Time to Change BC Friday Format

The Breeders’ Cup Filly Friday concept had its flaws from the beginning. The Breeders’ Cup has always prided itself as the self-anointed World Thoroughbred Championships, and the ultimate of all the championships is Horse of the Year.

Racing’s top honor normally is decided in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). On occasion it has been decided in the Turf (gr. I) and Distaff (gr. I), or horses in those divisions were in the mix for Horse of the Year. In the rare year when no one in the 3-year-old and older horse divisions proved worthy of the honor, you got an anomaly like 1997 when the 2-year-old Favorite Trick was named Horse of the Year.

By staging a Filly Friday card, the Breeders’ Cup took one of its premier races, the Distaff, and ran it in front of fewer fans, a smaller TV audience, and forced many racing fans who had to work on Friday to miss the race altogether. The Breeders’ Cup also created a potential controversy in the Horse of the Year voting by running the Distaff (now the Ladies Classic, a name I and most people detest) on a different day than the Classic and possibly having both races being run on totally different surfaces. What if you had a case like Alysheba and Personal Ensign, who were head and head for Horse of the Year going into the Breeders’ Cup, and you ran the Distaff over a fast, fair track on Friday and the Classic over a sloppy, deep track on Saturday? By running on the same day, both horses competed over an identical surface, as it should be.

The first year the Breeders’ Cup ran Filly Friday, the Ladies Classic was won by Zenyatta, who some felt staked her claim to Horse of the Year, especially with Curlin finishing fourth in the Classic. Fortunately, the Breeders’ Cup that year was run on a synthetic surface, so both tracks were basically the same. But did Zenyatta get shafted by running in front of a smaller crowd and with far less people watching on TV? Did racing fans, especially the casual fan, really get to appreciate this phenomenal, undefeated filly?

Ironically, in the next two years, Horse of the Year honors went to a filly – Rachel Alexandra in 2009 (who didn’t run in the BC and beat out Zenyatta, who won the Classic) and Zenyatta in 2010 (who lost the Classic by a head in her only career defeat). What if both fillies had met in the Ladies Classic in 2009 to determine Horse of the Year? Can you imagine Rachel Alexandra vs. Zenyatta being run on a Friday, making the Saturday card anti-climactic and the Classic insignificant in regard to Horse of the Year?

And don’t look now, but two of the leading candidates for Horse of the Year right now are fillies – Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. With the great rivalry these two have going, along with their excellent records in 2011, and with the current state of the 3-year-olds and older horses, do we really want Blind Luck and Havre de Grace, assuming they continue their rivalry and winning ways, to face off for possible Horse of the Year honors on Friday?

In 2009, the Breeders’ Cup decided to move the Marathon to Friday, punching a hole in the Filly Friday concept. Now, in 2011, they have added the Juvenile Sprint. That means that 40% of the races on Filly Friday are not for fillies.

Perhaps it is time for a change. Why not just forget the Filly Friday concept and try something different; something the fans and the media might relate to more than a card of filly races and two rather offbeat races – a 1 ¾-mile marathon and a six-furlong race for 2-year-olds – that make it more of a mishmash card than anything.

How about if they keep the Juvenile Sprint on Friday, and, in fact, move all the juvenile races to Friday and promote it as “Future Friday?”

With the solid showings on this year’s Derby trail of Juvenile Turf graduates Soldat, Master of Hounds, and Willcox Inn, and the early grass success of Animal Kingdom and Brilliant Speed, the Breeders’ Cup can promo Future Friday as a potential spawning ground of Triple Crown horses, whether it be out of the Juvenile (that produced Belmont runner-up Stay Thirsty) or the Juvenile Turf. And who knows what would have happened had we not lost Juvenile starters Uncle Mo, Boys At Tosconova, Jaycito, and Rogue Romance and even Juvenile Turf winner Pluck?

Uncle Mo didn’t pan out due to illness, but look at all the publicity he generated right up until the Wood Memorial.

Also, do we really know if a potential Derby horse can be found in the Juvenile Sprint? A good number of Derby winners had only run as far as six furlongs in November of their 2-year-old year, so the BC can play on that as well.

The Breeders’ Cup could also promo the juvenile filly races the same way in regard to the Kentucky Oaks.

“Get a sneak preview of next year’s classics.”

The feeling here is that more people would come out to the track or watch on TV with the possibility of seeing next year’s Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks winner.

Yes, the Ladies Classic could be big this year and would help Friday’s figures, but perhaps only at the cost of Saturday’s figures. So, that would be a double-edge sword. Horse of the Year must be decided on Saturday.

In summation, let’s get the Ladies Classic and the other big filly and mare races back on Saturday, have a real theme for Friday that fans can relate to, and, yes, they can even keep the Marathon as the lead-off race on Friday. The only difference would be having six races on Friday, as they had last year, and nine on Saturday, instead of eight.

Is this ever going to happen? Of course not. But at least it is something to think about.

79 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Sumiko Keay

I think that a change from a Friday/Saturday to a Saturday/Sunday would also do wonders for the two day format.  

29 Jun 2011 12:12 PM
Buttonboy

Hear, hear, Steve! My thoughts exactly! Friday is always tough for me to take off to watch Filly Friday, so your solution makes perfect sense!

29 Jun 2011 12:18 PM
Rachel NH

Steve, you're a genius..."Future Friday!"...!!!

I also want to go back and call it "The Distaff"...what a classy name, won by classy mares...

29 Jun 2011 12:21 PM
FSF

Yes, yes, yes. So, what can we casual fans do to express our support for this idea to the "powers that be."

I LOVE the idea of "Future Friday"- perfect tagline.

