LEXINGTON, Ky. — The 1996 Breeders' Cup Championship will be moved from Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack because of concerns about a labor dispute, officials announced Thursday.
A new site has not been set but Breeders' Cup Limited said it would announce the venue by mid-June.
"We deeply regret this decision to move the Breeders' Cup Championship from Toronto, but without the necessary assurances that the event can be run free of labor disruption, we have no other alternative," said James E. Bassett III, president of Breeders' Cup Limited.
This year, the races have been scheduled for Oct. 26, but that's one of the days, along with the day before, that the Ontario Federation of Labor plans to protest Ontario Premier Mike Harris' policies. Harris' Conservative party is holding its annual convention that weekend.
With the OFL protest and the Ontario Jockey Club's own labor problems with 700 locked-out pari-mutuel ticket sellers, Breeders' Cup management in the United States fears the smooth running of the event would be jeopardized.
The $10-million, seven-race extravaganza, held for 12 years in the United States, is often called the Super Bowl of thoroughbred racing.
A report in the Courier-Journal of Louisville last week suggested Churchill Downs could be the replacement site. The Louisville track was the site of the Breeders' Cup in 1988, 1991 and 1994.
"Although the timetable is short, we feel that Churchill Downs has the facility, the expertise and the staff to present the Breeders' Cup as if we had been planning it for several years," said David Carrico, senior vice president of administration at Churchill Downs. "The Breeders' Cup deserves that effort."
But Carrico said the date of the Breeders' Cup puts Churchill Downs in a double-edged bind.
First of all, Carrico said, Oct. 26 is the day before the track's fall meeting begins. Complicating matters further is the fact that Keeneland, a Lexington track, holds the state's racing date for Oct. 26, Carrico said. The track would have to work out an agreement with Keeneland and the Kentucky Racing Commission to approve a date change, Carrico said.
Another possible site is reported to be Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., the site of the 1989 and 1992 Breeders' Cups.