SBD/Issue 29/Events & Attractions

Two-Day Breeders' Cup Kicks Off With More Races, Synthetic Track

The Breeders' Cup gets started today amid the "biggest shake-up in the 25-year history" of the event, with 14 races "spread over two days with purses stretching to $25.5[M], making it the richest turf festival in the world," according to Ray Kerrison of the N.Y. POST. All of the non-turf races "will be run for the first time over a synthetic track concoction" called Pro-Ride instead of the traditional dirt surface, and the first five races "will go on Friday, reserved exclusively for fillies and mares." While the original founders "were horse-driven," Breeders' Cup President & CEO Greg Avioli and CMO Peter Land are "market driven." Avioli and Land together "have turned the old Cup on its head," aiming to "lift the Breeders' Cup out of its narrow industry groove (with negligible TV ratings) and boom it into a national sports colossus like the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, the Masters golf and the tennis championships." Kerrison wrote the task is "formidable, but the market is everything," which is why Avioli and Land "have made the unprecedented decision to run back-to-back Cups at Santa Anita." The two are seeking to "tap into the big Los Angeles sports and celebrity market." But the "new-look Cup is not universally welcomed," and 14 races "seem unwieldy." Trainer Bobby Frankel: "They're watering it down a bit. But they're giving a lot more people chances to make money" (N.Y. POST, 10/20). Avioli said of adding six new races and extending the event to two days, "Part of it is that old adage that bigger is better. Two days provides us with 50% more stories to tell." Asked if more changes are coming, Avioli said, "At this time, I don't anticipate the creation of any new Breeders' Cup races. We've had such a tremendous amount of change in the last 24 months, right now we want to water these roots and give them a chance to grow." Avioli said of potentially taking the event overseas, "I would not rule out the possibility. I think the media interest you would create by holding the event internationally would be tremendous" (USA TODAY, 10/23). 

Beyond Our Reach One Of 30 Int'l Horses
Taking Part In This Year's Breeders' Cup
AROUND THE WORLD: In N.Y., Joe Drape reported there are 30 international horses competing this year, a "larger contingent" than in years past, and their owners and trainers are "pointing them at more than the typical six grass races." Avioli: "We made numerous trips to Europe and told horsemen that we wanted to run a safe, drug-free and fair world championships." Trainer John Gosden said the steroid ban at the Breeders' Cup is a "huge step in the right direction." Gosden: "Let's face it -- American racing has had a dark summer" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/23). Avioli added, "I think it's critically important for the Breeders' Cup to remain a world championship, that we have strong participation from the best horses in the world. We're very pleased with the number of entries from Europe. No question about it that the synthetic surface has increased the number" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/21). WinStar Farm Chair & co-Owner Bill Casner said of the track's surface, "Obviously the Europeans have embraced it and brought some of their best horses over here. It truly becomes the world championships. From a safety standpoint, it's absolutely what we need" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 10/21).

TRACK TALK: Australia-based Pro-Ride Managing Dir Ian Pearse, whose company makes the synthetic track used at Santa Anita, said that "there's a lot at stake for synthetic tracks in general and Pro-Ride specifically ... when the first Breeders' Cup is run this week on a synthetic surface" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 10/21). Trainer Bob Baffert: "I'll never be a total fan of (the synthetic track) but what we have right now is okay. ... They're still experimenting with it, but to me conventional dirt is the way to go and it's going to take awhile to sway me" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 10/22). Santa Anita President Ron Charles said of synthetic surfaces, "I've been in the game for about 40 years, and I've never seen a topic over which the industry is more divided." USA TODAY's Tom Pedulla writes, "Will gamblers be so confused that they will stay away, especially in a troubled economy?" One bettor said, "It's not a good investment to be playing now because you don't know how a horse is going to react to the surface" (USA TODAY, 10/24).

Curlin Looking To Add To Impressive Resume
With Second Win In Breeders' Cup Classic
NEW ERA: The L.A. TIMES' Dwyre writes, "Today's beginning of the two-day Breeders' Cup extravaganza at Santa Anita is the first day of the rest of horse racing's life." Racing is "tired of hearing about Barbaro and the ensuing breakdowns, tired of getting the public interested and then delivering bad news. A good two days here, meaning safe races that are also great races, would be healing." But the event was "supposed to be a showdown, a great promotional peg," featuring Curlin and Big Brown, but that "fell apart last week when Big Brown was injured in a training accident." Now it is Curlin "against the world, less catchy and less compelling" (L.A. TIMES, 10/24). In California, Jim Carlisle writes, "I'm not sure, if they were going to make this a two-day event, why they would make the two days Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday, but I'm guessing the NFL probably has a little something to do with that." Carlisle adds, "I also don't understand why the climax of the event -- Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic -- is on ESPN instead of ABC" (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 10/24).

OVER THE AIR: In L.A., Steve Springer reports ESPN "will air 14 races" of the Breeders' Cup over two days, a "total of nine hours spread across three of its outlets," ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. This year marks the "first time the races have been on both network and cable stations." ESPN's coverage will feature "everything from high-definition broadcasts to a rail-view, truck-mounted camera to wireless mikes on the jockeys to cameras roaming from the paddock to the stands to a virtual display of the finish line" (L.A. TIMES, 10/24). Also in L.A., Bill Dwyre reports ABC "will depart its telecast halfway through Saturday, giving way to brother network ESPN, so it can carry regional college football action" (L.A. TIMES, 10/24). CABLEFAX DAILY's Heiges & Arenstein report horse racing net TVG, despite being "on the sale block," is set to "continue its sponsorship role" in the Breeders' Cup. The net has planned "promotions across cable nets," as well as an "expanded Cup-related programming lineup" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 10/24). The Breeders' Cup Friday runs a four-page special advertising section in the Wall Street Journal, with ads for Bulgari, Bessemer Trust and Emirates airlines (THE DAILY).

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