12/10/2007 12:00AM

Breeders' Cup expands again

Charles Pravata/Horsephotos
The 2007 Friday card included the Dirt Mile, won by Corinthian.
LEXINGTON, Ky. - For the second time in two years, the Breeders' Cup has added three new races to its year-end event, establishing two million-dollar turf races and a $500,000 race at 1 1/2 miles on dirt, the organization announced on Monday.

The new races - the Turf Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs, the Juvenile Fillies Turf at one mile, and the Dirt Marathon - will be added to the card scheduled for Friday, Oct. 25, at Santa Anita Park, joining three million-dollar races that the Breeders' Cup held for the first time this year on the Friday before the traditional Saturday event. With the additions, the Breeders' Cup will hold 14 races on the Friday and Saturday cards, with total purses of $25.5 million.

The Breeders' Cup board of directors voted to add the races at a meeting on Friday.

"This gives us a great Friday card," said Bill Farish Jr., the chairman of the board. "We always planned on expanding it a little more, but we weren't sure which races we wanted."

The Friday Breeders' Cup card will now include the Dirt Marathon, the Juvenile Fillies Turf, the Turf Sprint, the Juvenile Turf, the Filly and Mare Sprint, and the Dirt Mile. Of the six races, only one of the Friday races, the Filly and Mare Sprint, corresponds directly to a year-end championship title.

According to Farish, as part of the establishment of the Dirt Marathon, a committee of the nation's racing secretaries has agreed to write a series of races at 1 1/2 miles on dirt as preps for the race. Races longer than 1 1/8 miles have become increasingly rare in the U.S. over the past decade, and the Breeders' Cup board and the racing secretaries' committee was hoping to renew interest in distance racing by adding the 12-furlong race to the card, Farish said.

The Breeders' Cup was founded by central Kentucky breeders. In 2006, nomination fees for foals and stallions provided $22.5 million of the organization's $50.1 million annual revenues, which have been increasingly steered into the event's purses over the past five years. The bulk of the remaining revenues are provided by earnings from the year-end event.

When it was first run in 1984, the Breeders' Cup carded seven races worth a total of $10 million. An eighth race, the Filly and Mare Turf, was added to the program in 1999, and the three Friday races were first held this year at Monmouth Park.

The Breeders' Cup board has been looking for ways to expand the public profile of the Breeders' Cup in the face of persistent declines in television ratings. Last year, the organization announced the designation of a series of races that would automatically earn horses berths in seven of the eight races, in partnership with ESPN, the television broadcaster that airs the vast majority of racing's televised events.

The Breeders' Cup has also set a goal of increasing handle on its races to $200 million by 2010. That goal seemed to be on target in 2006 when handle leaped 15opercent compared with 2005 to $134 million, but handle in 2007 dropped dramatically, to approximately $110 million. Breeders' Cup officials have cited poor weather conditions at Monmouth on both Friday and Saturday for the decline, though the establishment of the three new Friday races and a 25 percent takeout on most super-exotic bets may have also contributed to the Saturday declines.

Ken Kirchner, the simulcasting and wagering consultant for the Breeders' Cup, said that bet menus for Friday and Saturday in 2008 have not been finalized, but that bettors should expect a pick six on both days, with any potential carryover on Friday linked to a mandatory payout on Saturday.

Kirchner said he also had some concern that the new Friday races would siphon off money from the traditional Saturday card, as may have happened this year, but he said the total handle for the two days would provide a better measure.

"There's always a chance that we're looking at some handle impact because of Friday, but overall, it's a positive," Kirchner said. "With the new races, there's no doubt in my mind that this is going to be the biggest Friday card of the year in racing."