The Breeders' Cup Forum: Craig Fravel - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

The Breeders’ Cup Forum: Craig Fravel

Craig Fravel was overseeing his third Breeders' Cup, Nov. 1-2 at Santa Anita Park, since being named the organization's chief executive officer in 2011. He is the former president and general manager of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Southern California, where he spent the previous 20 years. Prior to that he practiced corporate law in San Diego and Washington, D.C.

The following is the first of a two-part interview with Fravel on this year's championship event and on the future of the Breeders' Cup.

From an on-track experience, how do you evaluate this year's Breeders' Cup championships?
We were very happy about the entire week of the championships from the mornings at Clockers' Corner to the two days of the championships.  As a racetrack guy at heart I am as self-critical as anyone in the business but I have to give credit to our friends at Santa Anita who dressed a grand old lady up in her finest clothes and contributed to what I think was a great Breeders' Cup.
Most importantly, the racing was exceptional as we watched champions come back to defend their crowns and watched some truly great performances by the likes of Wise Dan, Groupie Doll, Mizdirection and Mucho Macho Man just to name a few.  We couldn't have asked for better weather and the crowd matched the beauty of Santa Anita and the San Gabriel Mountains.  We spent a lot of time over the last year with Santa Anita management and staff challenging ourselves to do great things and we saw tremendous improvement in food service and entertainment as well as traffic flow.  It was two great days at the races.

Is it too early to say whether changes will be made for 2014 when the championships return to Santa Anita for the third consecutive year?
Sorry to say it is too early to say.  As we do every year we will collect our thoughts internally and get together with our host site to see where we can improve and what changes should be considered.  We will always strive to present the best possible races and surround them with events of comparable quality.  Stay tuned.

There were numerous complaints from horsemen, jockeys and horseplayers about the track condition on Friday, when, as in 2012, there was a perception of a speed bias. Is there anything Breeders' Cup can do to try and avoid a similar situation next year?
I wish I had a dollar for every complaint I have heard over the years about tracks and I certainly sympathize with those who didn't find the results to their liking early in the day on Friday.  Nonetheless, our colleagues at Santa Anita were quite responsive to input and I thought overall the racing was superb, as I said before.  We definitely prefer to look forward and we were pleased to see that Dennis Moore has agreed to join the team at Santa Anita.  I have known Dennis for years and hold him in high regard and I am confident that he will work closely with our track consultant Mick Peterson as next year's Breeders' Cup approaches.

Do you think uncertainty over the track condition had a role in the shortfall on the Friday guaranteed pick six pool?
I wish I knew for sure.  It may have factored in for some handicappers but we may have been a bit aggressive in setting the Friday guarantee level.  Like so many things in racing the causes tend to be “multi-factorial.”

How did total handle match up with your expectations going into the event?
Total wagering on the championships exceeded $163.5 million and the total was the second highest in Breeders' Cup history while simulcast revenues were the highest ever.  In comparison, the Breeders' Cup handled a total of $148 million in 2012.  What's not to like?  I should also mention how happy we have been with the growth of our Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge which this year attracted 182 players from 35 states and Canada.  In fact, our champion Peter Behr hails from Canada so next year our U.S. players may have to pick it up to bring the crown back to the U.S.

What effect does having such a late post time for the Classic have on wagering in the East Coast? If it has a negative impact on handle, is it a smart tradeoff to get the NBC telecast of the Classic on prime-time television?
We hear from some of our fans on the East Coast that they would prefer that the Classic be earlier.  The impact of the late post time for the folks back east may be most noticeable in our ADW handle that now comprises 27% of the common pool handle.  Our friends at Xpressbet saw a 101% increase in handle year over year for the championships and other providers saw impressive growth as well.  We continue to believe that the ability to broadcast in prime time on the east coast on NBC is an important thing for the Breeders' Cup and the industry.  Moreover, I remain a big believer in the quality of the on-track experience and our West Coast post times accommodate the live racing product very well.

Next week, Fravel will discuss medication issues, the site-selection process, and the Breeders' Cup revenue stream.

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