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 A similar project is planned for The Curragh, which Kavanagh said is "terribly out of date," by 2016.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.

8 Comments

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El Cab

Dubbing them the "BC WORLD Championships" was always presumptuous.  Deleting the word 'world' would make it much more accurate.

When it was expanded to two days - they lost me (both a lifelong fan and journalist covering such events).  Too many specific categories catering to anything that could compete for the sake of competing.

Then came the "Win and you're in" - which really wasn't the case, you still had to pay all fees associated with the 'privilege' of participating the the BC.  I think they've changed that a bit since it's inception.

Then they change the Distaff to the Ladies' Classic (such a dumb name and I'm a woman!), now we're back to 'Distaff'.  I think the biggest problem with the BC is it's inconsistency.  I understand the need to tweak the program the first few years to find a formula that works.  But, come on, if it's not working by now, it ain't gonna.

All in all, American racing is quite a step behind the rest of the world - we have become a big fish in a very small pond.

13 Aug 2013 2:40 PM
John from Baltimore

United States racing won't be in line with world racing until it gets rid of Lasix, and changes the classic distance to one and a half miles on the grass, which is the classic race in the rest of the world.

On the home front the Breeders' Cup needs to get the second level racetracks more involved without busting their purse accounts.  If one looks at the handle Mountaineer did on West Virginia Derby Day they paid almost two million in purses and did around three million in handle.  Delaware Park didn't do much better when it ran the Delaware Handicap. These type of tracks provide large amounts of simulcast dollars to the larger top-level tracks and the Breeders' Cup.  The racing industry can't afford to lose these tracks, most of which are now propped up with slots money and it will end if racing doesn't get more popular.

It's my opinion the good hoses need to move all around the country and race just like Nascar Racing.  Racing has to figure out how to pay for it if it wants to grow its fan base and survive.

And on another note these top horses need to start running more than six times a year or you will never get the public's attention.  

13 Aug 2013 8:31 PM
footy231

I love the Breeders' Cup and cannot wait to go later in the year, but until they take a stance on the drug issue European things like champions day, etc., will become the year-end goal, not the Breeders' Cup.

14 Aug 2013 3:24 AM
Pedigree Ann

The BC committee nixed more Euro involvement when it terminated the EBF/BC nomination correspondence.

At one time, a significant part of the U.S. commercial market was breeding for Euro racing. But many of the best maiden, conditions, and listed races were for EBF-nominated horses only. So the deal was made: U.S. horses nominated to the BC would be treated as though nominated to the EBF, and Euros who were EBF-nominated would be treated as being BC-nominated.

Of course, it was an unequal deal but the committee was willing to put up with that to attract more Euro competition. But the U.S. breeders complained that too much of their money was going to those who did't pay proportionately, and as the international market for U.S.-breds waned, their argument forced the committee's hand.

The BC was never going to be a World's Championship; Northern Hemisphere maybe, at one point. But not today.

14 Aug 2013 8:35 AM
Profileman

Maybe Breeders' Cup should consider not running the event year after year in the same location, Santa Anita, which incidentally is a location that adds thousands of miles to shipping equine athletes from Europe.

14 Aug 2013 9:39 AM
Coldfacts

I am in agreement regarding the elimination of race-day medications in general and Lasix in particular.

American racing is in crisis on the global level. Most major racing jurisdictions race on turf. When was the last time America's top turf horse was retired to stud at a fee any where near to its dirt counterpart?

If America is serious about competing on a global level it needs to inaugurate a Triple Crown for turf horses that has the same purse structure and distance as its dirt equivalent.

would a US$2M Derby; US$1M  Preakness and US$1M Belmont attract a lot of international interest? I conclude, horses would be shipped from all over the world.

The American public would see their glorified trainers either put to shame or validate their status.

When the Breeders' Cup was conceptualized it was brilliant idea. That was then; we need another brilliant innovation now.

14 Aug 2013 10:10 AM
lunar spook

I agree with PROFILEMAN if they run it on the East Coast that takes 3,000 miles off the trip from Europe and may bring more overseas horses. Also, JOHN FROM BALTIMORE I agree with you about limited starts for horse; twenty or thirty years ago horses ran 15-20 times a year, now owners and trainers act like 5-6 times a year is all they can run and then let's rush them to the stud shed!!!

14 Aug 2013 10:27 AM
datflippinrabbit

That racetrack out in California is a dry strip of weeds, the European runners don't run on a surface like that, therefore now they have options you can say goodbye. Drugs must go and yes an East Coast track would be more attractive to ship. I say the Breeders' Cup is in big trouble even if they act now,

15 Aug 2013 9:50 AM

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