29 Jun 2011 1:11 PM
Greybirdk

When the Breeder's Cup made this change, I felt like horse racing put up a banner that read "Yes, We Really Are Only For Retirees and Billionaires".  Downs After Dark and night baseball work because that's when ordinary folks have free time for entertainment.  I took a vacation day to watch Zenyatta on TV in 2009 but could not get time off the following year.  And why should I have to?    Great idea, Mr. Haskin, and let's change the name back to Distaff while we are at it.  

29 Jun 2011 1:36 PM
John C

While I agree with your proposed changes and reasoning, I am against the hyperbolic significance given by so many to the BC races. As you said, these are the "self-anointed" Thoroughbred championships. I hope that the vast majority of Eclipse voters continue to look at a given horse's entire body of work throughout the year, especially the oft-ignored first half; a campaign that should include a MINIMUM of eight races for any sound horse.

Otherwise, the top candidates often will be those who happen to get lucky on the drive-by BC day, and we will see commonplace undefeated 4 or 5-race campaigns that lack real substance.

We should encourage more racing for any decent horses, not less.

29 Jun 2011 2:22 PM
Neco

I love the "Future Friday" tagline - brilliant.

Definitely agree with you on everything you wrote. I'm still in college and for the past few years, haven't been able to get Fridays off from classes OR work, so I tend to miss the card. I would absolutely love to see this change take place.

29 Jun 2011 2:32 PM
Jacklyn

Anyway you can send this including fan comments to the President of the BC?  I agree the days should be changed to Saturday/Sunday with the format you suggested.  Just makes sense.  If horse racing truly wants to attract new fans, this is the format it would choose.  Also a national media campaign to promote the BC.  Ask anyone whose not a fan of horse racing what the BC is and they will have no idea.  Just a shame all the national sports medias are not promoting the "World Championship of Horse racing."  Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Fox Sports, etc.  Even soccer gets more promotion.  Is anyone with decision making power listening?

29 Jun 2011 2:40 PM
TXLonghorn

The Breeders Cup leadership wanted to mix the big races up over two days rejecting the thought that the Friday card was less important than the Saturday card. Clearly, with smaller crowds and a much smaller television audience, their strategy has actually backfired.  The Distaff and Filly & Mare Turf are now relegated to a relatively insignificant day.  Were it not for the jockey fight last year, hardly any non-racing fan would have known about BC Friday.

As to the idea of running Friday-Saturday.... While I think the folks at BC Ltd have made some silly decisions in the last few years, they aren't stupid enough to go head to head with the NFL on Sundays.  That would be suicide for BC and whatever network agreed to televise the event. Look at NASCAR's ratings for Sunday afternoons after football season starts if you need proof.

29 Jun 2011 2:49 PM
Karen in Texas

I, too, like the Future Friday idea! Going back to the term "Distaff" is much more dignified than "Ladies' Classic" as well...

29 Jun 2011 2:59 PM
Stevebiscuit

Steve, you're absolutely right! Plus, it seems by adding more and more races to the Breeders Cup, the quality greatly diminishes with each race. Before the Friday Breeders Cup existed, every race on the Saturday card was jam packed with talent. Now it seems like every race has one or maybe two real standouts. Eventually it might turn into Breeders Cup week if they continue adding races. Heck, we'll have Breeders Cup claiming races if this trend continues. One addition I wouldn't mind would be a race restricted to geldings.

29 Jun 2011 3:03 PM
Zen's Auntie

As usual you make perfect sense Steve.  

29 Jun 2011 3:06 PM
Mike in SB

I never understood why the Breeders Cup went to Friday/Saturday in the first place. I know the tradition of the Derby and Oaks, but I agree with Sumiko Keay, why not schedule it Saturday and Sunday.

29 Jun 2011 3:07 PM
gravideo

"Is this ever going to happen? Of course not."

It makes too much sense!

29 Jun 2011 3:15 PM
John from Seattle

Steve,

Running juvenile races on Friday and determing the Horse of the Year on  BC Saturday are two seperate and different topics.

First, "future Fridays" makes sense.  I agree with that.  The younger crowd should always go before the veterans just as in NASCAR and college football (Sat)/ and pros (Sun). No qualms here.

But the Horse of the Year is completely different.  It should be awarded to the horse that exhibited the "most outstanding" year - no matter what age or sex.

What happens when the next Secretariat appears on the stage.  Race the juvenile on Saturday?

Steve, no matter what Zenyatta did in 2008 some voters were not going to vote for her for HOY because of certain bias.  Curlin had it won (HOY) the moment he just showed up for the Classic regardless where he finished in the race.

29 Jun 2011 4:01 PM
Lilu12323

A couple years ago, I attended a promotional event in Arcadia prior to the 2009 Breeders Cup weekend. I had an opportunity to meet a couple of BC execs. I mentioned to one my distaste of the name "Ladies Classic" and mentioned my traditionalist desire to see it return to being called the "Distaff". He responded, "That was my idea, and we did it because not many casual or new racing fans knew what a "Distaff" was. My response was, "Yes, but how many casual fans will go out of their way to watch on a Friday anyway?" He had no answer for that, but it has probably become clear now.

I think it should just go back to a one day format. Yes, ideally, there should be a race for every distance and surface specialist. But historically we've seen some great performances by horses at distances or on surfaces that they didn't normally prefer. The champion in them surfaced on race day. Cut the Marathon, or have it at another track and go to it remotely via telecast so it can be shown between live BC races. But keep the whole event to a single day.

29 Jun 2011 4:40 PM
Ryan Stillman

Bravo! Steve I love the concept and logic behind this!

