12/07/2012 3:54PM

Black-type races will undergo greater scrutiny in 2014

Dustin Orona Photography
Okie Ride, by Candy Ride, wins the $50,000 Silver Goblin Stakes last month at Remington Park in Oklahoma. Starting in 2014, races with purses of at least $50,000 but less than $75,000 will be awarded black type only if they meet new criteria based on a composite of four speed figures for its first four finishers.

An upcoming provision on whether a race gets black type in catalogs will put more than half of North America’s stakes races under review and might cost the first three finishers in some stakes black type. This new measure also could dramatically alter the landscape for regional breeding programs.

All of this is because the North American International Catalogue Standards Committee will implement a system in 2014 that will award black type to a non-listed stakes only if it meets new criteria based on a composite of four speed figures for the race’s top four finishers. This is a novel approach, something that has never been done in this country. The graded stakes system does not use speed figures to help determine the quality of the starters in a race, but rather past racing success, the historical importance of a race, and the number of graded stakes winners in the field, among many factors.

The lower end of the stakes spectrum, non-listed black-type races – open stakes races with a purse from $50,000 to $74,999 and all stakes with a purse of $50,000 or more with approved restrictions – have not had qualitative measures applied to their eligibility for black type in catalogs. All that previously mattered was purse value. Starting in 2014, however, all non-listed black-type races will receive an Annual Race Quality Score based on the top finishers’ average Equibase, Beyer, BRIS, and Thoro-Graph speed figures.

The average annual score over the past three renewals will create a Black-Type Race Quality Score, which must be above the established minimum score for its age and sex division to earn black-type status for the following year. Races that lose black-type status will have to be conducted two times after being downgraded in order to be considered for reinstatement.

“Currently, for non-listed black-type races, there’s just a minimum purse requirement and only certain restrictions are allowed,” said Carl Hamilton, NAICSC member and chairman and president of The Jockey Club Information Systems. “I think the committee just felt that additional quality-control requirements would be appropriate in addition to purses.”

While Hamilton estimated that at least 1,000 non-listed black-type races would be taken into consideration each year, he did not expect the change would eliminate a large number of races from black type. Non-listed black-type races made up about 56 percent of the stakes races run in 2011 and about 2 percent of the total races run in North America.

Causes for change

The emergence of casino gaming at racetracks has inflated purses in many states and allowed tracks to create more lucrative races, including stakes, for both statebreds and local owners. The resultant change in the black-type landscape was one of the factors identified in the need to add quality controls.

“Probably their thinking with that is with these racinos with the big purses, allowance races are $40,000 and $50,000 with that additional money,” said Mike Shamburg, racing secretary at Remington Park. “It used to be that $50,000 was a good sum of money in the smaller racetracks, now it’s not even [the purse of] an allowance race in New York or California.”

Thirteen of the 31 stakes races this year at Remington Park, a track that hosts slots, were non-listed black type. Most of those races, Shamburg said, were carded for local horsemen and stood a chance of being downgraded under the new system. While there is clearly a difference in quality between a $65,000 stakes race in New York and one in Oklahoma, reducing the available black type for horsemen in a regional market could stunt the growth of their racing, breeding, and sales programs.

Shamburg identified tracks in the Midwest and Great Plains, where physical and economic geography creates somewhat closed-off platoons of horsemen, as particularly vulnerable.

“Any racetrack will tell you that losing their black-type status on a horse that wins a $50,000 or $60,000 stakes is, for the smaller people, a hardship,” Shamburg said. “Pretty much, on those $50,000 stakes anymore, you’ve got to have them in your backyard. They’re not going to ship very far to run for $50,000. When you get out to the Midwest, these tracks aren’t very close to each other, but in Pennsylvania or Maryland, there’s a lot of tracks, so they can ship around a little bit.”

Hamilton said that the new provisions, which follow an announcement last year that listed stakes would undergo a similar quality-control update, would bring North America closer to many international jurisdictions in how they classify races in their sales catalogs.

“Review of listed stakes races is now done by our graded stakes committee, which is a process probably more similar to other international organizations and how they’re evaluating their listed races,” Hamilton said. “I think most other countries use ratings as their quality-based criteria. We do not have ratings for non-listed black-type races. We only have them for purses of $75,000 and up, so we didn’t have ratings as an available tool here, but more like other countries, we at least have quality-based criteria now.”

While the changes were made to better define quality for the auction market, Walt Robertson, Keeneland’s vice president of sales, did not expect it to make a drastic impact, even in the middle and lower markets.

