'Tour' Working With Breeders' Cup for 2005 Launch

Organizers of the Thoroughbred Championship Tour and Breeders' Cup are working on an agreement that would facilitate launch of the proposed high-level stakes series for 2005.

The TCT, an owner-driven initiative developed by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, calls for a series of televised races on several "event days" that would bridge the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. Plans for it were first announced in the fall of 2002.

TCT and Breeders' Cup officials met in Lexington Jan. 10, a day before the Breeders' Cup board of directors met to approve the National Thoroughbred Racing Association budget for 2004. The two organizations have a joint operating agreement.

When asked about the Jan. 10 meeting, TOBA president Dan Metzger said TCT and Breeders' Cup officials met to "share goals, objectives, and to make sure everybody was at the same place. We agreed to work in the short term toward finalizing an agreement between the TCT and Breeders' Cup in the hope of launching (the series) in 2005."

The TCT, a for-profit concept, relies on contributions from Thoroughbred owners who would make commitments to race their horses in designated races. It also calls for a portion of pari-mutuel handle to go toward funding the series. The framework of the TCT will generally remain the same, though adjustments may be made in some areas, officials said.

The NTRA and Breeders' Cup have gone on the record as supporting the TCT and the owners who are behind it, but the road has been somewhat rocky. The latest meeting is said to have ironed out some differences, and apparently Breeders' Cup will be heavily involved. The organization, in conjunction with the NTRA, has firmed up a summer schedule of televised races in 2004 that no doubt will dovetail with the TCT schedule in years to come.

Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief Jr. said the Jan. 10 meeting was productive. "We felt it was a very positive attempt to put (the series) on a fast track. We wanted to see which elements needed to be addressed to (create) some kind of joint venture to move forward the concept of a better-organized racing series."

"We always have said the NTRA platform for television fits the needs of the TCT," Metzger said. "The NTRA has done a superb job in our minds of securing television spots (for racing)."

Officials said it became apparent the TCT wouldn't become a reality in 2004. Discussions are expected to continue over the next few months in advance of the hoped-for launch in 2005.