29 Jun 2011 4:49 PM
Cris

I agree that the Friday filly day does not work. Sumiko has a good point. I am all for a ten race card which would include the Ladies Classic, or whatever they are going to call it, the 2 year old sprint at 6F, the 1 and three quarter mile race, and the Classic which should be all run on the same surface on the same day to be as fair as possible. All races should be run on Saturday or Sunday to give the race fan a chance to see it all. If I am going to talk about the races I want my vote for having a traveling Breeders Cup so all fans get the chance to see really good horses at least once in their lifetime. How about Arlington Park, Woodbine, or Colonial Downs? All have good turf tracks as well as dirt. Jersey really ought to get a 2nd chance they tried so hard to make the place perfect and then it just poured buckets. There should be a rain date if it gets that bad anywhere again.

29 Jun 2011 4:53 PM
Retro

Absolutely things need to change and here's *my* suggestion...

Run all these new races they've added in the last few years on the Friday card. Many of these are not deciding championships so have them on their own seperate day as a lead up ...to the real championship day. On Saturday, run your original big races as it was meant to be. And for gods sake, call it the Distaff! If they insist on keeping this expanded 2 day schedule that's how I'd prefer to see it.

29 Jun 2011 4:55 PM
Steve Haskin

John from Seattle, "What happens when the next Secretariat appears on the stage.  Race the juvenile on Saturday?"

WHEN the next Secretariat appears on the stage? I admire your optimism.

There are exceptions to every rule, but I think we have a better chance of seeing the next Lady's Secret, Azeri, Zenyatta, and Rachel Alexandra than we do the next Secretariat. Just playing the percentages.

29 Jun 2011 5:17 PM
Steve Haskin

The Breeders' Cup will never be run on a Sunday because of the conflict with the NFL. Plus, the event would have far less newspaper coverage in a Monday paper than in a Sunday paper.

29 Jun 2011 5:19 PM
Steve Haskin

Retro, your premise makes sense, but the BC does not want to have a full card of meaningless races. They need a hook for Friday, in other words, a race that has major championship implications. But Horse of the Year is a different story. That's why I feel the Juvenile provides a major championship as well as the likely early favorite for the Kentucky Derby...at least in some years.

29 Jun 2011 5:25 PM
Terry M.

Change the Ladies Classic back to Distaff.

Move all 2-year-old races and all sprints to Friday.

Have the Mile, the Turf Mile, the Classic, Distaff, the Turf and the Marathon (which should be increased to 1 3/4 miles) to Saturday. The turf races draw the top Europeans so they are very important.

Add Woodbine as a regular site for the Breeders' Cup. It is a great facility and the turf course is considered the best in North America. It's also the most central location when horses are coming from Europe, Florida, New York and California.

Get over the dirt folks, synthetics are here to stay. The simple fact is that some horses don't like dirt, some don't like synthetics. So what? Some horses want a hard track, some want a softer track, some want mud. This is no different. Having the Breeders Cup at a site with a good synthetic track every couple of years is much more fair.

29 Jun 2011 6:00 PM
Giddyup

After the fiasco that resulted with the Life At Ten situation last year you have to wonder if increased exposure for BC races is good at all. I don't concern myself with the HOY campaign. There is something wrong if you need some voters to tell you what a great filly Blind Luck is.

29 Jun 2011 6:09 PM
John from Seattle

Steve,

Point taken.  

But I wouldn't include Zenyatta's name.  We will never see anything like her in a long, long time.

29 Jun 2011 6:19 PM
NASCAR PRO

I have read a lot of simple ideas from writers that make sense,but the arguement for tradition(status quo)is always present.What do you think about making it a rule that all belmont starters shall have started in at least one triple crown race so the fresh entrants do not just jump in to what is supposed to be a series(and they only play ONE race)If a fresh horse wanted to start for the first time in the Belmont you could assign more  weight.How many triple crown winners do you think we would have had with this rule.So I believe this notion that horses are not as hearty as they once were is incorrect.In present day racing the money to be made in the races and breeding shed is so much more than in the 70s(the last TC winner)that owners nominate for everything hoping to win or come in the money in just one TC event.How many 3yos were born in the 70s and nominated to the TC compared to now.It is much harder to win the TC now than ever,and IMO all the preliminary races leading up to the triple crown are much harder top to bottom than they were in the 70s.

29 Jun 2011 6:41 PM
College student

I love the idea of "Future Friday". 1/3 of the BC are juvenile races, why not give them their own day. It's kinda like the "Stars of Tomorrow" program at Churchill Downs where the race card is strictly all 2yos. If only they can start this in november, but that's asking too much i guess. Maybe if we all sent this link to the BC in an email, they will at least consider thinking about it. On their website at the bottom there's a contact tab and it has all their email addresses, I guess if you sent them to the racing one it would work. Here's a link to the BC page:

www.breederscup.com/content.aspx

29 Jun 2011 6:43 PM
predict

I have disliked(hated) the change to a 2 day Breeder's Cup, ever since they made the change. I would like to see it go back to just 1 day, Saturday, and think that the old " national pick 7" was a great idea that I hated to see go away. As a horse player, I wish they would bring it back to the 1 day event. $%^#& the 2 day idea, it stinks.

29 Jun 2011 7:42 PM
Racingfan

LOVE YOUR IDEA!   Have you mentioned it to the Breeders Cup? Like some on here, I too would prefer a Sat/Sun schedule which I guess will never happen.  All I can say is thank goodness for my DVR - at least I can watch on tape delay!

29 Jun 2011 8:15 PM
predict

Steve, do you think there is any chance that Inglorious might run in this year's Classic( the real Classic, not the Lady's Classic)?

29 Jun 2011 9:40 PM
CJ

One day of racing (Saturday)- Two different race tracks. That's how it should be done. It would be a huge event for both tracks and the TV coverage would work well switching back and forth. Let's start off with Santa Anita and Belmont.

