Updated on 09/17/2011 11:48AM

Dodge and Nextel sign Cup sponsorship deals

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NEW YORK - Breeders' Cup has signed two new sponsors for its eight-race championship event, including Dodge, the automotive company, and Nextel, the wireless communications company, officials from the companies and the Breeders' Cup's partner, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said Monday.

Under a multiyear deal, Dodge will sponsor the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic beginning in 2003, the officials said, and will become a marketing partner of the NTRA, allowing it to participate in the association's group-purchasing program. Dodge will become the first corporate sponsor of the Classic since 1996.

Nextel will not take title sponsorship of the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff until 2004, but the company will begin acting as a marketing partner for the NTRA immediately. The Nextel deal is also a multiyear agreement, officials said.

Officials for the companies would not disclose further details of the agreements, except to say that the deals included options for renewal. The sponsorship deals were announced at news conference at the 21 Club in Manhattan.

In other developments, Breeders' Cup officials said that the purses for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Breeders' Cup Mile would be raised by $500,000 each in 2003, to $1.5 million each. The additions will bring the total value of the purses distributed in the eight Breeders' Cup races to $14 million, the highest in the history of the event. The Dubai World Cup offers the highest total purse value - $15 million - for a single day of racing.

In addition, the Breeders' Cup said it had reached a tentative agreement with the New York Racing Association to hold the 2005 Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park, an announcement that had political overtones.

Last week, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer issued a highly critical report of NYRA and its president, Terry Meyocks. Since then, Spitzer has said that Meyocks should be fired for failing to properly address corruption in NYRA's mutuel department and for spending company money "in ways that appear injudicious."

D.G. Van Clief, the president of Breeders' Cup, thanked Meyocks on Monday for guiding Belmont through the 2001 Breeders' Cup, which was held six weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York. He also presented Meyocks with a special Breeders' Cup trophy - the same trophy given to winners of Breeders' Cup races - for NYRA officials' "tremendous work, for their courage, their dedication, their perseverance, and their professionalism" in hosting the 2001 event at a difficult time.

Other officials, including Tim Smith, singled out Meyocks for compliments during public comments. The comments from Van Clief and Smith were loudly applauded, as was Meyocks's acceptance speech.

Since the attorney general's report was released, NYRA directors have unanimously stated that Meyocks will not be removed. The directors have characterized the attorney general's report as a political ploy designed to increase Spitzer's political standing as he gears up for a run for governor in 2006, a charge Spitzer has denied.

The announcements Monday came on the heels of the best television ratings since 1987 for this year's Belmont Stakes broadcast. This year, the Belmont was the highest rated prime-time program during the week the race was run.

Officials from the NTRA's two new sponsors, Dodge and Nextel, said that the companies were attracted more to the NTRA's group purchasing program than to the ability to be associated with the Breeders' Cup races. Michael Robichaud, Nextel's director of sports and entertainment marketing, said that the company was surprised to learn during negotiations with Breeders' Cup that the Thoroughbred industry employed 500,000 people nationwide, a group the company will be able to target for its products because of its partnership with the NTRA.

Under the group-purchasing programs, NTRA members and their employees can purchase discounted products from companies that participate. In 2002, NTRA members, which include 80 racetracks and 3,500 farms, purchased approximately $16 million worth of products from the companies, and that number is expected to grow to $30 million in 2003, according to Jim Morris, the director of the program for the NTRA.

Van Clief said that NTRA members had indicated to the NTRA board that they were most interested in receiving discounts for telecommunications products and cars. "You see today that those are the two sponsors we have been able to sign on, so we think this is a great development," Van Clief said.

The purse increase to the Mile and Juvenile will be in part funded by a 50 percent increase in entry fees to all the Breeders' Cup races, from 2 percent of the purse to 3 percent of the purse, Van Clief said, raising an additional $1 million to $1.5 million in revenue.

The Juvenile was targeted for a purse increase on the advice of Breeders' Cup board members who were hoping to stimulate demand for yearling colts, according to Van Clief, and also to raise the prestige of the horses in the race who could form a large part of the following year's Triple Crown class. The purse for the mile was increased because the race has always attracted a full field of top-quality horses, Van Clief said.

Three races on the Breeders' Cup program will be worth $1 million in 2003: the Sprint, the Juvenile Fillies, and the Filly and Mare Turf. The Distaff and the Turf will both be worth $2 million each, and the Classic will be worth $4 million.

Busy Day for the Cup

* Dodge named title sponsor of 2003 Classic.

* Nextel named title sponsor of 2004 Distaff.

* 2005 Cup confirmed for Belmont Park.

* Purses for Mile and Juvenile Fillies raised to $1.5 million.

* Entry fees raised to 3 percent of purse.