09/21/2013 9:51PM

Midwest stakes to be hit hard by new regulations


New regulations that will go into effect in 2014 will effectively reduce the number of stakes that qualify for black type in sale catalogs.

Roughly eight months into the new system implemented to award black type to non-listed stakes races in 2014 and beyond, statebred programs in the Midwest and Canada have emerged as those expected to lose the most.

Through Aug. 12, five of the 10 jurisdictions with the highest percentage of non-listed stakes that are already ineligible for black type next year – or will need to see improvement when they are run – hail from the Midwest. Two others are in central Canada.

The change in how non-listed stakes are certified with black type was announced in late 2012 by the North American International Catalogue Standards Committee, with the goal of adding stricter guidelines to non-listed black-type races that seek to apply qualitative measures beyond the purse value of the stakes.

As standards stand today, non-listed black-type races are classified by criteria that include a minimum $50,000 purse distributed on the day of the race and no restrictions other than statebred, non-winners of a sweepstakes, sale graduates, or stallions’ progeny, among several other qualifications. They are the lowest level of stakes in which the top three finishers receive black type in catalog pages for public auctions, like those held by Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton.

Going forward, non-listed black-type races, which typically make up more than half of the stakes run in North America, will have to maintain a Race Quality Score (RQS) above the minimum set by the NAICSC. The score is determined by a composite of Beyer, Equibase, Bloodstock Research Information Services, and Thoro-Graph speed figures from a race’s top four finishers, averaged over the past three editions.

If the RQS does not meet or exceed the minimum score, which varies by age and sex, the race will lose its black-type status for the next year’s running and must be run two times after being downgraded to be considered for reinstatement.

The minimum scores were determined by a University of Arizona statistician who calculated the RQS for each race and examined the bottom fifth percentile of each age and sex division to set the bar, with consideration for past performances.

If the races pending judgment hold their form, the new system could strip about 8 percent of non-listed stakes of their black-type status in 2014. A list of the races under consideration and their status can be found at www.northamericanicsc.com.

“We knew going into it there would be some people that wouldn’t be happy, but at the end of the day, we would be delivering in the catalog pages a product that people could be assured represents quality from a black-type perspective,” said Dan Metzger, president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and a member of the NAICSC. “There will be growing pains along the way, but it’s something the committee felt strongly in, took its time, and now we’ll see how it plays out.”

Metzger noted that the move was designed to bring non-listed stakes in the United States and Canada in closer step with other global racing jurisdictions, which rely heavily on ratings to classify their stakes races. Ideally, the plan also would bring more uniformity to North American non-listed black type for buyers at auctions.

“It was a little bit surprising to us, perhaps, because we had never looked at these races, because all you had to do was put the minimum purse up and meet the requirements,” Metzger said. “Once we started looking at them, we found, for example, horses that were competing in open company for a $5,000 claiming tag that weren’t the favorite and ran up the track, then they would drop into a black-type race – it could be a statebred, or whatever it was – and they’d go off as the favorite and win, and they’d get the black type.”

Who is affected?

Through early August, the vast majority of races that have already been deemed ineligible for black type or will need to improve their RQS to maintain their status have been statebred stakes. Of the 49 races that have already been declared black-type ineligible by the NAICSC, 37 are for statebreds. Meanwhile, 49 of the 61 races that are still pending, but currently under the minimum RQS, feature that restriction.

One of the states that will see the biggest change in 2014 is Iowa, which will have seven of its 26 non-listed stakes races lose black type. All are statebred races. An eighth is still pending, according to the NAICSC, but the race already has been phased out of the stakes schedule at Prairie Meadows.

Through Aug. 12, Iowa had lost the second-most black type from next year’s non-listed stakes calendar behind Ohio, which is down 12 races, with the potential for that count to rise.

In response to the loss of black type, Deb Leech, president of the Iowa Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, said the state’s horsemen’s groups are working toward changing at least four of the ineligible races from guaranteed purses to added purses to increase their available money and perhaps make them more alluring to higher-quality horses.

“There’s a lot of quality and a lot of nice breeding going on here, and you can see that has improved since legislation was signed a couple years back solidifying the number of days and structure,” Leech said. “You should start to see the breeding continue to improve, and hopefully that would help take care of some of the black-type issues.”

While the loss of black type will indeed be a hit to the Iowa-bred program, Leech noted that many of the program’s participants breed, race, and sell in the state, creating a somewhat isolated ecosystem. Black type or not, those horsemen probably still will be there to run in the races.

