The repackaging of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and move of female stakes from their customary Saturday spot is part of the plan to make Friday’s program “true Breeders’ Cup championship racing,” Breeders’ Cup president Greg Avioli said.
The shift of all the female championship races to Friday was announced Feb. 27. Breeders’ Cup expanded to a two-day event last year at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
“Having watched one year with a Friday program, it was clear the day had significant potential,” Avioli said Feb. 29. “The concern was we did not want it to remain a set-up for Saturday’s program. The goal was for Friday’s program to be true Breeders’ Cup championship racing.”
Despite horrible weather, last year’s Friday program at Monmouth generated total handle of $30.3 million, on-track handle of $5 million, and attendance of 27,803. Breeders’ Cup officials anticipate better figures this year at Santa Anita Park in Southern California.
The Distaff, now called the Breeders’ Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I), will be the final race on the Friday program. Avioli said the idea is to have a major championship race on Friday to complement the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), which will be the final race on the Saturday card.
The move to a “Filly Friday,” as Breeders’ Cup marketing consultant Chip Tuttle called it, has met with some criticism within the industry, as does most change. But Avioli said he sees nothing but upside.
“I guarantee you there will be more attention called to this race this year than any time in history,” Avioli said of the $2-million Ladies' Classic. “Change is hard in our industry.”
The Ladies' Classic will be part of an expanded three-hour live telecast Friday, Oct. 24, on ESPN. Peter Land, hired last October as chief marketing officer for Breeders’ Cup, said Feb. 29 the bolstered Friday program is attractive to ESPN and should help lure some local sponsors.
Land, however, also said the decision to move the Ladies' Classic to Friday “was a racing decision first. The intent behind it was to create two separate but equal championship days.”
Land said having the Ladies' Classic on television at roughly 6:40 p.m. Eastern time is a “dream scenario. From a sports perspective on a Friday evening, we’re not really competing against much.”
Also moved to Friday are the $2-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) and the $2-million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT). The $1-million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, inaugurated last year, was held on Friday; the $1-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf is a new race this year.
Breeders’ Cup officials said there should be news soon on race sponsorships. There will be changes; none of the races currently are referred to by sponsor name.