01/17/2007 1:00AM

Additions may subtract


Give credit to the Breeders' Cup's new leadership. It is not afraid to try something new, something controversial.

But the something new they decided upon - three new $1 million BC races and an extra day of BC racing - raises many questions for horseplayers and for those who believe the Breeders' Cup deserves to be the absolute best racing has to offer.

Speaking strictly first as a horseplayer, I think the positive aspects of the changes begin and end with three more competitive Breeders' Cup races to bet on, along with a trio of $250,000 stakes that will help flesh out the new Friday BC card. A sizeable percentage of horseplayers will no doubt welcome these extra wagering opportunities, which will involve good horses.

Yet, considerable research usually is needed to prepare for a well-organized attack on the greatest day of high-class competition in the sport. Expanding the competition into a two-day extravaganza could limit serious-minded players' ability to do justice to 11 invariably complex BC races and the trio of $250,000 events spread out on consecutive days.

If you think this is not true, then you have more hours in a day than any good Breeders' Cup handicapper I have met, or you rely primarily on pre-set computer programs and rigid systems to do your research and analysis for you.

That aside, there are reasons to question the design of all three of the new BC races.

Running the newly created Breeders Cup Dirt Mile at one mile and 70 yards is intended to give needed room for horses breaking from the outer posts in a 14-horse field at one-mile Monmouth Park. But any two-turn race at a mile or one mile and 70 yards on a one-mile oval with a full field is bound to create dangerous congestion heading into the first turn. Wouldn't it have been better for the BC leadership to wait a year or two and schedule this race at a larger host track?

Previous Breeders' Cup venues - Churchill Downs, Arlington Park, Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Gulfstream - could accommodate a mile race around one turn.

I hate to say it, but the 2007 BC Dirt Mile at Monmouth is a potential disaster waiting to happen, a disaster that the Breeders' Cup is inviting, with a nationwide television audience tuned in.

The $1 million Breeders' Cup race at 1 1/16 miles for juveniles on the turf may turn out to be an intriguing race, but horseplayers have to wonder what stakes will the contenders in this field use as prep races.

With more European horses likely to ship over for this race, American handicappers are going to be forced to rely on the opinions of European insiders for valued insights into many horses' prospective form. I would rather have a betting race where my observations and form comparisons lead me to the betting windows.

Moreover, what benefit can be gained by giving European owners and trainers a $1 million reason to skip a championship-caliber race? Would BC Juvenile winners Arazi (1991) or Johannesburg (2001), or even Wilko (2004) have proven anything if they had avoided meeting our best juveniles?

Isn't it possible that this new Breeders' Cup race will detract from the international competition we have become accustomed to in BC Juvenile races on the main track?

A similar dilution would seem likely for the third addition to the formal BC racing menu: The $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint, scheduled for six furlongs at Monmouth, but expected to be run at seven furlongs in future years.

No doubt there should be an Eclipse Award for female sprinters, but do we really need a specific BC race for fillies and mares when such females as Very Subtle, Safely Kept, Desert Stormer, Pine Tree Lane, Meafara, Soviet Problem, Honest Lady, and Xtra Heat provided so many great moments finishing first or second in the BC Sprint through the years?

What is the urgency here? Is it really a good idea to encourage the connections of top fillies and mares to skip the main BC Sprint? Why add races that are likely to dilute the highest-class competition the sport can offer?

Perhaps in future years, a BC Dirt Mile around one turn would be a good ninth BC race on a full BC Day menu. Perhaps the day before BC Day can be populated with a half-dozen $250,000 stakes that will serve as a prelude to the main events on Saturday.

Indeed, a well-thought-out supporting Friday card for solid Grade 2 horses might have legitimately boosted a two-day Breeders' Cup experience. But as presently constituted, 11 Breeders' Cup races spread over two days could have another undesirable effect: Compromising existing media coverage for the $5 million BC Classic and some of the other $2 and $3 million BC races that make up the Saturday BC card.

At the end of October, racing already has to fight for newspaper space and media sound bites against prolific coverage of college and professional football and the World Series.

Three added BC races on Friday may well cut into precious Thursday, Friday, and Saturday newspaper coverage for the $5 million Classic and compress coverage of other BC races to a few inches or seconds in many media outlets.

At the bottom line, horseplayers probably are the least of the BC leadership's worries. We'll take our best shots at as many of the BC races we think we can figure out, using as much creativity and skill we can muster. But when expansion does not add anything of real value to the substance of a great event, there is jeopardy that more will become less.