12/17/2008 12:00AM

Complaints trigger reinstated stakes funds


The Breeders' Cup has reversed a decision to suspend a program providing supplements to stakes purses in 2009, the organization announced on Wednesday.

In a statement, Breeders' Cup chairman William Farish Jr. said the board reconsidered the decision to suspend the program for one year because of complaints from "a number of leading nominators and trustees" since the suspension was announced last Friday.

"Given the economic circumstances of our breeders and with our goal of being responsive to our nominators, we have listened and have authorized a portion of the Breeders' Cup reserve funds be made available to maintain the stakes program in 2009," Farish said in the statement. Farish did not return a phone call on Wednesday.

The decision to suspend the program was met with resistance from a number of rank-and-file breeders who had threatened to cease nominating foals to the Breeders' Cup if the program was not reinstated. Under the program, 100 stakes held at 40 racetracks in 2008 received a total of $5 million in supplements, with the majority of those individual subsidies in the amount of $25,000.

Along with the U.S. economy, the breeding industry is currently in a free fall. Nearly all major stallion farms have cut their stud fees this year, and the major breeding sales held this fall have suffered through double-digit declines in gross and average. In addition, the foal crop has begun contracting.

Pamela Blatz-Murff, the Breeders' Cup's senior vice president of racing, said the total allocations for the 2009 stakes would remain "on or around $5 million." The specific stakes that will receive supplements will be determined over the next several months, Blatz-Murff said.

"Right now it's premature to announce any schedule," Blatz-Murff said. "The priority is to get through the first quarter" of 2009.

It is unclear how the Breeders' Cup will address the need to cut expenses from its budget after reinstating the program.

The Breeders' Cup has expanded its year-end event from eight races to 14, with purses of $25.5 million.