Once a year the board of directors for the Breeders’ Cup gather to discuss changes, upgrades, etc. in the Breeders’ Cup races.
Although Breeders’ Cup president and CEO Craig Fravel declined to comment, rumors continue to swirl about the possibility of a “Breeders’ Cup Derby” being created.
Before examining that possibility, in case you are too young to remember, here is the Breeders’ Cup history:
Trainer John Nerud, who lived to an eye popping 102 years of age and trained the likes of Ta Wee, Dr. Patches, Cozzene and a horse many consider the greatest of all time, Dr. Fager, spawned the idea of a “Horse Racing Super Bowl” in 1982.
Two years later, the Breeders’ Cup made its debut in 1984 with a seven race, $10 million race card at Hollywood Park.
An eighth race, the Filly & Mare Turf, was added in 1999.
Eight years after that, the 2007 Breeders’ Cup became a two day event with three more races added in the Juvenile Turf, the Filly & Mare Sprint and the Dirt Mile.
The next year, three more races were added in the BC Marathon, the Juvenile Fillies Turf and the Turf Sprint, bringing the total to 14.
In 2011, a 15th race, the Juvenile Sprint was added but it only lasted two years. It was removed in 2013 and the Marathon was removed the following year (2014).
From 2014 to the present, the Breeders Cup consists of 13 races with purses now almost three times the amount as when it debuted at $28 million.
Try as it may, based on attendance and T.V. ratings, the Breeders’ Cup cannot compete with the Triple Crown races….never has…probably never will. Therefore, I guess their attitude now is “If you can’t beat them, join them.”
The idea of a Breeders Cup Derby goes something like this:
Create a mile and a quarter or a mile and an eighth race for three year olds only for an exorbitant amount of money and run it in place of the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the two day event in late October or early November.
Take the Breeders’ Cup Classic, make it a single, stand-alone race, and move it to sometime at the end of December so that the three year olds could conceivably run in “both” races.
Although the thought of another Grade:1, 9 or 10 furlong race with a seven figure purse for three year olds is intriguing, it’s bring up three major (and a couple of minor) questions/problems that I can not answer. Therefore, I am hoping the idea does not come to fruition.
If you are a true horseman/woman/person, then you know the horse comes first. The horse’s well being comes before anything including your wallet so I’ll start with the scheduling.
In today’s day and age the three year old’s season begins in February (or there about). You run, give or take, three prep races spaced approximately one month apart hoping to get your horse to peak on the first Saturday in May, The Kentucky Derby.
Depending upon how he runs in that race, you come back for the Preakness two weeks later, still in May, and possibly back in three weeks after that in the “Test of Champions” aka The Belmont Stakes, which is nothing short of a grueling race, at the beginning of June.
From there, you have the Haskell at Monmouth towards the end of July, the Travers at the tiring Saratoga racetrack in the dog days of August and, the rising in popularity every year, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby in September.
That leads us to the Breeders Cup Derby, again, at the end of October or beginning of November with the Breeders’ Cup Classic looming towards the end of December. Looking even further, let’s not forget the two richest races in the world, The Pegasus in January and the Dubai World Cup in March on the other side of the world (literally).
Exactly when do you “rest” your horse? I mean, we are talking about flesh and blood here aren’t we? It’s conceivable your three year old, who in human years is about 11-12 years old, could run as many as 10 times through October, 12 times in a year with the possibility 14 times in 14 months. Like Denise my editor says, “when is enough…enough”? Like “I” say, I thought the Breeders’ Cup, for the most part, marks the end of racing season? This kind of scheduling would make the racing season continuous…..with no end. That may be what the fans, owners, trainers and racetracks around the country want, but is it what the horses want or need? Hardly…
The answer to that argument is you won’t or can’t run in all of them…which is true… but that brings up another problem….exactly which do you run in? That question, readers, can be debated until the end of time.
Moving forward, if you pull the Classic out and move it to another time slot, exactly which becomes your climax or featured race on Breeders’ Cup weekend? It can’t be the BC Derby, it has no history and it probably won’t draw well being most of the top horses will be worn out from such a strenuous year. The BC Distaff perhaps? Nah…it’s run on Friday, so you would have to rearrange the entire two day lineup. Past that, none of the BC races would be deemed a climactic race….good races…..yes……absolutely……but showstoppers, where $5 million and Horse of the Year titles are on the line? I don’t think so.
Another problem I see is if you move the BC Classic to the end of December, due to weather conditions in other parts of the country, the BC Classic would be “pidgeon holed” to either Gulfstream Park in south Florida, Del Mar or Santa Anita. I love all three racetracks and hold nothing against them.
Hypothetically speaking though, if the two day BC (BC Derby) is held at Churchill and the BC Classic is held at… say…. Del Mar and the Pegasus in January at Gulfstream Park, that would make three major races in three different parts of the country in three months. Exactly how much time off can a fan get from their job to attend all three? What about the expense of it if you …say….live in New York? My guess is they would struggle to make it to even two of them…thus hurting attendance in at least one, but more likely two, of them.
Bottom line, I’m seeing three major reasons why they shouldn’t do this.
First off, I think creating a BC Derby could possibly shorten a horses’ career by running them into the ground so much in one year. I haven’t seen the updated stat recently but two years ago the average racehorse made 8.03 starts in their career, down from 14.67 in the 1970’s and into the 1980’s. We are heading in the wrong direction already…creating this race would not help that stat, that’s for sure.
Secondly, taking away the “climax” race makes zero sense to an already struggling “product”.
Third, creating this race would probably “thin out” attendance, not increase it.
So, exactly why is this idea even on the table? I’m not sure…..so you better make that four questions/problems I can’t answer.