By Robert Kieckhefer
an ongoing explosion of new racing "festivals" around the world and
much more is on tap.
Fravel, president and CEO of Breeders' Cup Ltd., kicked off an Asian Racing
Conference seminar on "big events" May 8 in Hong Kong by taking credit
for the idea.
others on the podium represented "big events" in Hong Kong, Dubai,
England, Japan and Singapore, Fravel said the 30-year-old Breeders' Cup World
Championships were there first and, "Imitation is the sincerest form of
flattery ... The interest has only continued to grow."
course, some of racing's "big day" races far predate the Breeders'
Cup. But many festival-type packages do emulate, to a greater or lesser degree,
the American format, among them Dubai World Cup night and the British Champions
also told the Hong Kong audience Breeders' Cup's new expanded television
strategy, the "Challenge Series," will drive renewed viewer interest
by showcasing "the whole spectrum of races throughout the United States,
right up to the Breeders' Cup ... an extraordinary lead-in to the Breeders' Cup
about siting for the Breeders' Cup World Championships, Fravel noted Santa Anita
has hosted the event for the past two years and will do so again over the
Halloween weekend this year. "The 'Hollywood' part of that is a major
attraction, not to mention the weather," he said. A 2015 site has not been
others discussed their "festivals" and scheduling around a world
calendar, there was some reluctance to discuss a new formal "World
Series" linking them. The old Emirates World Series experience, which
foundered in part over broadcasting rights and sponsorship, obviously has left
a heritage of caution.
Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland; Rod Street, Chief Executive of the British Champions Series Limited; William A. Nader, Executive Director, Racing, of the Hong Kong Jockey Club; and Craig Fravel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Breeders’ Cup Limited, at the session. Hong Kong Jockey Club Photo
Street, chief executive of the British Champions Series, boasted the Qipco
British Champion Stakes (Eng-I), which anchors Champions Day in October, is
officially the world's highest-rated race, benefitting from the impact the
now-retired Frankel and globetrotting older horses such as Cirrus Des Aigles.
Unlike the social emphasis of Royal Ascot, he said, the focus of Champions Day
"is on world-class racing and to date, we're very pleased with the
progress we've made ... But, looking at Craig and his 30 years of operation,
we're relative newcomers."
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse
Racing Ireland, touted the newly developed, two-day (like the current Breeders'
Cup) Irish Champions Day set to debut this September. Avoiding the occasional
Breeders' Cup-style flaps over siting, the Irish event will run at two tracks—Leopardstown and The Curragh. "There's politics involved in this as well
as practicality," Kavanagh said. He said the idea is to bring together top
year-end races into "a single weekend that will showcase the industry to
the Irish public and the Irish government ... It's very clear that a circuit of
international championship meetings is emerging and we want to be part of
noted four of the Irish races will be "Win and You're In" events for
the Breeders' Cup.
Martin Talty, head of international racing
in Dubai, chimed in, "From an international point of view, the Dubai World
Cup is right at the top." Dubai's top night, positioned at the end of
March, also is uniquely situated near the start of the Northern Hemisphere
seasons and the end of the term for the Southern Hemisphere, adding to its
appeal as part of an international strategy for owners and trainers.
Singapore's international races, only a week away, have grown racing
interest in that nation from local focus to a world forum, said Simon Leong,
vice president of the Singapore Turf Club. And, he said, everything done on the
day is targeted for charitable purposes, building public support.
"Branded, run, organized to highlight his special use."
Australia kicked off its fall championships in April this year, joining
the worldwide trend. Ten championship races are held across two weekends with
increased purses, sparking renewed international interest in the top events.
The races also are a convenient lead-in for the Hong Kong, Singapore and Royal
with is incredibly rich purse structure, continues to promote two separate
events, the Arima Kinen, or Grand Prix (Jp-I), and the Tokyo Yushun, or
Japanese Derby (Jp-I), even over the arguably better-known Japan Cup (Jp-I) and
Japan Cup Dirt (Jp-I).
was not represented on the panel but Louis Romanet, head of the International
Federation of Horseracing Authorities, noted from the floor that the Prix de
l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) and its attendant races remain among the world's most
prestigious, highly rated and best funded. An increase in the purse for this
year's running of the Arc to 5 million Euros reinforces that, he said.
Interestingly, when the nine panelists were asked to name their favorite
race outside their jurisdictions, none picked a Breeders' Cup race. The Arc got the
most votes, with others plumping for the Melbourne Cup, Dubai World Cup and