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Cup purses are expected to rise
Breeders' Cup expects to raise the total amount of purses for its eight races from $14 million to $20 million within the next several years, the organization's president, D.G. Van Clief, said Thursday.
Van Clief said that a proposal to raise the purses in 2006 and 2007 will be discussed at the organization's next board meeting on Nov. 4. The proposal has already been endorsed by the racing and nomination committee of the Breeders' Cup, which last met in early October at Keeneland.
"It's too early to be specific about where the increases might go to, but we would like to see it phased in within the next 24 months," Van Clief said. "Our aspiration will be to have the purses at $20 million by the 2007 event."
The possibility of a purse raise was first reported on The Blood-Horse website.
The increases will be tied to whether Breeders' Cup realizes a significant gain from stallion fee nominations, Van Clief said. In 2006, Breeders' Cup will begin collecting stallion-nomination fees based on the number of a stallion's live foals, rather than a flat fee for each stallion. Under that new structure, owners of stallions whose books exceed 100 mares will need to contribute a fee equal to 150 percent or 200 percent of the stud fee.
The racing and nomination committee recently approved a policy that directs all increases in revenue from nomination fees to purses on Breeders' Cup Day, Van Clief said. That decision protects the nomination revenue from going into the general budget of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which merged with Breeders' Cup in 2001.
This year, the Breeders' Cup Classic has a base purse of $4 million, not counting supplemental fees. The richest race in the world is currently the $6 million Dubai World Cup, which next year will be supported by two $5 million undercard stakes.
Balletto unretired to race at 4
Balletto, who has not run since finishing second in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, is back in training and is likely to return to the races early next year.
Following last year's Breeders' Cup, Balletto was transferred from Darley Stable to Godolphin Racing and was shipped to Dubai for the winter. When she returned to North America in the spring, she developed a severe case of colic and was retired. She was shipped to Bob Scanlon's farm in Ocala, Fla.
In late summer, veterinarians on the farm gave Balletto a clean bill of health and she was returned to training. She is expected to join trainer Tom Albertrani's string at Payson Park, a training center in Florida, early next month. The idea is to get Balletto back to the races early next year, and if she returns successfully, she will remain in training. If not, she could be retired and still make the breeding season.
"Sheikh Mohammed really, really enjoys racing," said Jim Bell, who heads Sheikh Mohammed's U.S.-based Darley Stable. "If this filly can come back to where she was as a 2-year-old as a 4-year-old it would be fun to see what she can do."
Balletto, a daughter of Timber Country, had 3 wins and 2 seconds from 5 starts as a 2-year-old. Her victory in the Frizette made her the first horse bred in the United Arab Emirates to win a Grade 1 race in North America. Interestingly, Balletto's connections figured her to be better in longer-distance races than the ones she was winning as a juvenile.
"Tom always felt distance would be her hole card," Bell said. "What she did as a 2-year-old was a bonus. We wanted to see her fill out, grow up and mature. We always thought that as an older filly she would be a lot to handle. We will give her every chance for a very nice 4-year-old campaign."
Angara thriving on Polytrack
The French trainer who has plied his trade in Hong Kong and now the United States took his high-class stable where this autumn? That's right - Florence, Kentucky.
Right down the road from a water tower stenciled in giant letters, "Florence Y'all," in the midst of strip malls and apartment complexes, Patrick Biancone has gone about preparing his several Breeders' Cup horses at Turfway Park.
Biancone is not there for the ambience. He is there for the racing surface. Biancone loves the Polytrack, the synthetic surface that was installed at Turfway earlier this year, and used for the first time during the track's fall meet. The same substance is used at Keeneland's training track, and is in widespread use in Europe.
Biancone calls it, "the future of racing."
"The Polytrack doesn't change at all," Biancone said. "It's good on any condition."
A cushiony surface used every day can be extremely beneficial to turf horses. Horses that race on grass often aren't comfortable training on dirt. Even routine gallops can throw their bodies out of whack, which is exactly what has happened to Angara this year. Angara will go into the Filly and Mare Turf as a longshot because she finished a distant ninth last out in the Flower Bowl Handicap. But just three races ago, she beat a stellar field in the Beverly D. Handicap on the sort of wet turf she will find Saturday.
Biancone points out that Angara's two best races came when she ran less than two weeks after her previous start. And he knows why.
"The main point I was facing all year with Angara is she cannot be trained on the dirt, because she becomes too stiff and sore," he said. "All I can do is run. The Polytrack is different. She's going to come to this race the best she has all year. Every day she can gallop. She's got a normal training program."
Also training at Turfway was Gorella, who goes in the Mile off a close third in the QE II at Keeneland. "I know she's going to improve off that race," Biancone said.
Look for Sand Springs on the lead
It should not be hard to find Sand Springs in the Mile. Sand Springs generally does what she wants, and Sand Springs usually wants to go to the lead.
First trainer Tony Reinstedler and now trainer Bill Mott have worked to harness Sand Springs's speed. This year, more often than not, it has worked. Sand Springs has won three graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga, and earned more than $600,000. And while Mott does not typically match females with males, Sand Springs has grown into a strapping powerhouse of a horse, with a deep chest and bulky hindquarters.
"She's probably more boy than girl if you look at her," Mott said.
Which does not mean that Sand Springs has lost her sensitive side. The mare still demands special attention. For routine training, Mott sends her to Belmont's tiny pony track at 10:30 a.m., when the backstretch has quieted down. When Sand Springs goes to the detention barn before a race, she must be constantly grazed, since she cannot tolerate being in an unfamiliar stall.
Sand Springs is worth the extra effort. And if nothing else, she should give her backers Saturday the thrill of having the lead at least halfway through the Mile.
Megahertz won't be sold
Contrary to published reports, including one in Daily Racing Form, Megahertz will not be sold at Keeneland's November breeding stock sale after she starts in the Filly and Mare Turf, trainer Bobby Frankel said this week.
"They kind of jumped the gun on that," Frankel said of an announcement made by Taylor Made Farm regarding her impending sale.
Michael Bello owns Megahertz, and while Bello owns to race, not breed, Frankel said Bello might make an exception with Megahertz. Megahertz is expected to be retired this year, but Frankel left the door slightly ajar for perhaps one post-Breeders' Cup start, saying he was "pretty sure this will be her last race."
- additional reporting by David Grening and Marcus Hersh