29 Jun 2011 9:58 PM
SUNNY FARM

We live in a world that now has more of a four day work week, Friday being a day off. Many people travel to the Breeders Cup and arrive the day before,most arrange to take these days off in advance. I think that if you only held Juvinile and Marathons on day one, you would get less attendeance than haveing the fillies run on Friday. In order to maintain the amount of races, one has to choose....As for Distaff or Ladies Classic, I know I am in the minority of this blog, but do prefer "Ladies Classic " to "Distaff" (Distaff has a gutteral tone when pronounced, while Ladies Classic has a softer tone when the words have been spoken )

I would much rather see a wide range OF races,as it is now, so many more horsemen may compete according to what distance / ages etc thier horses run...then to see any changes made as to the date, or the name of the race. I know that Distaff is the correct term, but others do not know this who arrive to simply enjoy a great day at Breeders Cup.When I attended the B.C. , I loved each and every moment, and for me, at the end of the day the Ladies Classic (and Marathon AND two years olds !!!lol ) WAS the highlight on Friday.

29 Jun 2011 11:18 PM
Arts and Letters

I too wish they would go back to 1 day of racing.  It wasn't perfect, but limiting the BC to 7 races, meant you got the best horses racing against each other all the time.  And yes, it's the Distaff.  I refuse to use the term Ladies Classic.

29 Jun 2011 11:41 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

The Ladies Classic should be run just before The Classic on Saturday. There is enough to keep our interest and take our money on Friday. Women got the right to vote, then equality in jobs, now they should be able to run on Saturday. Zenyatta, the champion who's feats are less likely to be duplicated than any champion in history, male or female was definitely seen by less viewers in 2008 than if she would have run on Saturday. This year the older female division is the best division in racing and the Ladies Classic could be the greatest show at the BC so we should make the change this year. Great, thought provoking article.

30 Jun 2011 12:09 AM
drblick

Steve, the concept of Future Friday is a winner and something the Breeders Cup should consider.  Great article!

30 Jun 2011 12:50 AM
Ms Easy Goer

Steve- love your ideas. Don't like the races held at the same track for two years. There should be some sort of stable rotation by regions or the like. Set up BC regions and name the tracks that can hold the venue in each. Then those tracks bid on each rotation year that they have it. I feel bad for Moumouth as they will forever be thought of with that weather situation. And-by all means-bring back the Name "Distaff".

30 Jun 2011 1:20 AM
kincsem

Do we not have ENOUGH attrition on the "Triple Crown Trail"?

How about just the two original juvenile races? The whole event has become so watered down. Enough! Less races, so that it is not a marathon of mediocrity.

30 Jun 2011 2:09 AM
tjconway

I have many:

1) NO PRE-EMPTING BY COLLEGE FOOTBALL FROM ANY OTHER CHANNELS!

2) Is there some way we can tell college foot ball to have their games at Noontime and 8 PM on that Saturday? (No games at 4 PM on that Saturday) This is "our" Saturday!

3) Show future odds on the racing channels..........MORE OFTEN !

4) Cover more horses...more often, Human interest stories are fine but they take up too much time and I prefer to have every entrant covered...or at least "mentioned"!

5) Yes, it's time for Canada to host a Breeders Cup...they deserve it!

6) Can't wait to see "Frankel" and "Goldikova" go balls out in the mile........talk about theater!!!!!!

30 Jun 2011 3:35 AM
PomDeTerre

Time to CHANGE BC Friday???  There was never a NEED for BC Friday.  It has watered down the program considerably and should be eliminated, reverting back to the original 7 race format.  And, for the record, the ladies' Classic should revert back to its correct and original name of Ladies' Distaff.

30 Jun 2011 4:23 AM
Mark

I think all signs are pointing to a Breeders' Cup festival run over 4 or 5 days like the Royal Ascot meet.

30 Jun 2011 8:08 AM
Ruffian64

Well I don't know what the solution is but for those nit picking about Steve's suggestions, I believe them to be better than what we have now. And I despise "Ladies Classic" seems so demeaning.

30 Jun 2011 8:09 AM
Fran Loszynski

First of all Steve; I'd like to thank you for helping the racing industry to open its eyes and realize that if you want more fans for horseracing-you have to make it more convenient for them to enjoy the Sport of Kings! TA Rah, very easy, Saturday and Sundays racing. Alot of kids are getting interested in the sport, loving racehorses-why should they have to "skip" school to see a race. Hello- our future jockeys and trainers and owners and breeders are probably among these kids. I met one young boy at the racetrack one day and heard him say "I'm going to ride one day!" I asked him how tall he was and he said "5'9" but I can shrink!" It's the enthusiasm for horseracing that we need to elaborate on.

30 Jun 2011 8:33 AM
JerseyBoy

Steve:

Your idea is an excellent one. However, it would further institutionalize the fixation on the separation of the sexes. In Europe this issue would not even arise because over there horses are just that-horses. For instance, on Arc day, the major European championship day, there is a race for fillies only, but many owners run their top fillies in the Arc. In fact one of the leading candidates this year is the mare Sarafina.

In America there is this belief in some quarters that it is hard for fillies to beat colts, so fillies get extra credit when they beat colts even though those same fillies get beaten by other fillies. It is time we get off this fillies-colts  pre-occupation. Horses are either highly talented or they not. Any distaffer that wishes to be Horse of the Year should compete against the best horses running, male or female.

We should not forget that the Breeders Cup is an international event in which we often see fillies beating colts on the big day.

30 Jun 2011 10:25 AM
Steve Haskin

Predict, you never know, but I wouldnt think so at this point, unless she can prove she's just just as good on the dirt as she is on Polytrack.

Who, you can't do that. There is no reason to penalize late developing horses.

Ms Easy Goer, I wish the BC would give Monmouth another chance. With decent weather, it would be one of the more fun venues for sure.

