12/07/2012 3:54PM

Black-type races will undergo greater scrutiny in 2014

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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

1,825

Total stakes races

490

Graded stakes

305

Listed stakes

1,030

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