BC Program: A Good Deal - By Bret Jones

(Originally published in the October 16, 2010 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)  

Arguably the Keeneland September yearling sale marks the most important period on the Thoroughbred calendar for many North American breeders, so it is understandable that the recent initiatives laid out by the Breeders’ Cup during the first week of the sale may not have received the full attention of their most important audience—the North American foal nominator.

In the interim, the major publications within our industry have run articles outlining the new plan, each making its greatest focus the trailblazing effort of vastly increasing, by perhaps 20 times, the number of international horses that will be nominated. Thus, these international stars will be far more likely to run in our championship event, making it a true World Championships. This is a major victory for both our domestic and international racing product and deserves the headlines it has garnered, but herein I would like to focus on the positives for the North American foal nominator that are an integral part of these new initiatives.

As noted by Bill Oppenheim in his recent examination of the new Breeders’ Cup plan, four major points best summarize the new policy:

1) European and other Northern Hemisphere stallion owners outside North America will pay 50% of an individual stallion’s stud fee; Southern Hemisphere stallion owners will pay 25%. With this payment, all foals by these stallions will be Breeders’ Cup nominated.

2) “Win and You’re In” challenge race winners will be guaranteed a spot in the Championships as they were previously, but, now, their 3% championship entry fees will be waived and each owner will be given a travel stipend toward their travel and race day expenses.

3) All “Win and You’re In” races will now carry an additional $10,000 award to be given to the nominator of the winning horse. Only those who have paid a nomination fee will be eligible for these awards.

4) A one-time “open enrollment” will be available from Feb. 1-June 30, 2011, for previously non-nominated horses—$3,000 for yearlings of 2011, $6,000 for 2-year-olds, and $25,000 for 3-year-olds.

I understand that it is easy for North American foal nominators to have a very quick, and negative, reaction to the idea of international breeders not having to pay for their foals to be nominated. North American foal nominators are the backbone of the Breeders’ Cup and have been dutifully putting up their nomination money since the event’s inception, so an initial feeling of resentment toward others getting a “free ride” is natural. However, it is critical the North American foal nominator understands that the new Breeders’ Cup initiatives represent a “win-win” situation for themselves and our industry as a whole.

The first order of business is to understand that only nominators of foals sired by North American stallions are eligible for the lucrative breeders’ awards that have increased significantly through the new format. Just as it should be, only those that invest are eligible to be rewarded. While foal nominators had only been eligible for a maximum of $150,000 in breeders awards under the old stakes program, that number has more than quadrupled, to $650,000, under the new guidelines of the “Win and You’re In” series. This is in addition to the more than $1.1 million that is rewarded exclusively to foal nominators from the Championships weekend.

The newly enhanced “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series is a great improvement over its predecessor of the same name. While the past series was largely a promotional endeavor, the new program truly lives up to its billing, as Breeders’ Cup-nominated winners of the new Challenge races will have their 3% entry fee to the championship races paid for (a major incentive when it comes to multimillion dollar races) while receiving a significant travel allowance. This encourages the top-class horses to face one another if their owners wish to avoid a substantial out-of-pocket investment, adds value to Breeders’ Cup-nominated foals and yearlings at our major sales, and supplies our valuable gambling population with larger and more competitive field sizes for the Championships event. In short, this program will substantially increase the money that will be returned to North American nominators while strengthening our national racing product.

A truly international Breeders’ Cup World Championships is in the best interest of all those within our industry. As we all understand, our product is far more valuable if it has worldwide appeal. The new Breeders’ Cup initiatives will strengthen our industry through this pursuit and, just as importantly, will do so while also providing a major benefit to our most important supporter—the North American foal nominator.

Bret Jones is part of the bloodstock services team for Airdrie Stud and is a trustee of Breeders’ Cup Ltd.

8 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Rachel

I've always wondered why, since it is called the Breeder's Cup, breeders aren't recognized at the event..I've never seen the Breeder in the winner's circle, congratulated or acknowledged, just the owner, trainer and jockey...rather odd...

14 Oct 2010 1:46 PM
FSF

Rachel, to build on what you said, I was so frustrated about 10ish years ago when they dropped the runners' sires and dams from the post-parade horse stats that they flash on the bottom of the screen- you'd think that some TV producer genius would realize that the BREEDER'S CUP is a celebration of the horse's breeders and pedigree...