Tjconway, Canada has already hosted the Breeders' Cup and it was one of the best events ever, at least from a personal standpoint. I had a ball covering the '96 BC, and Woodbine is such a beautiful track. I just dont think we'll see the BC run on Polytrack, at least for a while.

Jersey Boy, I'm not grasping what my idea of having a 2year-old Friday has to do with separation of the sexes. you'll have to explain that one. It's hard to compare fillies vs. colts on grass going 1 1/2 miles to dirt races at 1 1/8 and 1 1/4 miles. Fillies run well against colts in Europe because they are forced to run against them, as there are very few major group I stakes just for fillies that have anywhere near the prestige of races like the Arc and King George. If we didnt have so many top-class filly races you'd see a lot more fillies take on the boys.

30 Jun 2011 11:31 AM
Karen D

I personally love the two day format because it gives the meet a festival like atmosphere and makes the travel worthwhile for those attending. If the races are grouped right it can also provide two days of event coverage on national TV.  As many have mentioned, a Saturday/Sunday format might be a better option.

Future Friday sounds like a great way to revamp the two day format because those races are actually restricted to a group (2 year olds) rather than by sex which is not (can anyone say Goldikova?).  

I have a suggestion for the "filler" races or possibly a way to break up the two days if we went back to the one card format.  Rather than random stakes races, I've never understood why the Claiming Crown couldn't be incorporated into the Breeders Cup.  Excellence comes at every level of the game.  I see this developing into a fan favorite, generating lots of media attention and giving some hard working horses and their connections the recognition they deserve on the main stage.

30 Jun 2011 12:23 PM
Susan from VA

Steve,

As usual, I agree with you totally.  I really miss the use of "Distaff." Many years ago, I wondered why the term was used to refer to females - so I looked it up in the dictionary.  I guess today's ignorant masses don't know the meaning of the word and are too lazy to look it up.

30 Jun 2011 12:23 PM
Stellar Jayne

Bravo Steve!  Always well thought out and presented.  Personally, I would like to see all of the races return to just Saturday and all of what I identify as the new 'filler' races eliminated.  The newer races were added to justify racing on a Friday.  Adding juvenile sprints, etc. to Friday will not draw in more people to the Breeder's Cup on the track or TV viewing.  People are at work, do their shopping, other errands, taking their children to athletic practice or school games on Fridays, so they can have Saturday and Sunday free to do whatever turns their fancy.  By the time they relax in front of the TV on Friday night the races are over.

Seriously, Monmouth should be considered as a BC host site.  It is a very pretty venue, has as good weather as CD and Belmont in November, and can accommodate large crowds.  

30 Jun 2011 12:30 PM
bowlofflowers

I like the Future Friday term, if they need a theme.  Great article.  Couple of points:  I work in retail so I have to work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and would have to depend on my DVR to record the events no matter what. I do not mind the 'marathon' of recording for 2 days.

Secondly, the casual racing viewer can learn the traditional, honored terms of "Distaff, Sire and Dam".  It is not that hard.  Look at freaking Tennis if you want to talk about odd terms to understand.  Third is the very accurate point that HOY spotlights should be on the Saturday on the same track conditions.  Usually these are horses that we have been following for at least 2 years. It helps to build the anticipation.  Fourth, I do like the Marathon and keep it to the 1 and 3/4 miles.  We could discover another Yeats.  Well, ok maybe not him since he is up there with Secretariat, but you get the idea. Five: if financial reasons make it easier to keep the BC in the same place 2 years in a row, I also vote for moving it to all the majors tracks.  Gulfstream can't be any hotter for the European horses that Santa Anita.  Monmouth should get another chance.  Woodbine would be glorious.  Arlington too.  Cold maybe but as long as there is no ice, it would be safe.

30 Jun 2011 12:39 PM
Pedigree Ann

No way shape or form is the Breeders' Cup a "World Championship." How many non-previously-imported Southern Hemisphere horses have we seen run in it? None, because they are running their classics and/or biggest carnival (Melbourne Cup, Carlos Pellegrini) at the same time.  The additional title is a joke; what is wrong with 'North American Championships'? which is what they are.

Not only should the Distaff revert to its proper name, it should be restored to its original distance of 10f. And the Juvie would be improved if returned to its original one-turn mile (look it up).

No need for a juvenile sprint; other countries just make the big sprint in their 'carnivals' for 2 and up. And guess what? because of the tons of weight they get from the older horses, 2yos can win it. Just recently, in the Carreras de Estrellas sprint in Argentina, 2yos finished first and third.

Also no need for separate turf races for 2yos, if we need them at all. Fillies mature faster than the boys (remember junior high?), so they are at no disadvantage. But I'd rather eliminate them altogether: we don't need to be racing 2yo knees and ankles around 2 turns (and on the sharper-turned infield courses, no less) in AUGUST! No wonder BC juvie turf winners seem to take a long time to find their form again at 3, if ever.

Only improvement in the recent lot is the addition of the Marathon. For decades, the BC has been rewarding people for breeding (and buying) sprinters; about time they balanced their program by rewarding people for breeding (and buying) stayers.

30 Jun 2011 12:39 PM
mz

"Distaff"

Marathon = 1 3/4 miles and up

Woodbine

NO PUTTING ALL GIRL HORSE RACES ON FRIDAY!

(also, I agree with banning Football Games -- fergaedsakes! "College" -- during the races).

BTW: Good idea, Steve, re: Future Friday.

Keep Turf races for 2YO's

(Inglorious in BC Classic?  Good idea.  I always liked her)

(I am now going back to work -- my secretary/assistant is going on vacation for the next week -- HOW CAN I SURVIVE?  Only Answer: blogging.)

