Skip Dickstein

Steeplechase Posts Record in 2007

National Steeplechase Association purses were a record $5,357,645 in 2007.

From the National Steeplechase Association

National Steeplechase Association purses were a record $5,357,645 in 2007, up 10.5% from last year, according to the organization’s year-end statistics released Nov. 30.

The average race purse of $26,655 also set a record, up $4,112 per race from 2006.

“This was a very successful year,” said Bill Gallo, NSA director of racing. “Our typical barometer is total purses, and they were at an all-time high. We hope to continue that trend in 2008 and reward our horseman. There’s a strong feeling by the NSA to increase purses again, so we are looking forward to 2008.”

Though the number of NSA owners, trainers, riders, and horses all dipped in 2007, Gallo mentioned the framework of a plan that would boost purses to hopefully bring in new connections to the sport.

“It’s getting more expensive to train and care for horses, so the purses must increase accordingly,” Gallo said. “We are working very hard at getting a greater influx of purses and a five-year plan would be to have purses over $10-million. This would impact the game on many different levels, increase participation and interest, and continue the upward trend of purse increases that stagnated a bit from 1990-2000.”

Though the 2007 racing calendar lost the Brookhill Steeplechase in Raleigh, N.C., there could be several new editions to the 2008 landscape, as well as improvements to the several successful stops on the circuit.

“We have a lot of different venues that have shown interest and several new race meets are possible,” Gallo said. “Palm Beach in Florida is looking to have a meet (March 16), and that would change the dynamic of the early part of 2008. Kentucky Downs has expressed interest for next fall, and although nothing is set, we’re hoping to have a few races there on opening day in September.

“Penn National has shown interest, and we would like to have a few more races over the summer at Philadelphia Park, in addition to what we currently have there.”

Racing-wise, McDynamo won his fifth consecutive Breeders’ Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I) and retired after a run in the Colonial Cup (NSA-I) as one of the greatest of all time and the sport’s leading career earner. Good Night Shirt took the torch from McDynamo in the Colonial Cup and set a single-season earnings record with $314,163.

“Our goal is to promote the sport as a whole and put forward the best product possible,” Gallo said. “We are always looking to expand our race-meet schedule. The best thing we can do is have a race meet like Saratoga this past year, where there was some very good racing and very few falls.

“We have a very good relationship with (New York Racing Association) management, and assuming they have the same team next year, we are looking forward to business as usual. The Belmont race this fall was successful, and we already have been told it will be placed more toward the middle of the card next year, with the other grade I races.”

Gallo said he also plans to build on the popular Saratoga Open House that gets the Spa season under way the Sunday before the traditional Wednesday opener.

“We’ve created ‘Saratoga Jump Start’ during the Saratoga Open House next season,” he said. “This is an actual race meet modeled after Strawberry Hill at Colonial Downs. We pitched the idea to NYRA management and they liked it a lot. We will have four hurdle races with $100,000 in purses, as well as two training flat races. It’s a race meet at a racetrack and that’s very exciting.”

The 2008 NSA season kicks off March 9 at Little Everglades in Dade City, Fla.