10/21/2011 12:13PM

The "New" Breeders' Cup Races

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This will be the 28th Breeders’ Cup, but it will be the first at which the original seven championship events are outnumbered by the newer, “expansion” Breeders’ Cup races.

The first “new” Breeders’ Cup race was the Filly & Mare Turf, which debuted in 1999. It was such an immediate and unanimous hit that it made you wonder why it wasn’t part of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup program in 1984.

The next group of new Breeders’ Cup races were the Dirt Mile, the Filly & Mare Sprint, and the Juvenile Turf, first run in 2007. The following year, the Juvenile Fillies Turf, the Marathon, and the Turf Sprint were unveiled. And this year, the Juvenile Sprint will make its debut, meaning there are now eight expansion Breeders’ Cup races to go along with the original seven Breeders’ Cup events.

In my opinion, the Dirt Mile and Filly and Mare Sprint are logically thought out newcomers that really wouldn’t have been out of place on that first Breeders’ Cup card at Hollywood Park. The Juvenile Turf, the Juvenile Fillies Turf, the Turf Sprint, and the Marathon, I feel, are a different story.

Like it or not, turf horses produced in this country are still, in the vast majority of cases, failed dirt horses. And our 2-year-old turf horses are either horses who have shown little promise on dirt, or are horses that require distance (2-year-old turf racing in this country affords juveniles more opportunity to go longer distances) because they aren’t fast enough to compete in shorter dirt races. So all that creating Breeders’ Cup races for lesser horses does is generate a bunch of sub-par Breeders’ Cup winners, which dilutes the Breeders’ Cup concept.

Of course, one could counter by saying all of that is true, and it doesn’t matter, because European participation in these races help compensate for the drop in quality. Maybe. But that just feeds into the complaint many purists (myself included) had when these races were first created, which is these races are mainly meant to appease European horsemen. I’m all for international competition. In fact, I love it. But why must European horsemen be appeased by new Breeders’ Cup races seemingly tailored for them when they are already kicking butt in the existing Breeders’ Cup races?

And as for the Marathon, it’s a novelty for third-rate stakes horses and allowance types, and simply doesn’t merit the Breeders’ Cup name.

But the new Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint? I have to admit, before it’s even run, I kind of like it. Yes, I am afraid that once this race earns graded status, which it eventually will, it will throw a monkey wrench into the Kentucky Derby graded stakes clause used to limit the Derby field to 20. When the Juvenile Sprint becomes a graded race, it will, every year, assure one or two stone-cold sprinters a starting berth in the Derby as the graded earnings rule stands now. Then again, the silver lining here is that something like that just might prove to be the catalyst for needed tweaks in the Derby’s graded earnings rule, such as putting a premium on purses earned at 3.

Anyway, back to the Juvenile Sprint. We have a long tradition of brilliant 2-year-olds who wow everyone in early season stakes, and then lose a bit of luster when they prove in the fall to have distance limitations. But these are still interesting, talented horses, and offering them a year-end goal that doesn’t require them to go a distance too far for them could create a whole new subset of horse. Not only that, but a year-end sprint goal for juveniles might also allow horsemen to be less deliberate with their 2-year-olds, especially those they suspect might not be routers, and might actually spark a renaissance in early-season juvenile racing.

