MI Developments Inc. announced Aug. 27 a bonus program involving tracks owned by the company that could result in a $5.5 million bonus for the winner of the 2011 Preakness Stakes (gr. I). MID also announced that purses of the Florida Derby (gr. I) and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) would both be increased to $1 million.
In a release, MID said the "historic and unique bonus program" called "Preakness 5.5" is designed to "allow both east and west coast based 3-year-olds to qualify by having the preliminary races at Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita Park, and Golden Gate Fields."
In addition to the purses earned in the qualifying races and the Preakness on May 21, 2011, the owner of a horse winning the bonus would receive $5 million and the trainer would get $500,000.
"The purpose of this grand prize is to provide a spectacular event for the fans and to create a potential life changing experience for the stakeholders of the racing industry," Frank Stronach, chairman of MID, said in a statement.
According to the MID release, here is a breakdown of the qualifying races at MID tracks that could lead to the bonus fi they went on to win the Preakness:
--To qualify for the Preakness 5.5 at Gulfstream Park, a horse must win either the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) or the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) and then go on to win the Florida Derby on April 3, 2011. Gulfstream general manager Steve Calabro said in the release that the Florida Derby purse will increase from $750,000 to $1 million.
-To qualify for the Preakness 5.5 at Santa Anita Park, a horse must win either the Bob Lewis or San Felipe, each grade II, and then go on to win the Santa Anita Derby. Santa Anita president George Haines said "Santa Anita proposes to increase the Santa Anita Derby purse to $1 million" in 2011.
--The winner of the El Camino Real (gr. III), which is scheduled to be run on Feb. 12, 2011 at Golden Gate Fields, will also qualify for the Preakness 5.5 if it goes on to win the Santa Anita Derby.
Dennis Mills, vice chairman and CEO of MID, said management began working on ways to generate interest in the tracks that MID took over April 30 when it assumed the assets of the former Magna Entertainment.
"We were focusing on making sure all of those properties we own were properly organized and proprely marketed so there would be a culmination in the great asset we own called the Preakness Stakes," Mills said in a telephone interview. "It’s the third week in August and we are already putting our business plan for 2011 out there. This gives everybody time to buy 2-year-olds and point toward the 3-year-old races next year.
"We hope it inspires people to get back into the business. We certainly hope that people will look at our program and come to our tracks and hopefully it can create a lot of excitement. We think it is going to help field sizes and handle."
Mills said MID decided to put together a bonus program tying some races at its tracks that are traditional Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) to have MID’s signature race, the Preakness, as the ultimate goal. He said Preakness 5.5 will not preclude MID from entering into discussions and a possible Triple Crown bonus scheme combining the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes (gr. I). He said MID has been focusing on its own properties since April 30 and was not involved in discussions with Churchill Downs or the New York Racing Association.
MID also announced that XpressBet will sponsor the XpressBet.55, a consolation prize of $550,000 ($500,000 to the owner and $50,000 to the trainer) to be awarded to the winner of the 2011 Preakness if that horse was not eligible for the Preakness $5.5 million bonus but was a runner in one of the initial qualifying races and finished first, second, or third at the Santa Anita Derby or Florida Derby.
The track-operating company’s announcement also said that on Oct. 1, 2010 a filly bonus program culminating at the 2011 Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) at Pimlico. Don Cameron, chief operating officer of MID, said in the release that the company "is in the process of receiving sponsorship proposals for this program and is in the process of acquiring appropriate insurance coverage for the Preakness 5.5."