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BC Plan Draws Mixed Reaction From EBF

The European Breeders' Fund had a mixed reaction to Breeders' Cup changes.

The European Breeders’ Fund had a mixed reaction to the new nomination structure for Breeders’ Cup, saying it acknowledges “with regret” termination of cross-registration agreement that has been in place since 1995.

As announced Sept. 13, beginning January 2011, all foals sired by Breeders’ Cup-nominated international stallions will be automatically eligible to participate in Breeders’ Cup races. To qualify for the new program, owners of stallions standing outside North America in the Northern Hemisphere will pay an annual nomination fee equal to 50% of a stallion’s published stud fee; owners of stallions standing in the Southern Hemisphere will pay a nomination fee equal to 25% of a stallion’s published stud fee.

Dual-hemisphere stallions will be treated as separate entities. The current North American nominations programs will remain unchanged.

The objective is to increase the number of international foals eligible to race in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships from about 1,200 to more than 20,000 in three or four years.

“Breeders’ Cup will be applying different regulations in an attempt to boost the numbers of horses eligible to run in the ‘World’ Championship days—and we wish them well in their efforts,” the EBF said in a statement released Sept. 14. “For its part, the EBF will continue to operate under the same general format as before, sponsoring over 1,200 races in Europe each year. It has proved a successful, significant, and stabilizing factor since 1984, when EBF funds were first applied to European racing.

“Although the aims of Breeders’ Cup and EBF have been very different, the cross-registration agreement has meant that the two parties have worked closely together throughout the period of the agreement. In general terms, the Breeders’ Cup and EBF will be operating completely separately, but under similar terms.”

Clem Murphy, senior bloodstock adviser for Coolmore and a member of the Breeders’ Cup board of directors, said Sept. 13 it’s time for the World Championships to live up to its name.

“To be honest, particularly in Europe, people looked upon (the name) with suspicion,” Murphy said, “and we had to defend it. Our goal should be to have a lot more international runners. In three or four years, 20,000 to 30,000 international horses could be eligible.”

In connection with the changes in the nominations program, Breeders’ Cup also will enhance the benefits of winning one of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifying “Win and You’re In” races. Those enhancements include paying entry fees and subsidizing travel costs to the event for all Challenge winners that are Breeders’ Cup-eligible—$10,000 for North American horses and $20,000 for overseas horses.

Breeders’ Cup also will pay a new $10,000 award to the nominator of any North American foal that wins a Challenge race.

The EBF in its statement acknowledged efforts by Breeders’ Cup to attract more foreign interest.

“The EBF is very conscious of the large number of U.S.-sired young stock which is imported each year to race in Europe—very different to the traffic in the opposite direction,” the statement said. “We know that it is highly unlikely that the whole of a crop by a U.S.-based sire will ever be imported to Europe, but details of the 990 Breeders’ Cup-sired yearlings of 2010 that have already been nominated to the EBF at $500 by May 1, 2010, make interesting reading.

“The 990 are the progeny of no less than 132 individual Breeders’ Cup sires.  Three of those sires have had over 41 yearlings nominated; three have had between 31 and 40 nominated; eight have between 21 and 30 nominated; and four have between 15 and 20 nominated. It might make some sense for some of those stallions to be nominated to the EBF in 2011 at a rate yet to be ratified, thus providing the breeders, who used those stallions, with significant savings, as the progeny will be automatically eligible for the EBF program which involves around 1,200 races confined to EBF-eligibles.”

The changes in Breeders’ Cup nominations were almost two years in the making, and not without debate, officials said. During a Sept. 13 press conference, Cup officials said the EBF was well aware of the proposal, and the two parties will “hopefully move forward.”

Breeders’ Cup is looking for more than European participation. Officials said the goal is to attract nominations from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Turkey, and South America.

“The fate of our business, sport, and Championships is international,” Breeders’ Cup president Greg Avioli said.

The connections of foals currently eligible through EBF- and Common Fund-nominated stallions (those outside of Europe) don’t pay nomination fees to Breeders’ Cup as is the case in North America. Avioli said the “fairness” question was part of the broader discussion.

“The program was fully vetted by the 40-plus member Breeders’ Cup board of members and trustees, and we didn’t get a sense of any particular unfairness,” Avioli said. “It’s in everyone’s best interest for Breeders’ Cup to be the biggest platform for the sport.”

The domestic Breeders’ Cup Stakes program will be eliminated in 2011, and those funds shifted to nominator awards and the expanded Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. Funds from the Breeders’ Cup Stakes program, valued at $4 million to $5 million, should support the new incentives, officials said.

“We felt the stakes program had outlived the goals it was originally designed for, and that there was better use for that money,” Avioli said.

Also as part of the program, Breeders’ Cup will offer a one-time, fee-based open enrollment program in 2011 (from Feb. 1-June 30) for previously ineligible horses as long as they are sired by Breeders’ Cup-nominated stallions: $3,000 for yearlings, $6,000 for 2-year-olds, and $25,000 for 3-year-olds and up.