The race for leading sire in North America, as reported in The Blood-Horse of Jan. 12, was won by Coolmore/Ashford's Thunder Gulch, who enjoyed a comfortable margin of more than $1.1 million in progeny earnings over Three Chimneys Farm's Rahy. But readers of the two subsequent editions may have noticed the winning margin was reduced considerably. Thunder Gulch, with year-end earnings of $7,905,539, now has just a $137,146 advantage on Rahy, whose 2001 earnings increased by $1-million since publication of the Jan. 12 edition.
Don't bother to call in Al Gore's attorney, David Boies, to demand a recount, or suggest the chief investigators at The Jockey Club Information Systems travel to Paris, France, in search of unclaimed purse money or hanging chads. The results are official.
At the same time, let me explain how Rahy "found" an extra million after the books apparently were closed on the 2001 racing season.
Rahy's leading earner in 2001 was the turf specialist Fantastic Light, who, as a first-class world traveler, was a participant for each of the past two years in the Emirates World Series Racing Championship.
The series pays a $1-million bonus to the owner of the horse that accumulates the most points for top finishes. In 2000 and 2001, the bonus went to Fantastic Light, who races for the globe-trotting Godolphin operation.
But here is where it gets a little complicated.
In 2000, The Jockey Club Information Systems added the $1 million to the purse of the Hong Kong Cup (HK-I), the final race in the series, giving Fantastic Light earnings of $2,025,600 from winning that race alone. The Blood-Horse does not include Hong Kong earnings in its weekly sire statistics, just as it does not include Japanese earnings, so Rahy did not receive credit for either the Emirates series bonus or the Hong Kong purse. The decision to exclude Japan and Hong Kong earnings is based largely on comments from breeders, who consider the Asian countries' purses inflated to the point of rendering a traditional general sire list irrelevant.
Fantastic Light won this year's Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), one of the 10 Emirates series races. The victory secured his second consecutive championship and bonus for winning the Emirates series. Because he subsequently did not compete in either the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) or Hong Kong Cup, The Jockey Club Information Systems added the Emirates bonus money to the chart of the Breeders' Cup Turf, making that race worth nearly $3 million, with Fantastic Light credited with earnings of $2,112,800. Since the Breeders' Cup is run in North America, the 2001 bonus money counted toward Rahy's progeny earnings--unlike the previous year. And it very nearly pushed Rahy past Thunder Gulch in earnings.
For reasons unknown to us, however, the Emirates bonus money was not added to The Jockey Club database until mid-January of 2002.
Timing issues aside, the real question is whether series bonuses should be included as part of a horse's official record. In the past decade, American racing has had so many bonus schemes it's hard to keep track of them all, from the ACRS to FOX to KTA to CNBC, ad nauseum.
What if, for example, the Acme Farm & Sales Agency decided to offer a $5-million bonus if one of its sales graduates went on to win a Breeders' Cup race? Would that count as part of the purse and go toward a sire's progeny earnings? Or what if Instybet.com offered a $1-million bonus to the horse owner who got the most camera time wearing one of its silly hats during the Triple Crown telecasts on NBC?
Gimmicks and bonuses are fine to help attract racing sponsors. But record keepers should show some discretion in deciding what counts and what doesn't.