The Breeders' Cup board of directors has approved a committee recommendation that the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies be lengthened to 1 1/8 miles this year.
In addition, the board decided to add National Thoroughbred Racing Association membership to the list of criteria for participation in the Breeders' Cup Stakes program (formerly the Breeders' Cup National Stakes program). It follows an earlier decision that only NTRA-member racetracks can host the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
Because of the short run into the first turn at this year's host track, Arlington Park, the usual distance of 1 1/16 miles was unworkable. The extra half-furlong will apply only to this year's running of the Breeders' Cup, which will be held Oct. 26.
Jim Gluckson, an official with Breeders' Cup and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said the change was made after discussion at the board meeting, held March 15 in South Florida. Gluckson said the committee polled trainers who indicated lengthening the 2-year-old races, rather than shortening them to one mile, was the preferred alternative.
Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief Jr. said owners, trainers, and racing officials were consulted. "There was some diversity of opinion, but it wasn't a contentious issue," he said.
Many fall prep races for the 2-year-old Cup events are run around two turns at 1 1/16 miles. An exception is Belmont Park, where 1 1/16-mile races are run out of a chute.
As for the stakes-supplement provision, Van Clief said Cup officials have applied three criteria when money is allocated: whether a racetrack regularly has Breeders' Cup-nominated stakes performers; whether a track is considered a key simulcasting market for the Cup; and whether a track is located in a market that is important to consumer exposure to the Breeders' Cup.
Van Clief said the new provision isn't a mandate for membership in the NTRA, but that racetrack and horsemen's association membership in the organization would be considered when any decision is made.
In other moves at the board's first-quarter meeting, the number of horses receiving automatic berths in Breeders' Cup races, based on points accumulated in graded stakes in the United States, will decrease from eight to seven. The board approved increasing the number of horses selected by the racing secretaries/directors panel in oversubscribed(more than 14 horses pre-entered) races from six to seven.
The changes are effective immediately. In addition, a horse must accumulate a minimum of six points in American graded stakes to qualify for an automatic berth in Breeders' Cup races, with the exception of the two races for juveniles.
The board also approved establishing a ranking system for horses in all eight Breeders' Cup races based on the International Classification system. The rankings will be used primarily in the promotion and televising of the event.