12/12/2001 12:00AM

Bringing Breeders' Cup to the world


JAMAICA, N.Y. - The smashing performances in the Breeders' Cup of European stars Fantastic Light, Sakhee, Johannesburg, and Banks Hill may lead to increased simulcasting and international marketing of the World Thoroughbred Championship races.

"We'll be focusing on the future of international simulcasting," said Breeders' Cup President D.G. Van Clief Jr. "Commingled wagering pools are the way to go, and currently there are obstacles to this development in the form of Internal Revenue Service withholding rules. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, now merged with the Breeders' Cup, is working on this problem and it looks like we are in a position to do something about it next year, either by a change in the rules or new legislation."

Currently, the largest overseas source of Breeders' Cup wagering to be commingled with the wagering pool here is France. Co-mingling in France began in 1997 when $1 million was wagered in that country on the Breeders' Cup races. This year the wagering in France totalled $2 million, an increase of 36 percent over the 2000 total according to Ken Kirchner, simulcasting director of the Breeders' Cup.

There is no commingling of money bet in England. More than 90 percent of United Kingdom betting is done through bookmakers. The situation could change, however, with the formation of At the Races, a corporation that, working with the British Horse Racing Board and the Race Courses Association, has purchased the media and simulcasting rights from 49 leading tracks in the U.K. for a reported 300,000,000 pounds sterling over a 10-year period. Several other British companies, including Channel 4 and Rupert Murdoch's B Sky Network, are also involved in this venture, which recently reached an agreement with the Fair Grounds in New Orleans for an exchange of certain signals.

The Breeders' Cup people have had some preliminary discussions with At the Races, and more substantive talks will follow.

Of the other countries in Europe, Breeders' Cup has made the most progress in Italy, where almost $500,000 in U.S. dollars was wagered on this year's Cup in a separate pool.

The Pacific Rim nations, many of whose residents have a strong penchant for gambling, are an attractive market for the Breeders' Cup. However, so many time zones are involved as to make the issue moot for the present. The difference in time in Australia, for example, is 13 to 15 hours, and there are currently restrictions in Japan and Hong Kong against imported signals.

Canada is a major market. Last year Canadians wagered $500,000,000 in U.S. funds on racing in this country, including $4 million on the Breeders Cup program.

The money is wagered in separate pools, however, and commingling is not permitted.

A new champion sire, Thunder Gulch

Led by his brilliant son Point Given, Thunder Gulch, the 1995 Kentucky Derby winner, is en route to his first championship as America's leading sire in 2001.

He succeeds Storm Cat, the champion sire in 1999 and 2000, who in turn succeeded Deputy Minister, champion sire in 1997 and 1998.

Danzig was champion sire in 1991 and 1992, and Mr. Prospector earned that honor in 1987 and 1988. Other two time champions of recent years include Exclusive Native in 1978 and 1979, and What a Pleasure in 1975 and 1976.

The last horse to top the general sire list more than twice in succession was Bold Ruler, champion for seven years, from 1963 to 1969. Before Bold Ruler, Bull Lea was champion sire three times, 1947 to 1949, and again in 1952 and 1953. Nasrullah, with two championships back to back, was champion sire again three more times.

It would seem the competition is much keener and more broad-based today in the stallion barn than ever before.