10/23/2013 2:21PM

Jay Hovdey: Nerud suggests way Breeders' Cup can stir things up

Barbara D. Livingston
John Nerud has strong opinions about changes that could be made to make the Breeders' Cup races more meaningful.

The stage is set for another orgy of good racing, with a list of 172 horses pre-entered for the 14 races of the 30th Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships to be run at Santa Anita Park on Friday, Nov. 1, and Saturday, Nov. 2.

This year, with domestic stars Wise Dan, Royal Delta, Princess of Sylmar, Little Mike, Point of Entry, Beholder and Palace Malice in the mix, a memorable event is all but guaranteed. Betting will be offered and encouraged.

For some reason, however, the folks who market the Breeders’ Cup are not content in offering the single most satisfying two days of sport on the U.S. racing calendar. They continue to cling to the misleading label of “world championships,” as if such an event could be held anywhere on the planet.

There are simply too many regions with highly developed, self-sustaining Thoroughbred industries, where conditions differ considerably as to how horses are bred, raised, trained, and raced. Once in a while a special animal will emerge who is able to transcend time zones and playing fields to be truly a world champion, but they are very few and far, far between, and if you find one they usually answer to names like Singspiel, Ouija Board, Deep Impact, Black Caviar, or St Nicholas Abbey.

International participation in the Breeders’ Cup has ebbed and flowed through the years. This time around, a light sprinkling of global good will is provided by 20 horses pre-entered from Europe and one from Argentina, compared with the 2012 Cup, also at Santa Anita, when 25 imports competed and won three of the 15 races.

The invaders include Declaration of War, The Fugue, and Olympic Glory – all three of championship caliber – plus such stalwarts as Dank, Flotilla, and Planteur. In addition to the familiar faces of Aidan O’Brien, Richard Hannon, Michael Stoute, Dermot Weld, and John Gosden, European trainers Marco Botti, Mikel Delzangles, Charlie Hills, Phillip Sogorb, and Charlie Appleby will be appearing for the first time, so thank you gentlemen for taking a swing. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen.

Fortunately, it’s easy to ignore the world championships portion of the Breeders’ Cup label. From the moment in 2002 that it was integrated with the already established brand, the Breeders’ Cup “World Championships” always was an awkward calling card, full of hubris and hope, but vulnerable to mockery, especially by the part of the world that did not include the various places where the Breeders’ Cup was held.

Then again, if you really want to be called a world championship, don’t pussyfoot around. So says John Nerud, a Breeders’ Cup founder, who helped shape the original design of seven defining races and ran the powerful marketing committee through the Cup’s nascent years. Reached at his Long Island home, Nerud was asked if anyone in charge ever asks him for advice anymore, since he is an emeritus member of the Breeders’ Cup board.

“I’ve talked to a couple people,” Nerud said. “I told them you’ve screwed up the Breeders’ Cup. You’ve got two days of fancy racing, but you can’t make champions of all those horses. They run the same old races and try to tell us the winners are champions when a lot of times they’re nothing more than million-dollar allowance races, with the same horses running for a little bit more money. I mean, you’ve had times when the winner of the Classic wasn’t even mentioned for Horse of the Year.”

From the start, Nerud’s passion was to make the Breeders’ Cup mainstream.

“When you made two days of racing with so many races that mean nothing you have no big thing to attract attention for each of those days,” he said. “If you’re going to do two days, why don’t you copy something like Churchill Downs has done with the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby? The Oaks will never be as big as the Derby, of course, but that day has become a pretty big deal in its own right.”

And since Nerud never has been the kind of man to lob criticism unencumbered by a positive idea, here’s what he would do.

“The horses who draw people to the Thoroughbred industry are the 3-year-olds, and by this time of year they’re already picking the 2-year-olds who are going to be those 3-year-olds everyone’s going to follow next year,” he said. “You want to make that first Breeders’ Cup day a big deal? Get rid of all those million-dollar allowance races and put up three million for a 2-year-old race everybody will need to run in, and everybody will talk about the winner.

“Now you’ve got a lot of money left,” Nerud added. “So you make the Classic worth 10 million, and don’t be shy about it. The horse who wins that race, you call him the Horse of the World. Then you’d really have something to sell.”

