Breeders' Cup makes a stretch run

Racing's showcase to add 3 races, and a second day

Horse Racing

January 09, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

Breeders' Cup Day, with its eight-race card of high-caliber stakes races, has been so packed to the brim that there was no way to expand the day's program without adding another day of racing, which is what the Breeders' Cup board yesterday said it will do this year.

Thoroughbred racing's showcase will add three races, for a total of 11, all of which will be televised live by ESPN, and be run over two days beginning with this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26 and 27.

Purses for the two-day event will total $23 million, with $4 million of the total being distributed over the 10-race card on Breeders' Cup Friday, making it the second-richest racing day in North America. The richest day will be the next day, when $20 million is distributed in the eight-race card that includes the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, the $3 million Turf and the $2 million Juvenile Fillies, $2 million Juvenile, $2 million Filly and Mare Turf, $2 million Mile, $2 million Sprint and $2 million Distaff.

"There was so much going on in one day at the Breeders' Cup, you couldn't take it all in," Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of 2006 Classic winner and Horse of the Year candidate Invasor, said yesterday. "To know what happened in a lot of [those races], I had to go back and look at the tapes. I think there are more than enough races to spread out over two days. And it's nice for all of us to have a few more million-dollar races to run for."

The three new races - The Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile for 3-year-olds and up, the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint of seven furlongs for 3-year-olds and up, and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf of one mile for 2-year-old colts, geldings and fillies - will each have purses of $1 million.

At Laurel Park, president and chief operating officer Lou Raffetto said it is hard to find fault with the new plan, but he added it remains to be seen how the new races affect those already in existence.

"The mile might take some horses away from the Classic, but they might be the second-tier horses that shouldn't have been in the race anyway," Raffetto said. "And the Filly and Mare Sprint will probably be run over a one-turn mile, which could impact [Saturday's] Sprint. The question is will they start thinning out categories? We'll see, but they feel there is an abundance of horses."

Breeders' Cup president Greg Avioli said in a statement: "Today's marketplace demands change, innovation and the willingness to take chances. The Breeders' Cup board has embraced this and is giving us the freedom and responsibility to take the event to the next level."

Bill Farish, the Breeders' Cup board chairman, said the changes provide "the framework for unprecedented growth ... There will be more races, more purse money and more nominator participation than at any time in the event's history, all designed to attract the best horses from around the world to compete."

The additional racing, approved by the Breeders' Cup board Friday, now must be approved by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and state regulators.

Last year, the Breeders' Cup increased purses from $14 million to $20 million and on Oct. 30th announced a new series of qualifying races for this year - The Breeders' Cup Challenge - that will have 24 horses automatically qualify for the Breeders' Cup by winning specific races at six historic tracks - Saratoga, Arlington Park, Del Mar, Belmont Park, Keeneland, and Oak Tree at Santa Anita - from July 28 through Oct. 7.

No races at Pimlico Race Course or Laurel Park are included on the list. Raffetto said there are at least two reasons .

"Realistically, given the time frame they picked for the series, we didn't have a race that warranted an automatic nomination," Raffetto said. "And, because of the money we have - or the lack of money we have - we are somewhat restricted. We can't play in that league until we have the money to play in that league. Hopefully, there will come a day when we'll have the same help surrounding states have. But, until then, we don't want to just create large purses to entice out-of-state horses who want to go to the Breeders' Cup. We want to keep our money in Maryland for our own horsemen."

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