30 Jun 2011 1:53 PM
Donut Jimmy

I believe that the dramatic expansion of the Breeder's Cup has been a major mistake. I believe that most of these changes have diluted the competition, not augmented it.

I second Pedigree Ann's suggestion that the only real beneficial addition has been the marathon. Unfortunately, because of the general expansion, the marathon has had little or no impact.

Return to a single day program, beef up the purse in the marathon, and make the Breeder's Cup more of a Championship again.

30 Jun 2011 2:03 PM
JerseyBoy

Steve:

I support your concept. It is just that any attempt to treat fillies and mares differently produces a visceral reaction in me. It kind of makes me blind.

In this case I did not mention the other suggestions you raised. Your concept is excellent, but those distaffers that wish to be considered for Horse of the Year should run in the Classic even if the Fillies race is moved to Saturday. That is what I was trying to say but I got off on a tangent.

30 Jun 2011 2:06 PM
woodshade

You say Friday is a bad day for the Breeders Cup, but your saying to change it to Fillies Friday. Which one do you want? Breeders Cup racing should be Sat. and Sun.

30 Jun 2011 2:16 PM
mz

P.S.  HAPPY CANADA DAY to everyone (July 1st)

(ok - Happy America Day too)

30 Jun 2011 3:03 PM
Lmaris

Best idea yet, Steve if we have to hang on to the silly Friday concept at all.  

I've always thought if it had to go to 2 days, Saturday & Sunday made far more sense.  Afraid of football?  Who cares.

Return the name "Distaff" and move everything but the Juvenile races to Saturday & all Juvenile races to Friday.  Increase distance of "Marathon" to 2 mile too.

30 Jun 2011 3:49 PM
robinm

Steve; I appreciate you have brought this matter up for discussion.  I tend to agree with the comments of those who 1) don't hold with the concept that results of the Breeder's Cup races should determine year-end championships.  They are Grade 1 races; not "championship" races.  I understand why a Breeder's Cup win might have more weight than another Grade 1 race held on a less prestigious day and race card, just as I understand that winning the Kentucky Derby is more important to a 3-yr. old than winning a Grade 1 prep for the Derby, but a BC win in and of itself should not a champion make. 2) I also agree with those that believe the 2-day format is not necessary at all.    I don't think there need to be so many BC races.  Go back to the original format.  Eliminate the "non" BC races early in the card and choose the best of the added races to fill a 10 race card and hold it on Saturday.

30 Jun 2011 4:00 PM
Needler in Virginia

Another thoughtful and spot on column, Steve. Thanks very much, but you don't really believe the Breeders Cup powers will actually listen, do you? Theirs is an agenda which will forever remain pointless and clouded in mystery.

I HATE THE TERM "Ladies" when describing horses. Do the colts and geldings now get to be "boys" or "men"? Let's be totally fair; if we're gonna go so far out in center field we can't see home plate anymore, let's just go for it. The absurd terms should be as follows: "girls" and "boys" for the juvenile races, "ladies" and "men" for the adults. The poster above who mentioned how fans had to learn the terms of tennis has a great point; why don't racing fans have to know the terms describing the animals they watch? Beats me,  but it seems that we now accept ignorance as a permanent state rather than pretending that those who view our sport have ......... drum roll, please...a brain!!!!

Get a grip BC; you messed with success, now you've changed "Ladies' Day" (AARRGGHH) to "Not Only Ladies' Day But Also Other Races That We Judge Minimally Important Day".

Fie on them and their foolishness.........let's go for a week long Racing Festival that actually MEANS something!

Cheers and safe trips to almost everyone.

30 Jun 2011 4:59 PM
Alex'sBigFan

I was just posting this and it disappeared from the blog so if it is a duplicate sorry.  I too feel that I like the one day, Saturday for all the Breeders' Cup races.  If they insist on continuing with Friday, then Steve's idea for it seems the most viable and makes the most sense.  I also wish they would rename the "Ladies' Classic" back to the "Distaff."  And speaking of "they" why is there such a revolving door of BC Execs?  It seems every year they are appointing a new CEO or President.  And I may be wrong but I have yet to see one that has the right passion for the sport and the right marketing background.  My mental image of "them" is as they were in the movie "Dreamer."  The little girl who owned Sonador goes before the staunchy, better than everyone, head in the clouds, BC Exec Board to try to enter Sonador in the BC Classic.  She outsmarts them in the movie!!!

And Monmouth is a top notch, well run track.  It can handle capacity crowds, is so easily accessible right off the Garden State Parkway, is clean, very flat and great for viewing from all angles.  It is not so steeped in tradition and history as Belmont Park, but it is the most "fun" track to be at.  Monmouth should be given another chance, they did a great job in dealing with a deluge of 4 days of rain when Curlin ran. I am counting the days before I drive out to the Haskell at Monmouth, now 30 days to go.

Mainstream doesn't even know about the BC Friday.  It is demeaning to the fillies and mares who participate.  Why can't they just use the correct terminology, fillies, mares for the older females, colts, and horses for the older males?  At this rate this year the top fillies could go in the BC Classic and have a great shot at a win against this 3 yr. old crop of colts and the older horses.

30 Jun 2011 7:42 PM
Mister Frisky

Breeders Cup:1st Permanent home Santa Anita.2nd Ten grade1 races Saturday only,if it's not a grade 1 then they should not run it on a so called championship day.And finally an early and late pick five with two million guaranteed on both.

30 Jun 2011 9:16 PM
Zen4Zen

What you say makes sense, Steve; thanks.  As a woman, it also does seem almost like a sexist relegation to 2d-class citizenship for the fillies and mares -- especially inappropriate, as you note, since they've been and still seem to be the best of any sex in their generation(s).

