09/27/2002 12:00AM

Guinness is newest Cup sponsor

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NEW YORK - Guinness, the international brewery, has signed an agreement to sponsor the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, officials for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association said Friday.

Guinness will become the event's "official imported beer," according to the officials, who met at Arlington Park near Chicago. Unlike other companies that have recently signed sponsorship agreements with the NTRA and Breeders' Cup, Guinness will not sponsor a specific race, but rather the event itself.

The Guinness deal is multiyear and valued as "a major sponsorship but less than one of our title deals," said Tim Smith, the NTRA's chief executive officer. He declined to give the cost of the sponsorship. The NTRA's title deals are believed to be worth approximately $1 million a year.

The NTRA hopes that revenues from sponsorships will ease the funding responsibilities of its main constituents, racetracks, and horsemen's associations.

A funding program that collected revenues from breeders based on stallion fees expires this year and is not being renewed, leaving a deficit of $2.25 million in next year's budget, expected to be approximately $60 million in 2003.