Think Home, Then Think Global

Overshadowed by equine medication issues at the Aug. 11 Jockey Club Round Table was a presentation on Thoroughbred racing in Ireland by Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh, who signaled increased competition for the Breeders' Cup World Championships.

Though not designed to compete with the Breeders' Cup, the "Irish Champions Weekend" planned to launch in September 2014 won't do it any favors. It will join QIPCO British Championship Day at Ascot in late October and the Qatar Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe program in France in early October.

Kavanagh said Irish Champions Weekend would be split between The Curragh and Leopardstown, the latter undergoing a three-year facilities upgrade. A similar project is planned for The Curragh, which Kavanagh said is "terribly out of date," by 2016.

The first edition will feature five group I stakes and roughly 10 group stakes overall. Kavangh said Horse Racing Ireland hopes to lure an international audience to the country and eventually link the championship programs in Ireland, France, and England.

So where does the Breeders' Cup World Championships fit in? Kavanagh said the soon-to-be three-country "series" is designed to have championships at the end of the European racing season, but he also mentioned a lead-in to the Breeders' Cup, which is held the latest weekend of October or first weekend of November.

"It is a great opportunity to link the Breeders' Cup with any series that occurs in Europe," he said.

Perhaps that will be the case. Or maybe even fewer horses will ship to the United States for the World Championships.

It makes perfect sense for Ireland to have its own championship day. Kavanagh said the country has about 8,000 breeders, exports about 5,000 horses a year, and produced more than 7,500 Thoroughbred foals in 2012.

"Europe and particularly Ireland has the best stallions in the world," Kavanagh said. "But bloodstock is a very mobile industry, so you should never be complacent."

In hindsight, calling the Breeders' Cup a "World Championships" was admirable but not really accurate. The two-day event is a North American championship event, and mostly a United States championship event.

Without a doubt having foreign horses participate is a huge plus; the more the better. But as England and now Ireland show, other countries aren't going to ignore the obvious: They have to maximize their own product and largely cater to a local market.

The Breeders' Cup already has major challenges; not having a long-range schedule for a host site or host sites damages efforts to find sponsors that will commit to multi-year deals, and also doesn't make things any easier for a racing public that seems to get more frustrated with each passing year.

Global is good. But you have to start at home.

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