BC Talks Continue as Marketing Campaign Launched

As Breeders' Cup officials continued to deal with the fallout from the announcement the New York Racing Association could be nearing insolvency, they indicated Oct. 11 it's all systems go for the Oct. 29 World Thoroughbred Championships at Belmont Park by launching a $2-million marketing push only 18 days before the event.

In comments made to an oversight panel Oct. 4, NYRA officials said the association that operates Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga may not be able to pay all of its bills by late November. Though Breeders' Cup officials haven't commented on the situation, Breeders' Cup is said to be seeking guarantees it will receive its revenue should NYRA eventually declare bankruptcy.

Sources in Albany, the New York capital, said Breeders' Cup has asked the state for financial assurances. Breeders' Cup president and National Thoroughbred Association commissioner D.G. Van Clief Jr. said Oct. 6 he couldn't comment about the nature of discussions with NYRA.

On Oct. 11, Van Clief left the NTRA Annual Meeting and Marketing Summit in Lexington early to attend a Breeders' Cup meeting. Greg Avioli, executive vice president of the NTRA, also had a meeting and couldn't attend the Lexington meeting.

No NTRA officials commented on the situation during the first day of the annual meeting, and Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of marketing and industry relations, referred questions to Van Clief. Damon Thayer, vice president of Breeders' Cup event management, said during a presentation that telecommunications equipment was being packed into a truck and readied for shipment to New York for the World Thoroughbred Championships.

"It is truly one of the best venues in the country to host the event," Thayer said of Belmont, which would host the Cup for the fourth time.

The NTRA said it would spend almost $2 million to advertise and promote the Breeders' Cup nationally, including almost $600,000 in New York, for television, radio, outdoor, Internet, and print advertising. There also will be special sections in USA Today and the New York Daily News.

The NTRA will use the Breeders' Cup to unveil a new 2006 ad campaign that features the tagline, "Who Do You Like Today?" Created by Conover Tuttle Pace, the campaign is sort of grassroots in that it draws on the basic reason people attend the races, as well as the social aspects of the racetrack.

Looking ahead, Thayer said Breeders' Cup wants to build the World Thoroughbred Championships into the number one event in the world and increase its value as a sports product. He said it's important for the industry to improve the structure, presentation, and promotion of divisional races.

During his presentation, Van Clief talked of a "super series" of races that would lead up to the Breeders' Cup beginning in 2007. He said industry officials already have met to discuss better organization of the national racing calendar.

"We're focusing on the racing product, which you as students of the game know is suffering," Van Clief said. "Our goal is to dramatically enhance the structure of our product, but development of a super series can't occur in a vacuum. It must be done with a total revamp of the national racing calendar. We could address the quality issue by enhancing fields."

The super series would be along the lines of the Thoroughbred Championship Tour, which never came to fruition. It called for a series of "big event' racing days to span the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup.

Tom Precious contributed to this story