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How to Fix the Breeders’ Cup

By this time next year, three years will have passed since there was a single Breeders’ Cup race that took place on dirt.  THREE YEARS!!!  That’s as sad as it is unbelievable!  Some championship…  Not to mention the fact that I’ve yet to encounter a single person who prefers the term “Ladies Classic” to Distaff.  The various  “improvements” bestowed upon us by the erstwhile powers-that-be have thoroughly diluted this once great event.

Bottom line:  The Breeders’ Cup is broken, folks.  Not irreversibly, but it’s getting there.  The good thing is that it can be fixed in 3 simple steps.  Let’s fix it.

Since those in charge currently seem to be contemplating how to plan the event for the future I propose the following simple and easy ground rules to restore the event to its rightful place as a day that racing fans can truly look forward to:

1)  The Breeders’ Cup should not be a 2-day event. In this case two halves do NOT exceed one whole.  In fact, they seldom do.  I remember when Belmont used to run “Super Saturday” cards in the fall combining all of their major Grade 1 races into a single card.  They were exciting.  Then they tried to spread the races out over an entire weekend.  It didn’t work.  They turned into ordinary racing days with several stakes races run.  Racing isn’t popular enough anymore to support too many big days.  You need to hit it out of the park when it counts.  Most of the world could give a crap about the “Ladies Classic,” let alone the “Juvenile Fillies Turf.”  There’s simply no reason other than desperate economics (read: short term gain, long term pain) to try to stretch the event into a Friday afternoon.

Run the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday like they used to – with only the most important races.  Make that card so strong that the rest of the racing world (and some of the rest of the world as well) stops to pay attention – like they used to.  Only run races significant enough to be Grade 1’s – like they used to.  How pathetic is it that they now run Breeders’ Cup races that can’t even be called Grade 1’s with a straight face?  Isn’t there some saying about “if it ain’t broke…?”  Here’s another thought: If you draw a field where you can’t immediately tell if the race is being run on Breeders’ Cup day or a month later at Aqueduct when looking at the entrants and past performances, then you’ve done something seriously wrong and the race probably doesn’t deserve to be part of the Breeders Cup card!!!

2)  Let’s nix the marathon, turf sprint, dirt mile, juvenile turf, and juvenile fillies turf. None of these are championship events.  Look at the fields.  Look at the winners so far.  These are no elite races and the horses winning these races aren’t elite horses .  The only thing the Breeders Cup was missing was a filly & mare sprint.  That’s an Eclipse Award category and there are legit Grade 1 horses ready to run in such a race.  Keep it.  No one was asking for any of these other races.  They don’t fill any void.  None of these other races determine Eclipse Awards, draw G1 fields, or serve any legitimate purpose other than to waste purse money and serve as a desperate attempt to get a second day out of the BC by calling them Breeders’ Cup events.  Run these other events as non-Breeders’ Cup stakes races on the day before or day after if you must, but stop diluting the main event with this silliness that more resemble the Calder Festival of Racing where they run 2 furlong and 2 mile races simultaneously in opposite directions  than they do championship events where we’ve seen some of the greatest races in the history of the sport.

3)  No Breeders’ Cup can be run at a track that doesn’t have dirt. I’m sorry but it’s absolutely ridiculous to pass off an event as a determinant of champions when not a single dirt race is run.  This is America for god sakes – here we run on dirt!  Synthetics are a third surface and they need to be treated as such.  Last year you saw Eclipse voters ignore most of the Breeders’ Cup results for this reason.  This year, it’s gone a step further and many top horses are deliberately skipping the event because it’s on synthetics.  California rushed to judgment and installed synthetic courses throughout the state.  That’s their problem.  They made their bed and they should have to lie in it – but it doesn’t mean the rest of the sport has to suffer.  Perhaps we should create a separate Eclipse for synthetic horses (for at least as long as they last), but let’s bring these races back to a time where they actually mattered and actually represented a level playing field from which to settle rivalries and help determine year-end championships.

It’s time for drastic action because you can see the downward trend developing right before you.  In a matter of 2 years they have essentially torn down all of what they spent 2 decades building up.  The Breeders’ Cup is on a fast track towards being nothing more than a series of big money events with no other real value rather than the biggest day in racing and a series of “can’t miss” races (for the Eclipse contenders as well as the fans).

1 Day.  9 Championship races.  Dirt.  Not so hard, is it?!  All in favor, say I…


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7 Responses

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  1. stanley says

    right on!  your analysis is straightforward and it couldn’t be any simplier to understand.   the expansion into two days, saying nothing of the ticket prices last year is sufficient proof that we need new individuals in leadership positions.  to put it into commonsensical terms: if you had been throwing a party for two decades and watched as attendance started slipping would you expand the party into a two-day event?  of course not.  I’m sorry but we have been way to patient with the incompetence of those making the decisions. 

  2. Shawn says

    i like your input
    lets try to save horse racing
    the breeders’ cup is a total sh*t show right now

  3. Darrell says

    Stanley & Shawn – Thanks very much for the feedback and agreement. Very frustrating to watch because this Breeders’ Cup/championship concept really isn’t all that difficult to get right! The amazing thing is that there really isn’t much debate on these decisions…they’re just making wrong ones that clearly no one agrees with and don’t pan out. It’s not like when they announced the “Ladies Classic”, the 2-day format, Santa Anita X 2 etc that opinions were mixed. These were universally panned and nothing that’s happened since has proven them smart or right.

    It’s hard to screw up such an easy concept – and something that was running so smoothly for so long – but they’ve managed…and quickly!

  4. Steve M. says

    Darrell, hasn’t it only been two years since the last BC on dirt? Monmouth in 2007 was on a dirt track, albeit at sloppy one. I guess it will have been three years since a quality BC. Well, maybe next year . . .

  5. Darrell says

    Steve –
    Yes…it’s 2 years now but I was saying that by the time they run the Breeders’ Cup next year it will have been 3 years since there was a Breeders’ Cup race on dirt. Pretty crazy. Kinda goes hand in hand with the fact that in 3 years as of this year the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile will never have actually been run at a mile on the dirt! 🙂

  6. Kristi says

    Totally agree on point 2.  The additional races dilute the “championship” nature of the event.   But, if there were enough elite races to fill a two-day card,  I’d support the 2-day thing….it’s fun.  🙂 
    Point 3 – I’m in favor of the synthetic track….it’s the future of racing.  It may not be this iteration of the synthetics that we adopt long term, across the country, but we are moving away from dirt.  If it’s a choice between tradition and attempting to provide a safer trip for the horse…I choose the latter.  A 1-day event with all elite horses…racing on synthetic surfaces….seems like a good compromise, no? 
    (And I’m a little biased about the back to back Santa Anita events….has been very convenient for me.  MEMEMEMEMEME!)

Continuing the Discussion

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