Nerud trained Dr. Fager, the greatest all-around American champion, during his Hall of Fame career, then later bred Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Cozzene. He will be turning 101 next February. Someone ought to listen to this guy before it’s too late.


mikey More than 1 year ago
The breeders cup has to move each year.If they can move the Super bowl why not the BC.This game is played in every kind of weather all year long.Some horses like rain and soft turf.Some like 90+ dergree weather.Play the game the way it is played all year.S.A. has these BC guys in their pocket.Give the rest of the tracks that want it a break.
Quite A Dude More than 1 year ago
You can't call any of the races glorified allowance races other than the 2 year old grass races.. The other races are all tough. Look at the average winners odds in BC races. Tons of longshots-that means there are tons of good horses that on any day can beat the other.. Nerud is wrong on this one. Making the Classic a Ten Million dollar race won't change the participants nor impact the winner has or has not on HOY honors....
IRANIANMULLAH More than 1 year ago
Interesting. one probem the world runs on grass, we on dirt.
IRANIANMULLAH More than 1 year ago
Get rid of the Juvenile races Please!!!!! Please!!!! One big turf, dirt mile and dirt classic. This is American racing and most of our racing is 6f-1mile on dirt. To keep the Marathon make it the same distance as the Belmont at 2 million.. No one runs 14f here
Michael Infurna More than 1 year ago
Very smart man!! Hope he lives to be 150!! lol
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When the man talks, I hope someone is listening.
Black More than 1 year ago
The ONLY glorified allowance races are the Juvenile races ! Those are the facts ! Mr Nerud has a serious case of the older I get the better it was syndrome * Christ has put up the facts on his blog and in a column today. Nerud is barking up the wrong tree and so is anyone that agrees with him. The Classic has 11 Gr. I winners , a Gr. II winner & a Gr.III winner entered . Dr . Fager never faced a field that deep . The dirt mile (glorified allowance) has 7 Gr. I winners , 2 Gr. II winners & 3 Gr.III winners. The Distaff has 4 Gr. I winners , 1 Gr. II winner . The F&M turf has 9 Gr. I winners from 11 entrants. The F&M sprint has 7 Gr. I winners & 4 Gr. II winners from 12 starters. Turf sprint has 3 Gr. I , 4 Gr. II & 3 Gr.III winners . Turf 8 Gr. I & 5 Gr. II winners . Sprint 5 Gr. I , 4 Gr. II & I Gr. III winners . Mile turf 6 Gr. I , 3 Gr. II & 1 Gr. III winners. Marathon 1 Gr. I , 3 Gr. II & 1 Gr. III winners. Its listed as a Gr. II .
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
I believe you missed Mr. Nerud's point. You are barking up the wrong tree and so is anyone that agrees with you. Not everything is Black and white. Your misunderstanding is clear when you begin with graded winners of the Classic. And I always appreciate capitalization and exclamation points to be sure that others understand what point you want to stress. Before you attempt to denigrate someone for their opinion, YOU should READ the article AGAIN to have a full UNDERSTANDING first!!!!.
Quite A Dude More than 1 year ago
Well why don't you enlighten us rather than making broad statements with no substantiation... I read the article and I think Black is spot on. Nerud calls BC races but of course fails to identify which races as "nothing more than million-dollar allowance races".. That's total BS and he needs to be called on the carpet for that.. If it's that easy why doesn't Johnny just put in a tag for a optional claimer and win him one of those Million dollar Allowance races... Jesus Christ...
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Your're funny. Why should I enlighten you when you seem to have trouble with reading comprehension in the first place.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Assuming you were citing Steve Crist, the mortal, then you should know that his [correct] opinion is that too many American stakes are seriously overgraded. And Dr. Fager regularly faced tougher fields (Damascus, Buckpasser, In Reality...) than ANY of the horses in this century's BC Classics (other than Ghostzapper) . Don't forget that Dr. Fager raced in an era when the best horses actually RACED against each other for a few years rather than the current regimen of a few races at two or three, [ injury,] retired for breeding - rarely racing at four. Mr. Nerud knows where he speaks.
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
Glad to hear my old Boss is still active. It was an honor to work for John back in 1959 -1961. Lots of good health to you. "The Professor"
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Here is the problem I have with the Breeders Cup. - Why have a Juvenile/ Fillies turf when there are no Turf Classics in the USA for 3 year olds. What is the point of just surrendering the Juvenile Turf races to 2nd string Euro's? Why do you think AMERICAN BRED No Nay Never was turned out until they pick up next year for the Guineas, and not run in the Breeders Cup?....why did Frankel not run at the Breeders Cup as a 2 year old?, Camelot?, Workforce?, Sea The Stars?, Dawn Approach?, Reckless Abandon?. Not many European trainer will sacrifice their stables Top Guineas horse to run the breeders cup. Next is the F&M Turf- For a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP race, why are they seperating the Boys from the Girls?....In Europe The Fillies/Mares run vs the Boys in the ARC, King George fr example...two of the biggest races in Europe for 3 year olds+. World championship races don't split the field by sex. They compete against each other. Perfect example....TREVE in the Arc, Danedream in the KG/QE, Snow Fairy last year in the Irish Champion stakes etc etc. why do you think the Fugue will run in the TURF this year. 12f, regardless of sex. Those are connections I applaud. Next up is the F&M Sprint- How can great courses like Ascot, or down in oz at Flemington or one of their top tracks can host GR1 sprint races and it is open company. Yet in America they split up the sexes to add more races. Next up the Marathon- SHOULD be run at 14-16f on TURF as a possible prep for the Melbourne cup, or an alternative. Make it a purse of 2 million and watch the excellent stayers from around the globe show up. They need to cut two to three races from this card and take those purses and add them to some other existing race. The REAL international attraction as we speak is the Mile and Turf. Up those purses. The money from eliminating the Juvenile turf races, and the two F&M races(sprint/turf) would be 4 million. You can now up the purses of: The Marathon On Turf could be bumped to 1.5 million The BC Turf can be put to equal as the Classic at 5 million Mile can be upped to 3 million.