06/18/2002 12:00AM

Prop bets added to Cup races


NEW YORK - Horseplayers will be able to make proposition bets on the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships in a series of new wagers unveiled Tuesday by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup Limited.

Head2Head asks fans to predict which of two designated horses will beat the other in a given race. The horses involved in each of the eight Breeders' Cup races will be announced at the Oct. 23 post position draw for the Breeders' Cup, to be held on Oct. 26 at Arlington Park.

In addition, Breeders' Cup officials are looking into the possibility of offering other proposition bets such as a "Europe versus America'' wager in the three turf races - the Mile, Turf, and Filly and Mare Turf. The wager will ask bettors to select whether a European-based horse or an American-based horse will win a designated race.

Other prop bets such as predicting which jockey will win more races on the Breeders' Cup card is also under consideration, according to Ken Kirchner, senior vice president of product development for the NTRA.

The introduction of these wagers was one of several announcements made at the '21' Club in Manhattan. The others focused a joint marketing effort among the Breeders' Cup, Longchamp Racecourse in France, and Ascot Racecourse in England to cross-promote each others major events such as the current Royal Ascot meet.

A wager similar to the Head2Head bet is already on the books in Illinois, the host state for the bet, making it easier for most states to get approval to offer the wager. Moreover, the Breeders' Cup is seeking a model rule governing the wager from both the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) and the North American Parimutuel Regulators Association (NAPRA), which would also make it easier for all states to offer the bet.

In an effort to make the wager more attractive to sports bettors already accustomed to prop bets on other professional sports, the NTRA will seek a takeout rate of 10 percent on the wager from the Illinois Racing Board.

Because of an expected modest payout on the Head2Head wager, the bet is geared more to the casual fan than the hardcore horseplayer.

"Obviously, the payouts aren't going to be 5-1 or 50-1; if the money's even on both sides you're going to have a payout of about $3.60,'' Kirchner said. "``From that perspective more of your core customers are going to continue to bet the trifecta and exacta. At the same time there are elements of the bet that will appeal to that core fan that says 'I just absolutely love one horse over the other.' ''

In forming an alliance with Royal Ascot and Longchamp, Breeders' Cup officials are hoping to make American fans more aware of the European horses coming to the Breeders' Cup.

As part of the agreement, two days - Sept. 28 at Ascot and Oct. 6 at Longchamp - will be designated special Breeders' Cup days and races such as the Queen Elizabeth II and the Arc de Triomphe will be presented on "Road to the World Thoroughbred Championships'' broadcasts on a tape-delay basis.

When asked if this was a step toward someday bringing the Breeders' Cup to Europe, D.G. Van Clief, president of the Breeders' Cup, said, "We never say never, although it's not likely in the near future.''

In another effort to make North American players more aware of European horses, Breeders' Cup officials unveiled the World Thoroughbred Rankings, a weekly top 10 in each of the eight Breeders' Cup divisions. An international panel of racing secretaries will produce the weekly rankings.