Updated on 09/21/2010 10:45AM

Breeders' Cup waives foreign nomination fees, boosts Challenge incentives


LEXINGTON, Ky. – Breeders’ Cup Ltd. has changed its eligibility requirements for overseas horses in an effort to entice more foreign horses to run in the 14 races of its year-end event, Breeders’ Cup officials said Monday.

Under a new nominations program for overseas horses, Breeders’ Cup will no longer require foal owners outside of the United States and Canada to submit a nomination fee. Instead, Breeders’ Cup will impose a new fee on the owners of overseas stallions that will make all of the stallions’ progeny eligible for the event, shifting the financial burden from the owners of foals to the owners of stallions.

Under the new structure, Breeders’ Cup president Greg Avioli said that the organization expects the number of eligible overseas horses to rise to 20,000 in the next three to five years, up from approximately 1,200 in 2009 (only 25 of those 1,200 horses made eligible were nominated outside of Europe). Eligible horses can compete in the 14 Breeders’ Cup year-end events without paying fees that range from $100,000 to $200,000.

Under the old program, horses in European countries were previously eligible if the stallions had been nominated to the European Breeders’ Fund and the foal’s owner had paid the $500 Breeders’ Cup foal nomination fee. Now, owners of Northern Hemisphere stallions outside of North America will be required to pay 50 percent of the stallion’s stud fee to make all of the stallion’s foals eligible, on top of the EBF fees, whereas owners of stallions in the Southern Hemisphere will need to make a payment of 25 percent of the stud fee.

The new structure introduces questions of fairness for North American breeders, who will still be required to pay the foal-nomination fees. However, Avioli and other Breeders’ Cup officials said that overseas horses faced significant barriers to participation in the Breeders’ Cup, such as travel expenses and contesting the races on foreign soil, justifying the disparity. In addition, European stallion owners will now be required to pay stallion fees independent of the European Breeders’ Fund for the first time.

Overseas owners “want to participate in the Breeders’ Cup,” Avioli said. “We just have to give them the opportunity.”

The new program also gives overseas stallion owners a break by capping the stallion nomination fee at either 50 percent or 25 percent of the stud fee, regardless of a stallion’s book size. North American stallion owners are charged additional fees if a horse’s foal crop exceeds 50 in one year.

“We recognize that [European stallion owners] will have to continue to pay to the EBF, so it was hard to ask them to pay full freight,” said Breeders’ Cup chairman Will Farish Jr., whose family owns Lane’s End Farm, one of central Kentucky’s largest breeding operations.

As part of the restructuring, Breeders’ Cup also has implemented a program to award $10,000 to any nominator whose horse wins one of the 66 “Breeders’ Cup Challenge” races, a series of stakes that provide the winner with an automatic berth to one of the 14 year-end events. Since only North American owners will pay foal nomination fees, only North American owners will be eligible for the awards.

Horses that have won one of the challenge races will no longer have to pay entry fees for the race for which they have won an automatic berth, Avioli said, and the Breeders’ Cup will provide “travel subsidies” to those horses. Avioli said that the requirement to pay entry fees had created a “disconnect” between the “Win and You’re In” tagline for the challenge races, so those fees will now be waived.

Clem Murphy, the senior bloodstock adviser for Coolmore Stud and the chairman of the Breeders’ Cup Racing and Nominations Committee, said the new program was vetted among the Breeders’ Cup’s constituents over months of consultations and that criticism of the new policy from North American breeders was minimal.

“I see this as something that we can all get together on,” Murphy said.

Coolmore has operations in North America and the United Kingdom, and its stallions frequently cover more than 100 mares each, many times in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere breeding seasons. Although Coolmore nominated approximately 75 percent of its overseas foals to the Breeders’ Cup each year, Murphy said the new program will be more costly to the operation because of the new requirement for stallion fees, which will be assessed on a stallion twice if the stud covers mares in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Breeders’ Cup has been attempting to enhance its international appeal over the past few years, in part to drive up handle on the event in foreign markets. Earlier this year, Breeders’ Cup added three races in European countries to its Challenge series, bringing the number of overseas races in the Challenge to 16.

Last year, 34 horses from overseas jurisdictions competed in the 14 races of the year-end event. Handle in overseas jurisdictions on the event in 2009 was $23 million, according to Breeders Cup.

Also for 2011, Breeders’ Cup said that it will implement an “open-enrollment” program for horses that have not been already nominated to the program, running from Feb 1 to June 30. During that time, owners can pay $3,000 for yearlings, $6,000 for 2-year-olds, and $25,000 for 3-year-olds and up to make the horses eligible for life for the Breeders’ Cup races, provided that the sire of the horse has been nominated under the new program.