Monday, October 22, 2007

The Quandry of Additional Breeders Cup Races

There's been a mounting of criticism of the new Breeders Cup races for them cheapening the Breeders Cup brand, and a thoughtful retort by Steve Crist in the Racing Form, noting that if the new races were simply called anything but the Breeders Cup XX, they'd be welcomed by the general public. Maybe. Here's my biggest complaint about the new races: they're taking away from the already existing Breeders Cup events by siphoning off good an interesting horses into second-tier events.

(Unlike Crist and most people, I have zero problem with the Juvenile Turf; I think it's fun, interesting, and will pro-actively lead to an expansion of the 2yo turf racing schedule, not to mention bringing more Euros over for October, as I noted here.)

As it currently stands, the Sprint this year is a wholly uninteresting affair, with a couple of flashes and oddities taking on Midnight Lute, a horse that doesn't love 6 furlongs. True, some of this is because of the unfortunate injuries to Fabulous Strike and Mach Ride, but the race kinda stinks. Let's, by contrast, take a look at the potential field if there were no F&M Sprint or Dirt Mile with morning line odds (which I had way too much fun making):

1. Kelly's Landing........12-1
2. High Finance...........15-1
3. La Traviata................8-1
4. Benny the Bull.........20-1
5. Midnight Lute............3-1
6. Attilla's Storm..........15-1
7. Bordonaro.................30-1
8. Dream Rush..............8-1
9. Greg's Gold.................10-1
10. Park Avenue Ball.......20-1
11. Discreet Cat................7-2
12. Commentator............20-1
13. Smokey Stover...........5-1
14. Idiot Proof.................8-1

The horses in blue are the ones that aren't being pointed for the Sprint. Eliminate those other races, and suddenly, we're rid of a pair of uninteresting races, and have gained a pair of fun fillies, the most interesting horse to run on BC Day (Discreet Cat), and a pair of curious longshots in High Finance and Park Avenue Ball. It sure beats the hell out of seeing Talent Search run 9th.

Sadly, the cat appears to be out of the bag with additional races, and it's only going to expand on Friday's card. How do we keep the primary Saturday races from being watered down? Easy--make them worth a helluva lot more money than the Friday races. You could jack all the Saturday races up by a million dollars, but that seems excessive. Instead, knock all the Friday races down to the $500k level, and give the owners a real question to ask. Do you want to run for $500k in the Dirt Mile/Filly Sprint, or 4 times as much money in the real deal? I'd also try to keep all the Friday races a Grade II events (I can see the argument for the F&M Sprint because they get an Eclipse Award, but that's it). It's important that Saturday's card resembles top-shelf racing, and not just a few great horses. The yearly calendar is watered down enough with stakes races and fields that don't match the best against the best, we don't need to make it worse.

For what it's worth (zippo), here's one man's proposal for a great two-day card with full and exciting fields that keeps Saturday as the epicenter of the weekend:


BC Juvenile Sprint; 2yo, 6 furlongs, $250k
BC Marathon; 3yo+, 14 furlongs, $250k
BC Turf Sprint; 3yo+ 6 furlongs (turf), $500k
BC Filly Mile; 3yo+ f&m, 1 mile (turf), $500k
BC Juvenile Turf; 2yo, 1 1/16 miles (turf), $500k
BC F&M Sprint, 3yo+ f&M, 6 furlongs, $500k
BC Decathalon, 1 1/4 miles (turf), $500k
BC Dirt Mile, 3yo+, 1 mile, $500k


BC Juvenile Filles; $2 million
BC Juvenile; $2 million
BC F&M Turf; $2 million
BC Sprint; $2 million
BC Mile; $3 million
BC Distaff; $3 million
BC Turf; $4 million
BC Classic; $6 million

This would not only make for a fun Friday, but it'd also give horses that don't quite have a spot now in pretty much all divisions a place to run for less money, while keeping the integrity of Saturday's card. And that's what matters most.

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