event at its full potential. As such, we are proud to award Keeneland the 2022 World Championships and look forward to bringing the Breeders’ Cup back to Lexington in just two years’ time.”
“The decision to hold this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships without fans in attendance was not made lightly,” said Drew Fleming, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup. “However, after many months of careful deliberation, planning and consultation, it has become abundantly clear that this is the right decision in order to proceed with our event while still protecting the collective health of our community. Despite many major racing events reducing purses significantly, we are proud to be able to maintain 2019 purse levels to support our nominators and horsemen during this challenging year.”
“While the World Championships will look different this year, Keeneland and Breeders’ Cup remain committed to making the event the best it can be,” said Bill Thomason, Keeneland President and CEO. “We are grateful to continue providing a platform for our athletes and horses to showcase their talent, and we are excited for the event to return in 2022, when fans can experience the full spectacle of Breeders’ Cup in the Bluegrass as we originally intended.”
This year’s Classic was to get a $1 million bump to $7 million; the Turf a $2 million boost to $6 million, and the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile a $1 million increase to a total purse of $2 million.
“To enhance the viewing experience for the influx of horse racing fans who will be watching the races from home, Breeders’ Cup is working with its official broadcast partner, NBC Sports, to develop and introduce innovative and enhanced production elements,” the press release reads. “The organization is also implementing advanced technologies across its own digital platforms and channels to further engage with fans at home.”
All 2020 ticket holders will receive a full refund and will also be granted first access to purchase the same or similar tickets for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland.