Immediately after Craig Fravel departs, Drew Flemming will become Breeders’ Cup president and CEO. The Breeders’ Cup limited board of directors voted unanimously for the move last Tuesday.
Fravel previously served as Breeders’ Cup COO, and he held the position of chief executive of racing operations for The Stronach Group.
Breeders’ Cup chairman Fred Hertrich III commented on the new developments.
“Drew’s track record at the Breeders’ Cup speaks for itself. He has already played an indispensable role in our work to promote and improve the industry, which he knows inside and out,” he said. “Drew is the right person to lead the Breeders’ Cup through this important time in our industry and into the next chapter of this great sport.”
Time as COO
While he was Breeders’ Cup COO, Flemming looked over the day-to-day operations, including track relations, long-term planning and growth, finance, sponsorships, marketing, and legal issues. He also worked to keep the Breeders’ Cup as an elite international event and attract more people.
His strategic planning and business negotiations helped position the Breeders’ Cup and the thoroughbred industry in a better spot.
“I am humbled and honored by the opportunity to lead the Breeders’ Cup at a time when our industry is at a critical juncture,” Fleming said. “The safety of our athletes and integrity of the sport will continue to be at the forefront of the Breeders’ Cup’s mission, and I look forward to expanding our efforts in this space through research, innovation, and investment so the tradition and passion behind this sport can continue for future generations.
“Everyone in our industry has an important role in ensuring that horses and jockeys are racing under the safest and most transparent conditions possible. The Breeders’ Cup will continue to lead by example and spearhead reforms until we get this right.”
Fravel greatly contributed to the international expansion of the Breeders’ Cup as it reached its highest level ever. He established a long-term host site strategy, and he negotiated a 10-year partnership with NBC Sports to televise the World Championships through 2025, which had never been done. Under his leadership, the event took place at Keeneland and Del Mar for the first time.
One of the biggest issues he had to deal with during his leadership was whether or not to keep the event at Santa Anita track this year. The consideration came after the track faced a lot of negative publicity following an increase in equine deaths. The Breeders’ Cup met with the chairman of The Stronach Group, Belinda Stronach, to go over the safety issues. In the end, it was decided to keep the event at Santa Anita.
“You’ve got to give people credit where credit is due. It wasn’t like people were just saying ignore the issues and come over and join us anyway,” Fravel said. “It was look, we’re doing something about it, we’ve done something about it, and we’re turning the corner.
“The Breeders’ Cup going somewhere else would send entirely the wrong message. When people are trying to do the right thing, you need to stick with them. The entire Breeders’ Cup board was unanimous in that decision, and we’re certainly glad to be here.”