01 Jul 2011 12:18 AM
Mister Frisky

TJ,Woodbine hosted in 96 doubt if they get another shot also google Ricks Natural Star for a laugh.

01 Jul 2011 12:25 AM
Johnny

Nice article Steve and I agree with it all.

Z should of got horse of the year.

Grest idea the 2year old races on Friday and all the others on Sat.

Just one problem in a society were all that matters is $$$ this just makes to much sense.

Happy 4th

01 Jul 2011 9:29 AM
Dawn in MN

Mr. Haskin, ...you are ever fearless in opening the proverbial can of worms, aren't you?  

This is a great topic.  The comments are typical of what I have seen on Bloodhorse.  The ideas are all over the map.  That's why I read these articles.  Step one in brain-storming is to record ALL the ideas, and then sort through them.  This is the ultimate brain-storming forum.  

As I read through all the comments and suggestions there are some recurring themes that really caught my attention.

I find it ridiculous to refer to any of the filly and mare races as "Ladies."  If the powers-that-be would name them by proper terms it would present an educational opportunity.  I have read with great interest the many comments about explaining racing terms.  I for one wouldn't mind watching educational explanations during coverage.  It would save me talking over the show and answering the questions for the people who watch with me.  When a person is new to a sport the terminology can be intimidating.  We don’t want new fans intimidated.  All education begins with learning the terminology.  I really do think that the story coverage should focus most on fan education dovetailed with highlighting the competing horses, their history, and past performances.  I find the horses' stories and the education of racing fans far more interesting than what someone is wearing, or which celebrities are in attendance-gag.

Some of the usual suspects' comments are really funny. Needler; "...Other Races That We Judge Minimally Important Day..." hilarious and good point.  Play Frisky; "...if it's not a grade 1 then they should not run it on a so called championship day."  Exactly.

I did hear of the Breeder’s Cup during my self-imposed exile from racing 1975-2006.  In 1984, when it began, I saw it as a gimmick.  I sensed a weak ploy to bring attention and a championship atmosphere to a sport in which people are increasingly aware that the best athletes sometimes die in their efforts, and the minor league athletes are sometimes run into the ground, or shipped off to die.  Thoroughbred horse racing has got to clean up this part of the act, or the future looks very, very dim for the sport.  

I love the idea of coverage on Saturday and Sunday.  I follow football too, and wouldn’t mind missing football on Sunday.  For new fans and fans of both sports having to choose between football and the Breeder’s cup may well result in a loss of viewers for the Breeder’s Cup.  I strongly object to the coverage being interrupted by other sports, and don’t like to see it switched from one television network to another during the event.

The idea of multiple tracks hosting the event during the Breeder’s Cup weekend is interesting, but your point of providing a level playing field by running all of them same day, on the same track is a valid one.  

The Claiming Crown-Karen D… you are right on that one.  In fact how about Friday being a day to honor those horses who run and run and run, and bring the claimers to the attention of the new fan.  These are the horses fans will see on the programs at their small local tracks, and the claimers and their connections deserve recognition.  It may also bring new owners to the sport at the claiming level.  Like taxpayers it is the little guys who shoulder a large load.

Last thing…Churchill Downs, in November?  Dumb and dumber. I would really like to see a better method of awarding the event to the host track.  How about the track with the best safety record?  Kill two birds with one stone, enhance the safety of the participants, and award those efforts?      

01 Jul 2011 10:33 AM
Dawn in MN

Wait, did the Breeder's Cup begin in 1982, or 1984?  I don't remember exactly which year.  My kids were born 1983 and 1987 and that decade is a blur.

01 Jul 2011 10:40 AM
WWSTP

Steve I am so happy to see this topic being brought up.  The fillies have been the major "news" for the last few years, and it looks as though they will be this year as well.  Let's get them the media coverage they deserve, let's get this exciting racing on a day when more fans can be present, and let's make this a real classic by getting them running on "classic day".  I hope the BC people are reading this blog and taking it seriously.

01 Jul 2011 11:10 AM
Mister Frisky

Dawn 1984

01 Jul 2011 1:05 PM
calico cat

Enough with the mourning over the demise of the word Distaff. I had to look it up  when I first got interested in horse racing. It's another word for women or females. The origin of that word relates to the spinning of flax. Hardly descriptive of modern females (human or equine). Horse racing has far greater problems than the word Ladies. No wonder very little gets done. People get all hung up on unimportant details.

I like your idea of moving the races around Mr. Haskin, in order to give the greatest exposure to the most important races, and "Future Friday" is a flash of genius.

To those who insist that the two days should be on Saturday and Sunday, get real!!! Football is the only word I will say about this.

Call me Pollyanna but I'm as happy as a pig in mud when the Breeders Cup comes around. I look forward to it every year because I know I'll be treated to two great days of racing. Can it be tweaked? Yes! but it was a great idea to begin with and remains a great one no matter how much NON-constructive criticism is heaped upon it.    

01 Jul 2011 2:08 PM
Criminal Type

Once again, another brilliantly executed, thought provoking article. First of all, I agree, bring back Distaff. Secondly, I really like the Future Friday idea.

I think it's important to keep the Juvenile races, all of them. These are the stars of tomorrow but I also agree if they are not grade one races they should be run Friday. Saturday is the BIG show. It is when ALL the big divisional races should be run. Maybe the BC needs to look at adding additional races to the Saturday card. Starting the first race earlier, less time between races is something they can look at. Steve is also right about the track conditions not being the same from one day to the next. The Distaff and the Classic need to be run on the same day.

I would love to see the 2012 BC run at Saratoga. It is so gorgeous there. Horse Heaven.

01 Jul 2011 2:13 PM
Auburndee

Couldn't agree with you more: but I would like to add:

Horse Racing NEEDS good marketing, and I would sugest looking to tennis.  Whenever the male stars have fallen into an uninteresting slump, the females have sucessfully carried billions in advertising revenue.

