03/19/2002 12:00AM

Some tracks balk at BC fee


NEW YORK - The Breeders' Cup and some racetracks are locked in a disagreement over a plan to charge a 1 percent fee on handle on Breeders' Cup-supplemented races. Cup officials said Tuesday that tracks would not receive their purse supplements unless they agreed to the payment.

"All we are asking for is a fair share of what is being generated in handle on those races," said Pamela Blatz-Murff, Breeders' Cup's senior vice president for operations. "We feel very strongly that the revenue that is being generated on these races is in large part because they are Breeders' Cup races."

Cup officials expect the fees to raise $700,000 for the organization.

Breeders' Cup has yet to release its 2002 schedule of supplemented stakes because of the disagreements. The organization had been set to dole out $6.2 million in purse supplements to nearly 100 stakes this year, in amounts ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 per race.

Already, one race this year, the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes at Santa Anita, had its Breeders' Cup supplement reduced from $100,000 to $85,000 because of disagreements over the request.

Some racetrack officials said this week that they have been reluctant to agree to the contribution because they are skeptical that Breeders' Cup needs more money. The officials said they were already contributing to Breeders' Cup through their dues contributions to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which merged with Breeders' Cup at the beginning of 2001.

"We already pay an awful lot of money in NTRA dues, and the Breeders' Cup is pretty flush with cash," said Joe De Francis, the president of the Maryland Jockey Club and an NTRA board member. "I'm not sure why they would need more money."

De Francis said the MJC and its horsemen pay $750,000 a year to NTRA.

Blatz-Murff, though, disputed the notion that tracks' NTRA dues should cover the supplements.

"It's a Breeders' Cup expense," Blatz-Murff said. "It's not an NTRA expense. It's Breeders' Cup dollars that go into those purses."

John Long of Churchill Downs said he agreed "conceptually" with the new fee, but said "we need, however, to thoroughly discuss the plan with other industry stakeholders before giving it our full endorsement."

Among the tracks that are in negotiations with Breeders' Cup over the new fee are Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields, and Bay Meadows Race Course, all owned by Magna Entertainment.

Jack Liebau, the vice president for California operations of Magna, said on Tuesday that he had "two or three issues" with the contribution plan but said he believed that "reasonable minds will prevail in the end."

But saying he believed the formula needed to be tweaked, Liebau pointed to a situation last weekend in which Golden Gate Fields would have ended up owing Breeders' Cup money under the plan. The 1 percent fee collected from betting on the race would have exceeded the $5,000 in purse money Breeders' Cup awarded to the eligible horses, Liebau said.

On the East Coast, the New York Racing Association recently agreed to the contribution, NYRA officials said, but only after Breeders' Cup capped the fee at $20,000 a race.

Terry Meyocks, the president of NYRA, said on Tuesday that he was concerned that, without the $20,000 cap, NYRA would have to consider scheduling its Breeders' Cup-supplemented races on weekdays. He said many races on weekends attract more than $2 million in wagers, the betting level at which the cap would be triggered.

"You want to have and to keep those races on big days," Meyocks said.

Blatz-Murff said that Breeders' Cup was facing a $1 million shortfall this year in foal nomination revenue due to Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome, the mysterious disease that caused many mares in central Kentucky to abort last year. The cost to nominate a foal to the Breeders' Cup is $500.