Breeders' Cup 2018 means big business for Churchill Downs, Louisville

Updated: Nov. 15, 2017 at 6:57 PM EST
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Churchill Downs will feature several new renovations by the time the Breeders' Cup rolls...
Churchill Downs will feature several new renovations by the time the Breeders' Cup rolls around. (Source: Churchill Downs)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - From Louisville's Convention and Visitors Bureau to the Mayor's office, there have already been talks for an event that's a year away. But Breeders' Cup 2018 is big business for much more than just the historic track.

Fresh from Del Mar where the event was held this year, Breeders' Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel was on hand for the kick-off on Wednesday.

It's been a while since Churchill hosted the international event, and when the Cup returns officials not only want it to be a win for the track, but for the city and state.

Some of the 'Ville's biggest movers and shakers are on hand to be part of the 2018 host committee. Wednesday's event was held at one of the nicest digs at Churchill Downs, The Mansion, which did not exist in 2011. That's the last time the Cup was in Louisville. Now, guests from all over the world will see it, along with some other face lifts in progress.

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"We've invested a lot of money and effort and time to make this a premier racetrack in the world, not just in the United States," Kevin Flanery, Racetrack President for Churchill Downs, said.

That includes two renovations: three levels of new suites near the starting gate, and the $32 million parking beautification project that features 900 new trees to welcome visitors.

Both Churchill Downs and Breeders' Cup officials said the Cup is much more than the two richest days in horse racing in North America. In the past few years, it has become a party over several weeks with charity and community events surrounding the racing. That was the case in Lexington in 2015 when Keeneland hosted, and most recently at Del Mar Racetrack.

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"It has become, in many senses, a community event and an international visiting event," Fravel told host committee members.

"We'll be looking for activities downtown for sort of a festival type feel," Flanery added.

Fravel said the city's latest additions, from all that's new downtown to the Urban Bourbon Trail, gives them more opportunity.

"We have so many more options now for host hotels for putting up our participants," Fravel said. "For lifestyle activities that really weren't here even five years ago."

It's an opportunity to show off what the area has got.

"So we're going to ask leaders in this community from all over the place and all over the state to help us do that," Flanery said.

No announcements have yet been made for Breeders' Cup locations for 2019 and beyond. The Breeders' Cup President said Churchill Downs, the site of some classic Breeders' Cup racing, is always in the running.

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