Officials: 'Tour' Will Rely on Incentives for Owners

The Thoroughbred Championship Tour, a proposed series of stakes that would bridge the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, will rely heavily on incentives to get owners to commit their horses, officials said June 3.

The TCT is a proposal for an owner-driven, for-profit, televised series of 30 races (six per day on five "event days") that would use existing stakes on the calendar from June to October. TCT organizers are working with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup.

Dan Metzger, president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and John Phillips, a TOBA trustee and managing partner of Darby Dan Farm near Lexington, told the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club June the series continues to evolve. Meetings to discuss the TCT are held on a regular basis.

"It's very much a work in progress," Phillips said. "I don't want anyone to come back and say, 'You said it would be X, and now it's going to be Y.' (The concept) could change quite a bit."

Phillips acknowledged the challenges of getting owners to commit their horses to five weekends of racing in a roughly four-month period. Because of that, incentives are required, he said. They include purses (already set in $500,000 to $1-million range), a ranking system and post-race honors, and increased value after horses' racing careers.

"We may be seeking accommodations in (sale) catalogues that recognize TCT grade I events," Phillips said. "We're trying to give post-race value to horses that have participated in TCT races."

Phillips said the TCT would center on the on-track experience--creating "event days" at each racetrack--and generating television exposure in hopefully five two-hour broadcasts. "It would be the best of the best once a month in what basically can be described as a mini Breeders' Cup," he said.

Metzger cited the work of TOBA board members, the NTRA and Breeders' Cup, and potential host racetracks for their work on the TCT. He, too, said the plan continues to evolve, but there clearly is a need for a "major league" season for horse racing.

The TCT plan centers on major stakes in New York and California. The week of May 26, at least one TCT organizer is said to have met with officials at the New York Racing Association, which would have the most races in the series according to the TCT business plan released in April.