Support of 'Tour' to Be Recommended to BC Board

The Breeders' Cup executive committee and management team is expected to recommend to the full Breeders' Cup board that the organization continue to work with the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association to facilitate the proposed Thoroughbred Championship Tour.

The TCT, as it is called, would be a for-profit, owner-driven series of races that would bridge the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. There would be five "event days" featuring 30 races primarily at tracks in California and New York.

If the Breeders' Cup board approves the recommendation July 14 during its meeting in Lexington, Breeders' Cup would contribute $3 million a year over five years to facilitate the TCT. Financial contributions from Breeders' Cup and owners were outlined in the TCT business plan released in April.

The Breeders' Cup executive committee met June 20 to consider applications from Del Mar and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to serve as future host sites, but after that held a separate discussion on the TCT. Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief Jr. indicated it got a thumbs-up sign.

"We believe the board will be favorably inclined to the program, at least on the face of it," Van Clief said.

Van Clief said there is plenty of "detailed consideration" remaining. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup, which now operate jointly, formed a committee to study the TCT. Breeders' Cup, however, has control over its assets and would decide whether to invest money in the TCT.

"The plan requests a significant amount of funds," Van Clief said. "It's all very preliminary--we don't want to preempt the board."

TOBA president Dan Metzger couldn't be reached immediately for comment.

The TCT hopes to create a sports franchise for horse owners and a network television package that rivals that of Triple Crown Productions. But the limited liability company that would own the racing series expects to lose an average of $3.7 million in each of its first five formative years because of purse contributions.

The TCT concept was unveiled last year by TOBA, whose goal is to showcase the best horses in America and in turn increase economic benefits for owners and others in the Thoroughbred industry. Though losses are anticipated early in the series, the company expects to generate revenue through pari-mutuels, host fees, and, in the long-term, a television contract. If it does eventually obtain its goal for a Triple Crown Productions-type contract--$51.5 million for television rights over five years--it would be on firm footing.

The total capital investment would be about $19.4 million over five years, according to the business plan. TCT-member owners would provide millions of dollars in start-up funds but earn equity in the series.