“I don’t know that it’s going to have a huge effect unless they change a lot of black type, but I think in this day and age, the buyers are seeing through that,” Robertson said. “There are some horses that have enough black type and do not bring a premium if they have not been running in good company. While black type at the lower end is certainly helpful, just because you were third in a very minor stakes, that’s not going to change your life.”

Changes may leave some out

Whenever a new standard is put into place, there is the risk that some parties will be excluded.

Those that appear the most immediately threatened by the new black-type evaluation system are tracks and horsemen in smaller statebred programs, where the top speed figures for the first four finishers might not stack up against runners at other tracks, notably those tracks that do not have alternative gaming-enhanced purses.

The threshold for qualification has yet to be determined, but Tim Hamm, president of Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners, said that a significant reduction to the number of black-type opportunities for statebreds would damage the breeding communities of smaller racing states. A large portion of the stakes races on Ohio’s racing circuit are non-listed black type and will come under review under the new policy.

“The only thing that kept Ohio going at all for the last five years was the fact that we had those races and they were black type,” Hamm said. “Any state that doesn’t have casino gaming and tries to run a statebred program will not do it with the new black-type rules.”

Hamm has seen the value of black type from a small circuit first-hand with Rose Colored Lady. He purchased the Ohio-bred daughter of Formal Dinner as a 2-year-old for $20,000 and she became a stakes winner in her home state.

When Rose Colored Lady retired to the breeding shed, her foals carried on her regional success, with five of her six foals to race winning or placing in Ohio stakes races, including Too Much Bling, who went on to become a multiple graded stakes winner. In 2006, Rose Colored Lady sold for $750,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky selected fall mixed sale.

“I’m sure there would be no Ohio-breds as we’re talking right now if they would have done this five years ago, because as we suffered without the gaming, no one would have bred them because there was no reason to,” Hamm said. “We could have put on some races and called them stakes, but without the black type, it really would have taken the emphasis out of them.”

North American stakes races in 2011


Total stakes races


Graded stakes


Listed stakes


Non-listed black-type stakes

There were a total of 49,629 races in the United States and Canada in 2011.

What is black type?

In sales catalogs, names of horses who won a stakes race in their career appear in bold face capital letters; names of horses whose best finish in a stakes was second or third appear in bold face upper and lower case. All other names of horses on catalog pages appear in light face.

The black type system was instituted decades ago by sales companies to show potential buyers at a glance the best horses that come from a female family.

Not all stakes are black type. A stakes race in North America that is less than $50,000 in added value is not accorded black type in a catalog.

What is a non-listed black-type race?

In 2014, for a stakes race in the United States and Canada to receive black type in Society of International Thoroughbred Auctioneers catalogs, it must:

♦ Have a minimum purse value of $50,000 distributed on the day of the race;

♦ Have a Black Type Race Quality Score equal to or above the established minimum Race Quality Score for its age/sex division;

♦ Close at least 72 hours in advance of its running, have a fee paid by the owner of the entrant, and have a total purse value distributed on the day of the race equal to or greater than the established minimum;

♦ Have all entries be eligible for the purse monies used to determine the minimum purse value for black-type or listed status;

♦ Not have restrictions other than statebred, non-winners of a sweepstakes, sales graduates or stallions' progeny; and

♦ Not contain a preference clause(s) based on criteria unrelated to the quality of the horse if such preference clause(s) could possibly exclude any horse(s) of superior quality from competing.

Source: North American International Catalogue Standards Committee

North American International Catalogue Standards Committee

Carl Hamilton The Jockey Club Information Systems
Geoffrey Russell Keeneland Association
Terence Collier Fasig-Tipton Co.
Bill Baker Barretts Equine Ltd.
Tom Ventura Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.
Yvonne Schwabe Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society (Ontario Division)
Dan Metzger Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association
Seth Hancock Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association
G. Watts Humphrey The Jockey Club
Ross McKague The Jockey Club of Canada