Nick More than 1 year ago
Mike, Any word on when the pps will be out for the pre-entries? Bought the advance but see nothing to click on or view.
Don Reed More than 1 year ago
Like all things motivated purely by avarice, the “expansion” (PR BS; translation: “dilution,” as in "you now own much less valuable Wall Street stock") has been a disaster. Instead of fixing what was killing racing on a year-long basis, they went for the quick fix of the one thing that WASN’T broken - and ended up ruining what was, at that time, the only significant & encouraging improvement in the sport since 1984.
Chazplayer More than 1 year ago
This time more is definitely better. I've only been to one Breeder's Cup, the '03 at Santa Anita. I yelled so much that day I lost my voice. It was the most exiting sporting event I have ever attended ending with Pleasantly Perfect overtaking Medaglia D'Oro and Congaree to win the Classic. Adding another day with more races with big fields, more handicapping challenges, close finishes, and big payouts only adds to the allure of horse racing. I've seen more interesting in Turf Sprints since that division has been added to the mix. And Mike, for once I agree with you about something, specifically the Juvenile Sprint. There are usually a wonderful group of precocious juveniles that can run a hole in the wind for 6 furlongs. Let 'rip. It's horse racing. More races make more competitions. Marketing the product is what Breeder's Cup is all about. It's a two day event to showcase the sport. It's America, it has to be big, competetive, and exiting. Keep it growing or the sport may shrink at a faster rate.
binky mcfadden More than 1 year ago
(don't know if last post went through-sorry if a duplicate) Wil, whether the BC recruits or not, why would they come. There are big money races at home that don't require a 9,000 mile trip to run against "failed dirt horses" on turf or failed turf horses on the lethal dirt at SA. There are bigger races than the BC in Japan, HK, and soon in China.
Stewart More than 1 year ago
Good post Mike. Having now been to 7 Breeder's Cups, I really enjoy the 2 day format and think it makes for a more exciting event. However, I do believe that there are too many BC races. I agree that the F&M Turf and the dirt mile were long overdue necessities which should have been included in the original format. How we could have had a championship day all of those years with no dirt races for males between 6F and 1 1/4M was absurd, especially given the importance of G1 races like the Met Mile. I also like the Turf Sprint, which serves an increasingly popular division of U.S. racing and provides a race for the European sprinters. But I agree that we could do without the two Juvenile Turf races, for which there are few U.S. preps and fewer good U.S. horses. On a related note, when is the Breeder's Cup going back to places like Woodbine and Arlington, rather than a continuing rotation between Santa Anita and Churchill Downs. There should be a four year rotation of (1) Santa Anita, (2) Churchill, (3) Belmont and another track such as Monmouth, Arlington, Woodbine, Oaklawn et al.
Ray Chatsworth More than 1 year ago
Like it or not, the new Breeders' Cup races are answers to demands from BREEDERS. It IS their game. They fund the system and they made a huge squawk a couple years ago when most of the stakes program almost went away. Five options for 2-year-olds gives the people who make those first nominations a feeling they have a better chance of cashing in that futurity in just two years time. It keeps the cash flowing for the organization and provides cover for the company to cut back on other things like funding Grade 3 stakes in March that do very little for the program. In the commercial breeding market today, it is easier to get that breeder to write that check as soon as the foal hits the ground knowing there could be a nominator bonus coming his/her way if that little son of Forestry can develop over the following 30 months. Way easier than selling dreams of a $5 million payday in the Classic. They've got Triple Crown nominations to pay for to provide that.
RoMo More than 1 year ago
Mike .. .. I know the discussion is about new race offering .. but can't see that as a big deal if you can't watch the races.. Just read the listing of homogenized coverage on 4 channels ..? Most Cable & Dish services don't offer ESPN-3.. The Breeders Cup Cheese .. can't be making all these dubious decisions without purpose (can they) ..? .. It sure seems like all the damage to "the product" in the sport .. is self inflected ..? I watch the ABC coverage with the sound off, until the race is called .. can't stand the over dramatized filler.. Give the fans a brake .. and let the TVG and HRTV (professionals) do the broadcast .. We watch one or the day in and day out.. They provide a far better presentation..
Clinton More than 1 year ago
To your point of liking the 2yo sprint, think of how much this race may have benefit Favorite Trick who did absolutely nada after his great 2yo campaign.
MARK LAMALVA More than 1 year ago
TOTALLY REJECT IDEA OF INFERIOR HORSES RUNNING IN 2YO TURF RACES. THEY RUN BETTER ON TURF BECAUSE THEY WERE MEANT TOO. THE TRUE TEST IS HOW THEY FARE AGAINST THE EUROS. I BELIEVE SO FAR SEVERAL AMERICAN HORSES HAVE WON THIS RACE VS THE EUROS. BOTTOMLINE THESE ARE NOT INFERIOR HORSES BUT TRUE TURF HORSES WHO RUN BETTER ON THE GRASS AND THAT IS ALL! THE WAY U GUYS TWIST THINGS OUT OF HAND BY SAYING FAILED DIRT HORSES IS A WILD GENERALIZATION AND JUST NOT TRUE! (MW - First, please do not type in all caps. On the internet, it is perceived as yelling. Now, as to our U.S. BC Juvenile Turf horses, there are isolated exceptions, such as, perhaps, Winter Memories. However, look at the list of the U.S. Juvy turf winners. They were Nownownow, Pluck, Maram, Tapitsfly, and More Than Real. They were/are all hard hitting horses. But none of them are even of remotely championship caliber, or even true Grade 1 caliber.)
binky mcfadden More than 1 year ago
Mark: Except for the caps you are right on. Inferior Juvenile Turf horses??? How about the Juvenile (dirt)?? You can make a case for any race having been won by "less than champioship caliber" horses if you want. BC Juvenile Winners" War Pass - One graded stakes place after BC Stevie Wonderboy - one graded stakes place after BC Action This Day - only graded placing. Anees - Only Graded win Turf horses are suited by breeding, bio-mechanics, temperament, and/or preference for turf. That they don't run in the Triple Crown or in Europe doesn't make them inferior. Not one casual sports fan in 100 could even tell you the Classic winner in 2010, much less the fabulous Juvie dirt winner. That puts on par with the BC Juvenile Turf winner. Tell someone that your horse is a BC winner in any category and the next question is likely "did they run in the Derby?"
william More than 1 year ago
when is the BC committee going to start recruiting horses from Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong and Japan? They have some top class horses and would increase handle by at least 50%
binky mcfadden More than 1 year ago
Sorry Wil. Unless they extend "Win and You're In" to pay horses to come, there is no incentive for sending an Asian, Aussie, or NZ horse to the BC. The Classic will now only be run on dirt (including the lethal SA circuit) by "failed turf horses". Not much appeal to top foreign turf runners. There are plenty of big time turf races at home in the fall to keep the top horses there. They don't need the BC unless they have a turf horse that is also world-class on dirt - even then, why bother.
Davo More than 1 year ago
Why would Australian and Japanese horses travel across to North America for inferior prize-money and a totally foreign surface?? Especially the Australian horses when this clashes with the rich spring racing carnival with superior prize-money for the turf races, and the Melbourne Cup worth US$6.5million as against AUS$4.75million for the BC Classic (taking a huge punt on your horse running on dirt) and AUS$2.8million for the Breeders Cup Turf (Hell the Caulfield Cup two weeks earlier at 2400m is worth US$2.8million and the WS Cox Plate at 2040m is worth US$3.2million.). I you look at the prizemoney in Europe, any wonder they send their horses over to the BC or here to Melbourne. I'm surprised more North America turf horses don't come out here... (could it be the ban on Lasix?)