BC Race Title Sponsors: Gain Two...But Lose Two

Though the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup have picked up title sponsors--Dodge and Nextel--for two World Thoroughbred Championships events, the number of sponsors, at least as of June 25, is a wash compared with 2002. Two other companies--NAPA and Long John Silver's--are out as title sponsors after one year.

NAPA lent its name to the 2002 Breeders' Cup Sprint, and Long John Silver's to the 2002 Juvenile Fillies. Neither company will sponsor those races when the World Thoroughbred Championships is held Oct. 25 at Santa Anita Park.

Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief said the NAPA partnership "wound down" because of issues related to Kmart, which recently emerged from bankruptcy. NAPA had taken over the Sprint sponsorship from Penske Auto Centers, which operated 550 shops at various Kmart stores but closed those facilities in spring of 2002.

Long John Silver's, now part of Yum! Brands Inc., was named title sponsor of the Juvenile Fillies just last year. It will not sponsor the race this year.

"The company is still our marketing partner, but it does not (lend its name) to any of the eight races," said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of marketing and industry relations for the NTRA.

The company continues to be an NTRA marketing partner--along the lines of Alberto Culver and FedEx, for example--and "continues to purchase a lot of media," Chamblin said.

The NTRA continues to search for title sponsors, Chamblin said. Return title sponsors are Bessemer Trust (Breeders' Cup Juvenile), John Deere (Breeders' Cup Turf), and NetJets (Breeders' Cup Mile).

Dodge is now title sponsor of the renamed Breeders' Cup Classic, Powered by Dodge, and the Classic division. Nextel is now title sponsor of the Distaff and related division. Those announcements were made June 24 in New York City.

Meanwhile, in the wake of a combined $1-million boost in purses for two races in 2003, Breeders' Cup has no immediate plans to increase prize money for the other six events, officials said.

On June 24, Breeders' Cup said the purse for the Juvenile would go from $1 million to $1.5 million, and the purse for the Mile would go from $1 million to $1.5 million. The extra cash will come from an increase in entry fees.

Van Clief said fees would go from 2% of the gross purse (1% pre-entry and 1% entry) to 3% of the gross purse. The extra 1% will be "loaded onto the second-stage payment," he said.

Thus, for the $4-million Classic, the entry fee would go from $40,000 to $80,000. Combined pre-entry and entry fees for the Classic will now run $120,000.

Van Clief said the fee hike would raise $1.5 million, $1 million of which would be used to boost purses for the Juvenile and Mile. He said the board of directors has a policy to put money back into purses.

Use of the other $500,000 hasn't been determined, Van Clief said, because the $1.5 million is only a projection. If that much is in fact raised through the entry-fee hike, Breeders' Cup would "get serious about allocation of the balance," he said.

Van Clief said the Juvenile and Mile were tabbed for purse hikes for similar reasons. He said at $1.5 million, the Juvenile would offer a "higher return on investment" in reference to owners who purchase young horses. "It was meant to stimulate the marketplace," he said.

The Mile has proven a "tremendous draw for the international crowd," Van Clief said, and the distance of one mile is used as a "strong indication of stallion potential."

Van Clief said the Breeders' Cup board would consider purse increases if competition warrants. He said the strategy is to draw the best horses, and if the races fail to do so, purse hikes would be an option.

Total purses for the eight World Thoroughbred Championships events are $14 million: $4 million for the Classic, $2 million for the Turf, $2 million for the Distaff, $1.5 million for the Juvenile, $1.5 million for the Mile, $1 million for the Sprint, $1 million for the Juvenile Fillies, and $1 million for the Filly & Mare Turf.