07/09/2009 11:00PM

Breeders' Cup considering fewer races


Breeders' Cup Ltd. will seek to streamline the series of races leading up to its year-end event, a process that could include the cancellation of several of the event's 14 races in future years, organization officials said Friday.

Though organization officials said the plan's details have yet to be sorted out, Breeders' Cup will reach out to racetracks in order to make the tracks partners in promoting the Breeders' Cup year-end event, which was run as a one-day event for 23 years until officials decided to add an additional day and three races in 2007 and three more in 2008. As part of that effort, Breeders' Cup also began the Win and You're In challenge series, which this year will feature 62 races at 21 racetracks that guarantee the winners starting berths in one of the 14 races, pending payment of fees.

On a conference call Friday, Breeders' Cup officials acknowledged that the creation of the 14 divisions had made the series difficult to follow, and they said that the number of races may need to be pared.

"The concern is, how do we lead into 14 different races, in 14 different divisions," said Greg Avioli, chief executive of the organization. "It's very difficult to do with 14 divisions."

Breeders' Cup had decided to review the organization's strategy last summer, officials said. At that time, the organization asked Satish Sanan, a board member and the owner of Padua Stables, to spearhead the creation of a new strategic plan. Work began on the plan in January, with the help of William Field, a British-based consultant with Value Partners, a management consulting firm.

Field said the Breeders' Cup's new mission will be to become "the most prestigious and popular competition in world racing."

"The important thing is that the event in November is regarded as the event [horse owners] want to come to and there is nothing more that they would treasure than to win a race there," Field said.

The strategic planning committee will work out the details of the plan over the next six months and then present their work to the board for approval.

Breeders' Cup has projected it will run a $6 million deficit this year, on total estimated expenses of approximately $50 million. Of that $50 million, $30.5 million is committed to purse outlays. The deficit has raised questions about whether Breeders' Cup can continue to fund the current level of purse distribution, by far its largest expense and one that has grown considerably over recent years. In 2005, total purse distribution was approximately $20 million.

How Breeders' Cup expects to address the deficit under the new strategic plan is unclear. Avioli said that Breeders' Cup expects its nomination revenues to remain below the recent high-water marks for several years because of a severe contraction in the bloodstock market tied to the recession and that the strategic plan will acknowledge those limits. Breeders' Cup expects nominations revenue to be approximately $16 million this year, down from $20 million in 2008.

As for its partnerships with racetracks, Avioli said the strategic planning committee will map out a schedule for the Win and You're In series with the involvement of racetracks.

"Let's design something together that would work for all of us," Avioli said. "We're not going to design something and then try to sell it."

Field added: "We would love to draw some of the major tracks into long-term partnerships."

However, the officials did not have any details on how they would provide incentives to racetracks that participate. Sanan said the new plan would ask racetracks "to share in the risks and the rewards."