Bob Nastanovich More than 1 year ago
I find this unnecessary. Can't bloodstock agents and buyers gauge the value of a potential purchase's racing career and their ancestor's racing career's on their own? Or, should we have a large panel and staff spend loads of time and money changing the system. Publishing 'treating day of race vet stats' in programs and the Form would be more beneficial.
Brigitte de Saint Phalle More than 1 year ago
Another approach would be to require the averaged speed figs for the last 3 years to be included in the nonlisted black type entry for that race. It's a way for buyers to compare the races. A buyer who wants a statebred to run in that state will still see black type, a buyer hoping to buy a future champion in a more upscale market will be alerted.
Robert More than 1 year ago
As a small time owner I want big purses, i dont care if it is a psuedo stakes or an allowance race the cash is the same to me. Its the breeders who want the black type to show their studs are productive. If the smaller tracks can offer good purses for state breds people will still breed, black type or not. In NY it is the generous state bred races that get the better stallions to come to stand in NY.
docfagah More than 1 year ago
Maybe this is a step in the right direction, but what they really need to do is to cull about half the stakes races in this country. Too many stakes with small fields that only ardent chalk players would bet. But as we all know, these decisions are never made with the people that bet in mind. Also, I hope they are aware of BRIS glaring errors in generating grossly inflated speed ratings in long distance races (>10f) on unusually configured race tracks (ie 3 turn races). Case in point--check out the differences in last weeks two turf races run at Calder on Friday. The 3yo filly in the 12f race gets a 108 fig. The older male in the 10f race gets a 93. That's roughly 15 lengths faster for the younger filly. Possible, but this is not a single race aberration either. Happens all the time with BRIS. Examine Belmont's Jockey Club Gold Cup figs each and every year and you'll see another example of inflated figs that horses never run back to. I hope someone realizes how this is bound to skew the average speed figure assessment, but I doubt anyone really thought this through very carefully.
Marc Ferrell More than 1 year ago
It is about time we have quality measures to allow the Black Type to show up in a catalogue. I have seen it first hand where fillies, with stakes placings in NY or CA and have values placed on them less than fillies who win an overnight stakes at a track like Zia Park or Turf Paradise. The next step is we need to address the Handicap stakes races. If a horse has a much higher assigned weight and loses to horse with much less weight by a short distance, who was the best horse? The won who actually won the race or the horse who had the most weight. They eliminated this issue in Europe because it makes no sense.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Thank God. Now maybe we wont have so many overnight stakes that are basically allownace races designed to get a cheaper horse black typed. Its about time we raise the bar.
Tee Jay More than 1 year ago
The Wall Street owners want a spreadsheet incorporated into their catalog pages. There seems to be a genetic "feedback loop" affecting the thoroughbred breed today. The high point in class was reached with the "Nasrullah-Princequillo nick" in the seventies and the downgrade has been apparent ever since. Overall, horses today aren't as brilliant and resilient as they used to be. Market breeders took over since the seventies and bred for quick returns (2yos) and didn't care about longevity or soundness. Well the dam of I'll Have Another had one start, one win and then went wrong. She was good but lasted one race. Her son was good too and lasted a little bit longer. Bodemeister won as many races as the average family produce did in his three generations. A couple of good top races for the bunch and they too were done in. It only goes to show that infirmities can't be disguised on a catalog page. The old catalogs would say, "Dam of 13 foals, 11 to race, 2 winners" Does that tell you something? Now the catalog reads, "Dam of two winners". What does that tell you? So what happened to the two that didn't make it to the track and the nine that didn't win? Why were they covered up with whiteout on the catalog page? These horse merchants are still old horse traders and all the old tricks have given way to a refined chicanery more attuned to the venue the Wall Street types like to operate in. Grade One races used to be run within a second off the track record. Some annual crops are better than others, with some excellent sires coming from within the same crop while other annual crops do nothing more than to contribute handsomely to the genetic feed-back loop of mediocrity. So lets go have a look at that yearling and smoke him over. What hip number is he? Who's he by again? Who's the mare by? Okay, that's all a horseman needs to know when he starts inspecting. Hey get the boy holding the horse out of that hole! He makes the horse look bigger.... Uh wait a minute old timer....they use growth hormones on the babies now. Is that on the catalog page? Go home old timer, the times have changed... When the old time horse knowledge is gone, the old horsemen will have effectively taken with them what is lacking in today's racing - the spirit of racing. What the new Wall Street owner brings to racing today is the spirit of competition. This is the huge difference that manifests in the cruel use of any drug to keep the horse competing. They don't race the horses anymore, they greedily compete for value-added status as a "Derby owner". During the last century, horse racing was legendary. In this new century it is notorious.
jttf More than 1 year ago
sounds like a good idea. listing how good a stakes race is before it is run, makes no sense.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
It used to be that the prestige of a race was honored and just the best showed up. This was in the pre-Lucas era. Now they'll jam the gate with anything that comes down the road and there is a glut of phony black-type. Look what they did to The Derby.