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
After my whole rant, my main point is, whether on Turf, or Dirt Run them TOGETHER!. Only the Juvenile and Juvenile fillies Dirt races should stay because they have dirt classics to aim for. Oh and I forgot about the insignificant Juvenile sprint. Scrap that nonsense too. Add that purse money to another race.
Greg Hopper More than 1 year ago
The Juvenile Sprint has already been scrapped. You would know that if you had even bothered to look at the pre-entries. You make some good points but it's hard to take someone seriously if they don't even know the line up of races and haven't even looked at pre-entries yet a day after they've been released. IMHO....
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Oh ok there champ, well bravo to you for knowing that. So I missed one piece of info and my comment is rendered useless...ok. Well instead of critisizing my comment, why don't you try contributing something worthwhile. IMHO.....
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
And don't thumbs up your own comment you f00l.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
I actually would get rid of marathon, juv turf and dirt mile, On the fence about F&m sprint and turf. Owners pay. $ 500 dollars for nomination fee there has to be some female only races in breeders or the future of breeders will be in trouble. Every owners that buys a filly does not think he has the.next zenyatta or. Goldikova breeding could tell them that. But they might have a better chance at a groupie doll, zagora or mizdirection who runs against boys in the Turf sprnt. The event is in the US we don't have a history of girls running against boys consistently. They should get rid of some of the boy races like dirt mile and marathon basically n horsesot good enough to run in Classic, Sprint or Turf races. That is what those two races are IMO. Goldencents in dirt mile is my pick. I still will bet it.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
In order to Draw more connections to the Breeders Cup, the Marathon could play a key role. The Turf will draw good middle distance horses, and The marathon would attract good stayers from many countrires if the purse was upped, and the surface changed to Turf. If you can't have an American horse in the race ....that is fine, but a World Championship race with mostly foreign based horses is just a fantastic and could be a good thrill for the fans to see horses, that they probably will, or would not have seen. Cheers. Goldencents is my Dirt mile pick with a boxed Ex with The Team Valor import Brujo de Olleros
IRANIANMULLAH More than 1 year ago
no one runs the marathon HERE and long races are boring. that 3 mile steeplechase crapola they run in the UK....yuck. racing is better here , more strategy due to the tight turns and space.. over there on those wide tracks , they all have plenty of room to run...no thinking for the jockey..just cruise until the last 1/2 mile then go.
IRANIANMULLAH More than 1 year ago
get rid of the dirt mile...ha ha ha ha ha
IRANIANMULLAH More than 1 year ago
Get rid of the Juvenile races in the Breeder's I agree with raising purses for the , dirt mile, classic and the big turf race should be 11/4 type distance. quantity is not always good. 3 big 4-5 million dollar races and the others can be 1 million is enough. MINUS the juveniles. Pehaps one 11/4 $5 millon turf race is surely enough to draw top world horses. The arc dtrimophe only had 1 big race and they drew the best euopean and Japanese horses.
Matt D. More than 1 year ago
John Nerud "I told them you've screwed up the Breeders Cup." Tex man "use to be my favorite day of racing." I hear you loud and clear! From my pov, what was once a majestic day of unparalleled racing has devolved into a watered down two day grind. I expect to see the very best talent (grade-I level horses) on our day of "championship" races. So long Marathon. We don't run grade-I turf sprints in this country during the course of the year. Why the exception here? Imo the sprint has lost some of its luster in the last six years. Very Subtle, Safely Kept, Meafera & Xtra Heat helped make the sprint what it ONCE WAS. Drop the F&M sprint. Do we need to run two races at a million dollars a pop for two-year turfers? The Arlington Million folks must snicker at that. Luckily the option wasn't available to Arazi. No two-year old grass horse could ever generate that kind of publicity / excitement in this country. Those five races have a combined purse total of 4.5 million. Put it to good use. Offer a million dollar bonus for any Arc de Triomphe participant that comes over and wins our B.C.Turf. Provide a 1.5 million dollar bonus for any horse based outside of N. America that can come and conquer our horses in the B.C.Classic. Bring em on! Last but not least do something for the fans. Many would love to play the B.C. pick-six but feel it's too expensive of a wager to get serious coverage. Offer the players a guaranteed 2 million dollar PLACE PICK ALL pool with a 50 cent minimum bet on the nine remaining championship races. Now that ,once again, would be a day at the races!