14 Oct 2010 4:07 PM
Convene

Encouraging competition on a world-wide scale can only benefit ALL countries, including ours. It would also justify Eclipse awards given to overseas horses who did not really race over here. I'm not saying those horses didn't deserve the awards; the recent two I'm thinking of did deserve them - but until now the program encompassed largely North American horses. BC races weigh heavy in the selection of Eclipse winners (and probably should, altho not completely), hence making the Breeders Cup a truly international affair adds prestige and merit to the Eclipse champions. "Hey, we beat the world!" really means something! Your logic re increased field sizes and other benefits is right on track. Full fields mean more dollars wagered means more dollars back into the sport. Let's all endorse this new program and help it do what it should.

15 Oct 2010 10:25 AM
Rachel

Seriously, what does the Breeder get in return? I can't find any info at the site.

15 Oct 2010 11:16 AM
breeder/owner

Please explain to me why the Breeders Cup and NTRA didn't join forces and create a massive advertising campaign for movie theatres to go along with the showing of Secretariat - promoting the zbreeders cup races as well as going out to the track nearest the viewer?

When will hire a marketing visionary that goes after new patrons?

15 Oct 2010 2:03 PM
FourCats

Bret;  Good attempt at spin.  However, I dont' think that the majority of U.S. breeders will think that giving international breeders a free pass is either fair or reasonable.  The Breeders Cup races are a great event, but everyone should pay their way equally.  A stipend to help with transport costs for international horses is reasonable; not paying to nominate foals is not.  As a 1st time breeder this year, I am seriously considering not nominating next year's foal due to these changes.  Nor will I value a Breeders Cup nomination on purchasing a sales yearling like I used to.

Guess the proof will be in the pudding.  If the U.S. breeders don't like the changes, they will vote with their nominations (or lack of).

One other comment.  Even for breeders.  I would hope that the "most important period on the Thoroughbred calendar" would still be the major races in our country like the Triple Crown and the Breeders Cup itself; not any particular yearling sale.

15 Oct 2010 4:28 PM
Stallions' Cup?

I understand that it is easy for the younger Jones to have a very quick, and positive, reaction to the idea of North American breeders sacrificing their equity in the Breeders' program rather than spending the senior Jones' stallion operation money to supplement international participation. No Bret, this is not your Stallions' Cup World Championships.

16 Oct 2010 12:57 PM
needler in Virginia

Four Cats, as a rank outsider and observer, I can only put my two cents' worth in. It DOES appear to me that the "stipend" can in no way pay the actual costs of transporting a horse halfway around the world along with the expense of everything else that goes along with an endeavor this large. As you well know, moving a horse, or even several, around in the US can be a pain AND expensive, but it's do-able. To cross an ocean (and air expenses are astronomically high) with personnel AND equipment can break almost anyone's bank...unless you own Dubai or Ireland. The exceptions might be those from Canada, but a van drive from South America would be almost certainly be catastrophic for the health of the horse, never mind the sanity of the transporters!

I know I sound naive, and I don't really get all the ramifications of this new policy, so please cut me some slack, but I always thought it a great coup to get overseas horses of quality. THAT way it truly IS a BC WORLD Championship. Anything else is just an American championship and that's it. NOT to knock THAT, but if you're gonna claim a WORLD championship, as a fan, I'd like to see you beat good horses from all over the world. To get them here, we must make it worth their while, and if this is the price we pay, then we must pay it...at least for a while, until the economy begins to rebound or until yet another idea is floated. Does any of this make sense?? It's late and it's Saturday, and while I am not legally required to think on Saturday, I'm trying to get this........... SInce I am NOT thinking tonight, pretend I know absolutely NOTHING about horse racing except which end should cross the finish line first AND that a jockey is required to do the driving; NOW explain to me in words a dummy can understand. I'm not being thick, I really do want to understand, 'cause I love the Breeder's Cup (except for the part where the breeders of the winners DO NOT appear in the winner's circle) and would love to see it be a real world wide competition, as much as that is possible.

Thanks, cheers, and safe trips.

17 Oct 2010 12:07 AM

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