LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Owners complain that the 6-figure supplementary fees--ranging from $120,000 to $600,000--charged to make non-nominated horses eligible for the Breeders' Cup are prohibitive and a bad gamble. But yet, some have risked such outlays every time the races have been held, and this year will be no exception.
When Churchill Downs runs the 7 Breeders' Cup races next Saturday for purses worth $10 million, the owners of 2 of the 87 horses will have more to lose than others. Cutlass Reality and Waquoit are running in the $3-million Breeders' Cup Classic only because their owners believe it's worth $360,000 to get them into the starting gate.
The other 85 starters are either foreign horses covered under a special program, or American horses that were nominated shortly after birth for $500.
The owners of these horses must also must make 2 entry payments--the second of which is due Wednesday--to keep their horses eligible. These fees range from $20,000 to $60,000, depending on the purse value of the race.
The purses for the first 3 finishers in the Classic are $1.35 million, $675,000 and $324,000, which means that to turn a profit in the race, Cutlass Reality and Waquoit would have to finish first or second. Both horses are multiple stakes winners--Cutlass Reality even upset Alysheba, the Classic favorite, early in the year--but one Las Vegas odds maker lists Cutlass Reality as the third choice, at 3-1, and rates Waquoit at 12-1.
Said Craig Lewis, who trains Cutlass Reality: "I'm not the one putting up the money but I'm pretty confident that he'll be in the money. It's different than most other races, because usually when you supplement, that money is added to the purse.
"It would be better if you got back the $360,000 if you won. It's a gamble, but it would enhance the horse's stud value if he won."
Cutlass Reality's owners, Howard Crash and Jim Hankoff, had no control over the 6-year-old's not being nominated as a yearling, since they bought the horse late last year.
And for most of his 63-race career, until he blossomed this year under Lewis, Cutlass Reality never looked like a horse who deserved to be in the Breeders' Cup. Cutlass Reality didn't win a stake until his 35th race, and he didn't win an important race until his 58th start.
Until recently, Waquoit had only one owner, but he, too, didn't look like a horse who was worth a $500 investment for the Breeders' Cup. Joe Federico, of Boston, bought Waquoit as a yearling for $15,000 and even then, trainer Guido Federico, a shirt-tail relative of the owner, wondered what they had.
"When I first got him, he was big and fat," Guido Federico said. "I was a little disappointed with him and I didn't think he was going to stand up. But as he went along, he got graceful. He turned out to be a real nice horse."
In his last start, with Alysheba scratched from the race because of a sloppy track, Waquoit won the $1-million Jockey Club Gold Cup by 15 lengths at Belmont Park, increasing his earnings to almost $2 million.
Still, the Federicos wavered about paying $360,000 to run in the Breeders' Cup, but then last week they sold the 5-year-old gray to Helena Allaire Crozer du Pont and Richard Golden. The new owners and Joe Federico will each pay half of the $360,000 Breeders' Cup fee and split whatever purse money Waquoit earns.
In the 4 previous Breeders' Cups, no one had to pay the $600,000, which would be the fee--20% of the purse--if a horse wanted to run and neither he nor his sire had been nominated. Sires are nominated for whatever their listed breeding fee is, and that makes all of their offspring eligible, providing the $500 yearling fee is paid. The supplementary fee to the Breeders' Cup is 12% of the purse if the sire but not the horse has been nominated.
There have been 17 horses supplemented into the Breeders' Cup, but the number has dwindled, from a high of 8 in 1985 to just 1 last year and 2 this time. That is probably because more horses have been made eligible when they're young, and because owners realize how small their chances are of recouping their payments.
The supplementary fees for the 17 horses have totaled $3,040,000 and they have earned purses of $3,237,000, but only 8 of them have cashed checks.
The rewards are distorted because Wild Again, supplemented for $360,000 into the Classic at Hollywood Park in 1984, won the $1.35-million first prize in a bang-bang finish with Gate Dancer and Slew o' Gold, and because Pebbles, supplemented for $240,000 into the Turf at Aqueduct in 1985, also won and earned $900,000.
The only other supplemented horse that won was Tasso, who earned $475,000 in the 1985 Juvenile after his owners put up $120,000.
The biggest of all these gambles was by the owners of Wild Again.
"You knew those guys had to be dead game to put up that kind of money for that horse," said Mickey Taylor, one of the owners of Slew o' Gold.