Avioli Discusses Ascot's 'Win' Weekend
by Mark Popham
Date Posted: 9/26/2008 1:02:19 PM
Last Updated: 9/27/2008 3:10:58 PM
Breeders' Cup president and CEO Greg Avioli
Anne M. Eberhardt
Breeders’ Cup president and CEO Greg Avioli was joined by Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey at Ascot Racecourse in England, the afternoon of Sept. 26 to discuss the first “Win & You’re In” tie-up with a European racecourse.
The winners of the Sept. 27 Sony Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I), Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (Eng-II), and the Meon Valley Stud Fillies’ Mile (Eng-I) at Ascot will all automatically qualify for a place in the Oct. 24-25 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.
"The idea behind it is to give some context and continuity to the top racing in late summer, early fall and the Breeders’ Cup,” said Avioli, who was instrumental in the introduction of the new initiative. “Particularly, for fans and players, to give them a way to follow the best races as they lead into the Breeders’ Cup. And also to address what is otherwise a fairly complex system, of how horses are able to secure a spot in the Breeders’ Cup.
"It’s very simple, if you win one of the 57 races, you’re in,” he said. “This year, we have extended the initiative internationally. I’m personally very excited about tomorrow’s races at Ascot and we are really honored that Charles Barnett (Ascot chief executive) and the folks at Ascot have agreed to participate. We think that you have three of the best races in the world at this time of the year. And the winners of those three races will each automatically secure a spot in the Breeders’ Cup.
"I can tell you already this has generated increased interest in the States,” he said. “Tomorrow’s racing at Ascot will be covered by TVG and we also believe the results will get coverage in other mass media in the country because people are excited about who the top European challengers are."
Avioli, whose background is in golf, compared the Breeders’ Cup with the Ryder Cup and explained how the coverage of that event increased when the European team began to win more. He feels the increased international focus on the Breeders’ Cup will have a similar effect and hopes to attract attention of the wider public.
He also announced that next year, the Breeders’ Cup will revert to its traditional date of the first weekend in November, having gradually slipped into the routine of being run on the final weekend of October.
Meanwhile, Bailey revealed he is looking forward to seeing two European stars, Duke of Marmalade and Henrythenavigator who are both conditioned by Irish leading trainer Aidan O’Brien, taking on American opposition.
He expressed concern for Duke of Marmalade if he contests the Oct. 5 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) at Longchamp in France beforehand.
He also has reservations about whether Henrythenavigator, who will run in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, will be as effective over 1 ¼ miles in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), but said that jockey Johnny Murtagh is "tremendously excited" about the colt.
Bailey was also asked to comment on Murtagh’s seven-day suspension, imposed Sept. 25, for alleged "team tactics" in last month’s Juddmonte International Stakes (Ire-I) on Duke of Marmalade.
"The second horse went through the same opening,” he said. “Horses tiring will drift but as jockey, I would have factored that into the race. For being penalized trying to win? I don’t understand it. I would have been following Johnny on Duke of Marmalade!"
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