12/26/2008 12:00AM

$1 million no longer earns spot among the top 100


NEW YORK - At $6 million, the Dubai World Cup remained the world's richest horse race in 2008, a year in which the strengthening yen and the up-and-down dollar caused havoc at the bottom end of the top 100 list.

For the first time, a race worth a flat million dollars failed to make it into the top 100 in 2008, and most of those races were run in the United States. Two of our classic races - the Preakness and the Belmont - dropped off the chart along with the Arlington Million, Arkansas Derby, Florida Derby, Pennsylvania Derby, Santa Anita Handicap, Sunshine Millions Classic, and Travers Stakes. They were joined in an 11-way tie with the Godolphin Mile and Pacific Classic for 102nd at $1 million each, with the Delaware Handicap at $1,000,900 sneaking in at 101st. The CashCall Mile, Delta Jackpot, and Virginia Derby, all of which tied for 93rd last year with 10 of the above named million-dollar contests (the Pacific Classic was worth $1,120,000 in 2007), fell even further as their purses were all reduced by at least $225,000.

The strength of the yen enabled eight Japanese races to enter the list, giving Japan a world leading total of 47 races in the top 100, led by the Japan Cup, which jumped over the Dubai Duty Free and the Dubai Sheema Classic into third place, one spot behind the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which leapfrogged seven spots into second with the help of a 2 million euro influx from the oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar.

If the Arc had been run in midsummer, it would have been the world's richest race. The dollar, however, so weak for the previous two years, went on an autumn tear, lowering the value of the euro and landing the Arc in the runner-up spot. However, not all of the movement in the top 100 was due to currency fluctuation.

Two new races restricted to juveniles that were sold at the Tattersalls Highflyer Sale cracked the list, the Tattersalls Million and the Tattersalls Fillies 800 (the number 800 referring the number of pounds sterling, in thousands, that the race is worth). The Woodbine Mile and three Breeders' Cup races, the Turf Sprint, the Juvenile Turf, and the Juvenile Fillies Turf, also appear for the first time. But the number of American races in the top 100 dwindled from 27 to 13, with 11 of those being Breeders' Cup races. Stagnant purse structure is just as much the cause for the decline as the generally weak dollar.

All told, Asia had the most flat races in the top 100 at 64. North America was second with 15. Europe had 12, and Oceania nine. The Nakayama Daishogai became the world's richest jump race, courtesy of the strong yen, jumping from $1,347,631 to $1,711,624 despite being worth 152,810,000 yen in both runnings. It was followed by Aintree's Grand National Steeplechase at $1,595,280, the Nakayama Grand Jump at $1,487,680, and Auteuil's Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris at $1,286,990, making a total of 116 Thoroughbred races that were worth at least $1 million this year.

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