A Ryder Cup Format for Racing?

A Ryder Cup Format for Racing?
Photo:
Ray Paulick
Editor-in-Chief
John Magnier, the master of the far-reaching Coolmore racing and breeding operation, has a great deal in common with the late financial wizard E.F. Hutton. Both men were self-starters who knew how to make money. They were movers and shakers within their industries, but neither one did much talking.

A television commercial in the 1980s for the since-failed E.F. Hutton brokerage firm drummed the following mantra into our heads: "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen."

Racing journalists would be hard-pressed to use the same slogan about Magnier, since he doesn't speak--at least not more than a couple of syllables at a time. However, industry leaders should find it of great interest that Magnier did speak, quite profoundly, via a written message in the 2002 brochure promoting Coolmore's farms in Ireland, Australia, and the United States.

Magnier called for the increased internationalization of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, saying the annual event should alternate between the U.S. and Europe, similar to golf's Ryder Cup, a spirited championship involving European and American players that has become one of that sport's most-followed spectacles.

"If the Ryder Cup dream is to be realized," Magnier wrote, "all our attitudes have to change...This requires the closest cooperation and necessary funding from racing's authorities on both sides of the Atlantic for the common good of a global sport."

It's easy to come up with any number of reasons why Magnier's proposal is impractical. The time difference from the West Coast to Europe would make it nearly impossible for fans out west to wager, let alone watch, a European Breeders' Cup on television. Pari-mutuel handle is a major component of the Breeders' Cup's annual revenue, and lost revenue must be found elsewhere. Second, the program was built on nominations from American breeders and stallion owners, and Europeans haven't paid their fair share. Third, there aren't any European tracks capable of hosting a Breeders' Cup program that includes five dirt races.

But let's throw logic and practicality aside for a minute.

There is no question the internationalization of racing is upon us. As this is written, horses are being prepared to ship to Dubai for the world's richest day of racing on March 23, highlighted by the $6-million World Cup (UAE-I). Other horses are resting after competing in late-season races in Japan and Hong Kong.

The Japanese Horse of the Year, Jungle Pocket, is pointing for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot in July. Fifty or more expensive 2-year-olds are training in Dubai in preparation for a racing career that will begin this summer in California. The early favorite for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) is stabled at Ballydoyle in Ireland, not at Gulfstream Park or Santa Anita.

A group of international racing officials tried to capitalize on the sport's global appeal by creating the World Racing Championship, a year-long series of 11 races in nine countries. But the series is too big a challenge, and the travel too far and wide, to expect more than minimal participation.

However, a once-a-year event like the Breeders' Cup is far more practical for international horses and horsemen than a series that circles the globe more than once. European horses have been coming to the Breeders' Cup since 1984, and their presence was never larger than in 2001, when they won three of the World Thoroughbred Championships races. A European Breeders' Cup, or an Asian one for that matter, would not be impossible to stage, and it might bring the popularity of the event to a new level.

Breeders' Cup officials should at least listen to Magnier's proposal for a more international event. After all, he doesn't speak that often.

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