01 Jul 2011 2:20 PM
predict

In light of Sarah Palin's trademarking of her name to prevent unauthorized profiteering in the use of her name; I thought it would be interesting to come up with a phrase about what happened to his horse in the race he was just in, that a jockey could trademark so he alone could use it after a race. Such as:

" He had a hard time getting ahold of the track" ..........or:

" I don't know, he just didn't feel like running today"

Not intending to change the theme of this Blog, just a little bored here on the first of July, and thought this group might have some good suggestions, that jockeyes might use , say after losing a breeder's cup race.  oh hummm....

01 Jul 2011 2:33 PM
It aint easy being good!

I say get rid of the ladies classic. The girls are catching up to the boys they are a handful that are good enough now. Look at goldi she is a beast! Its time we stop seperating the men from the gals and let the best horse win regardless of sex.

01 Jul 2011 2:44 PM
predict

I forgot to mention what made me think of this, I always wanted to name a horse that was I was never sure if she was going to run or not, Sarah Palin.

01 Jul 2011 3:18 PM
Mister Frisky

Hey Dawn you tube 1984 BC Classic.Hands down one of the top five stretch drives of all time.Wild Again,Gate Dancer and Slew O Gold gettin down.

01 Jul 2011 6:13 PM
Vince

I agree with the posters on here who say that the BC should go back to just one day's racing. it has lost some of its magic for me, been diluted a bit. it was the single finest day's racing in the world, every race a championship event of sorts. now I am not so sure. I know why they changed it - money. but you know, sometimes less is more.

steve I think the poster talking about the separation of the sexes was trying to say that the more distaff races you put on, the more the fillies will not face the colts. and surely he has a point. I would scrap the fillies and mares turf race. maybe instead have both a 10 furlong and a 12 turf race open to all. there are in fact plenty of fillies races in england and france, it's just they aare not considered too highly because they are just that - fillies races.

and finally, if you can get to a tv or the net tomorrow, watch the eclipse at sandown. bests european race of the season so far, featuring the filly snow fairy against the colts. only 5 go, but should be a treat.

01 Jul 2011 7:07 PM
JerseyBoy

Steve:

Here is a radical suggestion. Since the Breeders Cup races are run so late in the year, we should open the Classic to 2yos. They are already running 10 furlongs by that time in Europe. It would be real fun.

To facilitate this, we should raise the weight-for-age scale 7 pounds to prevent some European jockeys having to starve to make the weights. We should do this even if we do not allow 2yos in the Classic. The current scale is a form of cruelty. The Breeders Cup is supposed to be international.

02 Jul 2011 6:54 AM
Dawn in MN

Steve,  

While I continue to ponder the merits of brevity, please forgive me for the long, long comment that I wrote. I continue to struggle to express my comments in 500 words, or less.  Goals.

Play Frisky, Thanks for the suggestion, the 1984 Classic, was definitely a great stretch drive.  Since I was looking at YouTube I watched a 2008 version, montage of the top 10 Breeder's Cup moments.  

Ferdinand, Da Hoss, Sunday Silence, Cigar, Tiznow, Alysheba, High Chaparral, Arazi!, Wild Again, Personal Ensign.

The story of Rick's Natural Star was very interesting.  I liked the way his trainer would not stand down when the reporters mocked him.  I like the happy ending for the horse.

Mr. Haskin, thank you again, as usual things go off topic at the end.

02 Jul 2011 9:33 AM
Slew

I haven't been on line for a week, so forgive me if I digress.

The idea of a Friday devoted to future stars is great.  But if a track like Churchill can squeeze in a 13 race card, why not a 14 race card.  Have all the races on Saturday.  And I like the idea of rotating the event to different tracks so that they can all be showcased, and have a chance to earn a profit.

Distaff simply refers to anything female.  Lady, on the other hand, gives much more respect to the champion females who have qualified for the BC races.  I, personally, prefer the term ladies.

Meydan draws an international audience with the size of the purses.  Perhaps it's time to up the purses of the BC races.

I watched the Coral Eclipse on Saturday.  Wow!!! my hat is off to the beast from down under.  Congratulations to So You Think, Aidan O'Brien, and all connections.  New Zealand gave us Phar Lap...and now...So You Think.  2f from the wire, SYT seemed to be struggling behind Workforce.  There was little rhythm to his stride.  It's not as though he found his stride at all.  But he was all muscle, and moved like a run away freight train.  He has sooo much power and determination (and muscle), he was simply magnificent to watch as he over powered Workforce to win.  So You Think really reminded me of the Slew in that final furlong.  

Steve, do you think we'll have a chance to see him in the BC since O'Brien seems to be bringing a lot of his stable over for the races?

03 Jul 2011 7:49 PM
melanchthon

I like the filly friday.  I would not change it.

06 Jul 2011 1:02 PM
Margaret Ann

A future Friday sounds fine. Giving the Distaff back it's true title would be great.

I still feel there are too many races in the Breeder's Cup.  Yes, under the "old" system, some horses were not running at their best distance.  I never thought of Cherokee Run as a Sprinter, but, Wow, he did sprint, won and received an Eclipse for it.

I feel that the BC folks are trying to make a spot for everyone at the table and the table is getting overly crowded. I don't work anymore so I don't care what day the BC races are run, I'll watch anytime.  Sundays could be hard on my marriage though.

Lastly, I hope the BC folks DO NOT decide to run the races at one track premanently.  I would like to see it go back to Woodbine or Lone Star again sometime.  My favorite site has always been Belmont, it would be nice to see it at Monmouth without rain also.

Ah, such dreams are made.

06 Jul 2011 4:57 PM

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