JC / Railbird

Stakes Racing

A Great Year

Gary West on the 1988 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs:

I remember being so overcome with the experience of that 1988 Breeders’ Cup, so moved and dazzled by the proximity of greatness that I collapsed into a chair when it was all over and sat there for several moments before I could even begin to think of writing.

Less great: “… about 38 percent fewer horses are on the track than 24 years ago, but they have 114 percent more Breeders’ Cup races to run in.” (See also.)

Stakes Inflation

Chris Rossi on the graded stakes bubble:

As foal crops have declined, so has the number of race days for a total of 6,250 race days lost since 2006. Yet the number of stakes awarded graded status has remained level: 475 awarded in 2006 and 474 awarded in 2011. This failure to adapt to the new racing landscape has resulted in an increase of 14% in the number of races awarded graded status.

The 2016 projection should strike fear in everyone involved in breeding and selling American Thoroughbreds. Without correction, short fields and ducking connections won’t be just the bane of bettors in the very near future.

(Neither the Paulick Report nor Equidaily like to pick up Raceday 360 pieces, but both should aggregate this one.)

Going Begging

Gary West on the tiny Cotillion field:

Anyway, it’s embarrassing, but there it is: four horses racing for a million bucks in a Cotillion that has turned into something of a private dance party. And Saturday night, how many owners and trainers will regret not having entered?

A fifth-place finisher could have earned $30,000. Any runner finishing worse than that could have earned $10,000 just for starting. #gasface

You’d think with only about $9 million in age-restricted main track graded stakes purses for 3-year-old fillies through the year (compared to $23 million for males), connections would be reluctant to pass up the earnings.

9/24/12 Addendum: Post-Cotillion, John Pricci considers why some may have decided against entering their fillies:

What if you were the owner of any 3-year-old filly in the land not named Questing or My Miss Aurelia, would you be knocking down the racing office door to get into the fray? And, remember, please, there is more pressure than ever to “do the right thing by the horse.”

The obvious overmatching of race horses for the purpose of earning minute shares of a big purse does not serve the best interests of the Thoroughbred.

Grading Process

The American Graded Stakes Committee released the list of 2011 graded stakes on Thursday, and aside from a slight contraction in overall numbers (13 races were dropped, a reduction of 2.7% from 2009), the most notable change was that the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf was bumped from Grade 2 to Grade 1. Its companion race, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf remained a Grade 2, prompting Steven Crist to write, “it makes you wonder if that race is a permanent part of the BC program,” and owner Bobby Flay — who won the 2010 Fillies Turf with More Than Real — to opine in today’s TDN that, “Clearly, this is a short-sighted mistake that can only be labeled as sexist.” It’s not. And it most likely means nothing as far as the BC’s future program. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf was first run in 2007, first graded in 2009, and run as a Grade 2 for two years. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies was first run in 2008, first graded in 2010, and has been run only one year as a graded race. There seems no reason to doubt that, true to pattern, the Fillies Turf will made a Grade 1 in 2012, after two runnings as a Grade 2.