“Many of the people that run here are Midwesterners, and most of the people that run here are Iowans,” Leech said. “They love the program here, and they love the location where they run. Those that love the sport are going to continue to remain in the sport. A lot of our owners throughout the years, you can actually see the quality improve in their breeding.”

In terms of percentages, no state will be hit harder by the new non-listed black-type provisions than Massachusetts. Suffolk Downs in East Boston features a stakes calendar of eight races in 2013, and all eight already are ineligible for black type in 2014 or would require performances far better than recent history suggests is possible from their top finishers to make the grade.

The struggles of the Massachusetts racing program are nothing new, and Suffolk Downs racing secretary Tom Creel kept things in perspective when discussing the loss of black type in his stakes program.

“All we’ve got is mostly $4,000 horses here, so it doesn’t have any effect whatsoever on me,” Creel said, addressing whether the loss of black type would make it harder to draw horses. “We’ve got a stakes race on Saturday with five maidens and one horse that won one race. With the type of horses we have here, it has no effect whatsoever on us.

“I don’t know what our future is,” he added. “We haven’t had a stakes program for years because we don’t have that type of racing anymore. Maybe if they get the casino, maybe we will. Our stakes are Mass.-bred, and nobody ships in to run in those.”

Creel’s mention of the white whale of casino gaming that the track has long been chasing served as a reminder that a lot can happen in three years. In the span of time measured by the NAICSC, many of the states that stand to immediately lose the most under the new system were at some kind of critical juncture, if they aren’t at one right now.

For Leech’s Iowa-bred program, that came with legislation to solidify racing dates. Others like Ohio, which will be hit hard by the new provisions, are potentially on the front end of a turnaround with the addition of casino gaming at their tracks. They will have to fight their way up from the bottom, but Metzger said the potential is there to rebuild their status over time.

“I would think a state like Ohio, once that money gets kicking in and they’re able to get the purse levels up there, that they’ll be able to hopefully reclaim those black-type races that they may lose,” he said.


What is a non-listed black-type race?
In 2014, for a stakes race in the United States and Canada to receive black type in Society of International Thoroughbred Auctioneers catalogs, it must:
-- Have a minimum purse value of $50,000 distributed on the day of the race
-- Have a Black Type Race Quality Score equal to or above the established minimum Race Quality Score for its age/sex division
-- Close at least 72 hours in advance of its running, have a fee paid by the owner of the entrant, and have a total purse value distributed on the day of the race equal to or greater than the established minimum
-- Have all entries be eligible for the purse monies used to determine the minimum purse value for black-type or listed status
-- Not have restrictions other than state-bred, non-winners of a sweepstakes, sales graduates or stallions’ progeny
-- Not contain a preference clause(s) based on criteria unrelated to the quality of the horse if such preference clause(s) could possibly exclude any horse(s) of superior quality from competing.


Minimum race quality scores (RQS)
by age/sex division


Age/Sex Min. RQS
2yo males 35
2yo females 29
3yo males 54
3yo females 45.3
3up males 63.7
3up females 55.8

States/provinces most affected
as of August 2013


State/Province Not eligible in 2014 Pending, below min RQS Total % Stakes
Massachusetts 3 5 8 100%
Manitoba 1 4 5 56%
Ohio 12 6 18 55%
Michigan 0 3 3 50%
Indiana 3 6 9 41%
Alberta 5 7 12 35%
Iowa 7 1 8 31%
Minnesota 3 3 6 22%
New Mexico 5 12 17 22%
Oklahoma 2 5 7 22%
Virginia 2 0 2 18%
Arkansas 2 0 2 17%
Arizona 1 0 1 14%
West Virginia 1 4 5 13%
Illinois 0 2 2 5%
Texas 1 0 1 3%
British Columbia 0 1 1 3%
Pennsylvania 1 0 1 2%
Louisiana 0 1 1 0.90%
New York 0 1 1 0.50%
Total 49 61 110  

Status of races

Status Races Percent
Black-type eligible in 2014 577 43%
Pending, ≥ 10 points above min RQS 462 35%
Pending, < 10 points above min RQS 178 13%
Pending, < 10 points below min RQS 46 3%
Pending, > 10 points below min RQS 15 1%
Not black-type eligible in 2014 49 4%
Total 1,327  


Types of non-listed black-type races

Race Type Not eligible in 2014 Pending, below min RQS Pending, above min RQS Total % below min RQS or not eligible
Statebred 37 49 439 525 16%
Auction-restricted 2 1 21 24 13%
Restricted 7 5 130 142 8%
Open 3 6 627 636 1%
Total 49 61 1,217 1,327 8%