Breeders' Cup Expansion on Agenda

The Breeders' Cup board has a lot on its plate for its December meeting.

The Breeders’ Cup board of directors will discuss international participation in the World Championships, new races, and potential host sites for 2009 during its Dec. 7 meeting.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup spanned two days for the first time, with three new Championships races Friday and the customary eight on Saturday. For 2008, it appears likely a turf sprint Championships event will be added, with other changes possible.

During the week of this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Monmouth Park, officials told The Blood-Horse there is some interest in the industry to consider a marathon-type stakes on the dirt in an effort to encourage connections to keep their horses in training and perhaps capitalize on the use of synthetic surfaces.

Breeders’ Cup president Greg Avioli said the board hopes to finalize the schedule for the 2008 event at Santa Anita Park during the Dec. 7 meeting.

“The only real question on the turf sprint is we’ve never discussed the exact length,” Avioli said. “We’ll be discussing whether it should be five-and-a-half furlongs or six-and-a-half furlongs.”

Turf sprints vary in distance from track to track. Santa Anita, for instance, offers 6 1/2-furlong races down the hill, Belmont Park has six-furlong events, and Churchill Downs five-furlong races. Monmouth altered its turf course to allow for 5 1/2-furlong grass races rather than five-furlong events.

The three new races--Filly & Mare Sprint, Juvenile Turf, and Dirt Mile--weren’t graded this year, though Breeders’ Cup earlier this year requested they be graded. (Previously existing Breeders' Cup races automatically received grade I status.) Avioli said the matter would again come before the American Graded Stakes Committee during its Nov. 27 meeting in Lexington.

“We have submitted a letter requesting (the committee) to consider those races for grading purposes this year,” Avioli said. “We know they are going to review the races based on graded-stakes criteria.”

Also during the Dec. 7 meeting,  Peter Land, hired earlier this year to spearhead marketing for Breeders’ Cup, will provide a marketing assessment and present plans for future events, including next year’s, which is the 25th Breeders’ Cup.

As for international participation, Cup officials believe additional turf racing opportunities, and having the event on a synthetic surface (Cushion Track) for the first time next year, could encourage more shippers.

“We are going to take a look at specific ways to increase international participation in the Breeders’ Cup,” Avioli said.

A 2009 host site hasn’t been selected. Avioli said it would be “premature” to discuss the matter for public consumption, but the board of directors will discuss future host sites during its meeting.