Updated on 09/15/2011 2:12PM

Countdown to the Cup: The Classic (10/11)


The decision by owner John Amerman not to supplement Lido Palace to the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park will deprive the World Thoroughbred Championships of perhaps the nation's best older horse, and has raised anew the annual debate regarding the supplemental fee.

Amerman was a successful businessman with Mattel Toys, and believes he needs to bring some semblance of business sense to running his stable of horses. He previously declined to pay a supplemental fee for his outstanding turf mare of recent years, Happyanunoit, and came to a similar decision this year with South American imports Lido Palace and Printemps, who would have been a top contender in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Last weekend, while at Keeneland to watch Printemps in the Overbrook Spinster Stakes and Siphonic in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, Amerman said he spoke to Breeders' Cup officials about the supplemental structure. Amerman, speaking in an almost apologetic tone days later, said he told the Breeders' Cup officials, "They need to make it less difficult" for supplements.

"I didn't want it to sound like sour grapes," Amerman said from his office in Los Angeles. "I just told them that if they want to call it the World Thoroughbred Championships, they should have the best horses in the world there. Now, it's just a championship for North America and Europe."

Supplemental fees come into play when either a horse, his stallion, or both, are not nominated to the Breeders' Cup. Stallions are nominated annually, based on payment equal to their advertised stud fee. So, for a stallion like Storm Cat, all his progeny that year are eligible to be nominated to the Breeders' Cup after Overbrook Farm pays, in the case of this year, $400,000 for Storm Cat.

Next, a stallion's foals must be individually nominated, for $500 each, by the end of their weanling year. These horses are then considered Breeders' Cup-nominated. The $500 foal fee has not changed since the Breeders' Cup was inaugurated nearly 20 years ago.

If a stallion was nominated, but not the foal, the horse can be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup for 9 percent of a race's value. For instance, in last year's Classic, Tiznow needed to be supplemented for $360,000.

If, however, the stallion was not nominated, his foals must be supplemented for 20 percent of a race's value. South American horses, like Lido Palace, are particularly vulnerable in this instance. So few South American horses end up in North America that breeders rarely nominate their stallions and foals to the Breeders' Cup.

"Although there have been a good number of South American-bred horses in this country, there hasn't been enough regular commerce in the breeders' minds to justify a regular, ongoing program of nominating," said D.G. Van Clief Jr., the president of Breeders' Cup Ltd.

Europeans are stronger participants when it comes to nominating stallions and foals, in part because there is greater commerce between North America and Europe. Far more horses are imported here from France, Great Britain, and Ireland than from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

This year, in addition to Lido Palace and Printemps, the list of potential supplemental horses includes such highly regarded runners as England's Legend, Janet, Miss Linda, Spook Express, Starine, Tiboroa, and Val Royal. Horses such as Gander and Tiznow, both pointing to the Classic, were supplemented last year, and do not have to be supplemented anew.

It was not always that way. From the inaugural Breeders' Cup in 1984, until 1996, horses who needed to be supplemented had to do so annually. Best Pal, for instance, was supplemented three times, in 1990, 1993, and 1994, for a total of $840,000. He earned $70,000 in those three starts. The record supplemental fee was the $800,000 paid to run Gentlemen in the 1998 Classic. He finished last.

There have been other changes regarding supplements to make them less onerous. Beginning in 1997, supplemental fees were added to the race's purse. And beginning with foals of 1996, the supplemental fee for horses who were not nominated as weanlings was reduced from 12 percent to the current 9 percent.

Van Clief said the fee structure is constantly evaluated, but said the Breeders' Cup is comfortable with the current arrangement. "We've looked at changing things every year, since Sam Rubin first called about John Henry," Van Clief said. "We do feel there should be a continuing penalty for those who aren't nominated, not because we want to impose a penalty, but because it would not be fair to those who have supported the program to let others in."

The stiff fees may give some pause, but many have dived in. Most notable were the connections of Wild Again, who paid $360,000 to run in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Classic, although the colt was a longshot. He won at 31-1. Over the years, there have been 67 supplemental entries in Breeders' Cup races. Ten have won, including Cherokee Run, Paseana, Pebbles, Reraise, Skip Away, Tasso, and Bayakoa, who won the Distaff twice, and had to be supplemented both times by owners Frank and Jan Whitham.

Owners who had to supplement this year have made various decisions. In addition to Amerman, one person who decided not to pay up is Barry Irwin, whose Team Valor owns the 2-year-old filly Cashier's Dream, the runner-up in last Saturday's Frizette Stakes. Team Valor supplemented Star of Cozzene to the 1991 Breeders' Cup Mile for $120,000. That is exactly what Star of Cozzene earned for finishing third in the race, but by the time Irwin paid the jockey and trainer their 10 percent commissions, he and his partners lost money.

"You've got to be nutty enough to own horses, and then when you have to write a check like that and you've got to win or run second to justify it, how much is ego and how much of it makes sense?" Irwin said.

South African champion Spook Express, however, will be nominated to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, in part because trainer Tom Skiffington told owners Robert and Janet Aron that the winner of the race likely will win the Eclipse Award as champion female turf runner.

"If it was strictly a business decision, you wouldn't go," Skiffington said. "But she has an opportunity to be a champion in two countries, which will enhance her value."

Those still on the fence include John Kimmel, the trainer of Spinster Stakes winner Miss Linda. Kimmel said the $400,000 supplemental fee has given him pause. "It's an awful lot of money to put up," Kimmel said. "It'd be great if it was 9 percent, but 20 percent, that's a lot of money."

In other Classic developments:

* Meadowlands Cup winner Gander worked a half-mile in 49.28 seconds Wednesday at Belmont Park. Trainer John Terranova said Gander will run in the Classic.

* The Classic field is expected to be Albert the Great, Aptitude, Fantastic Light, Freedom Crest, Galileo, Gander, Guided Tour, Include, Macho Uno, Tiznow, and possibly Broken Vow. Pre-entries are due on Monday, and will be announced Wednesday.

* Fantastic Light is scheduled to arrive in New York on Friday with a large shipment of horses from Godolphin Racing Inc.

- additional reporting by David Grening