Florida Stallion Stakes Series Revamped

Purses to be increased and race schedule changed.

Edited press release

The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, in conjunction with Florida stallion owners, have announced an agreement with the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Churchill Downs Inc., which will bring significant changes to juvenile racing at Calder Race Course this year. The track is owned by Churchill Downs Inc.
Central to the agreement is an increase to the Florida Stallion Stakes purse structure. The FTBOA, Calder and the FHBPA will each contribute $100,000 to purses in the series beginning in 2009.  
“Florida-sired 2-year-olds have always been showcased at Calder,” said Richard Hancock, executive vice president of the FTBOA. “It's encouraging to see that Churchill Downs realizes the importance of the juvenile races in South Florida and is recognizing the importance of a healthy 2-year-old program for Florida stallion owners and breeders. The increases to Calder’s 2-year-old program should bring excitement for breeders and owners and renew enthusiasm for racing at Calder in 2009.
“It's been a group effort,” he added. “This really shows what we can do when we all work together—the FHBPA, FTBOA and Churchill/Calder. This should help improve sales of Florida-breds during the upcoming 2-year-olds in training sales as well as at all sales this year.”
In addition to revamping the FSS series, the announcement said broader support of the 2-year-old program will come in the form of increased purses for juvenile maiden special weight races and races for non-winners, other than maiden races.
“This is getting us back on the right track. It should help breeders get their horses sold,” said Sheila DiMare, FTBOA board member and owner of Rising Hill Farm near Ocala.
Among the goals is to increase the minimum purses for these races from between $35,000 to $40,000, including Florida Owners’ Awards for 2009, and to $50,000 by 2010. The purses would benefit from an increased FOA supplement in 2009 and possibly a FSS supplement in 2010.
“We appreciate the efforts of the breeders,” said Sammy Gordon, president of the FHBPA. “It has been very productive working together with the FTBOA and Churchill Downs. Something like this will help improve 2-year-old racing down here. Two-year-old racing has always been the centerpiece at Calder.”
One of the biggest changes was in the scheduling of the FSS series for 2009. The series is made up of three legs with divisions for colts and fillies. Historically, the final leg of the series has been scheduled so close to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships that it made it almost impossible for those juveniles to compete. For example, the last leg of this year’s FSS was held on Oct. 18. The Breeders’ Cup was on Oct. 24. The agreement calls for the legs to be scheduled at least three weeks apart, including the time between the final legs and the Breeders’ Cup.
“The change in the stakes schedule gives horses that participate in FSS races the opportunity to also go on and participate in the Breeders' Cup. This will give those owners who run in the FSS a chance to go to the Breeders’ Cup,” Hancock said.
The agreement also calls for the formation of a committee, which will continue looking at ways to improve the FSS series as well as introducing new breeders, owners and fans to the industry. The eight-member committee will be made up of two members each from stallion owners, Calder, FTBOA and the FHBPA.
“We were able to sit down and get everyone together,” said Donnie Richardson, Churchill’s senior vice president of racing. “I think it’s a good deal for the horsemen, the breeders and Churchill Downs. It was really something that needed to be done. We’re all trying to better horse racing in Florida and the industry in general.”