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HORSE RACING

Breeders' Cup to add three races

December 10, 2007|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

The Breeders' Cup, which this year consisted of 11 races instead of the traditional eight and became a two-day event for the first time, is expanding again.

Breeders' Cup Limited will announce today that there will be three new races, bringing the total to 14, in next year's event, to take place Oct. 24-25 at the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita.

The three added races will take place Friday, Oct. 24, bringing that day's total to six. The traditional eight will be run the following day.

The total purse money for horse racing's richest event will grow to $25.5 million -- $5.5 million for the Friday races and $20 million for the Saturday races.

Also, there is a good possibility that the 2009 Breeders' Cup will be held at the Oak Tree meet as well, meaning Santa Anita would be the site for consecutive Breeders' Cups.

Greg Avioli, Breeders' Cup president and chief executive, said it is one of the sites being considered, and that a final decision will be made at a February board meeting in Lexington, Ky. Another source said Churchill Downs is also in the running.

One appealing factor of Santa Anita is the Southern California weather. Four days of rain on the North Shore of New Jersey dampened this year's Breeders' Cup, which took place Oct. 26-27 at Monmouth Park.

Del Mar has expressed interest in serving as the host site of a Breeders' Cup, but Joe Harper, president of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, said the earliest that could happen would be 2010.

Sherwood Chillingworth, executive vice president and director of the Oak Tree Racing Assn., said his organization would be "happy to accommodate" the 2009 Breeders' Cup.

The new races to be run in the 2008 Breeders' Cup are:

$1-million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-olds and up.

$1-million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at a mile for 2-year-old fillies.

$500,000 Breeders' Cup Dirt Marathon at 1 1/2 miles for 3-year-olds and up.

"This is a good way to get more horses involved, particularly from overseas," Chillingworth said. "And it really enhances the Friday program."

It is not known whether ESPN will televise the new races live.

Next year's Breeders' Cup is the 25th. The first took place in 1984 at Hollywood Park, and there were seven Breeders' Cup races. The number increased to eight in 1999 with the addition of the Filly and Mare Turf.

The three new races at this year's Breeders' Cup at Monmouth Park were the Dirt Mile, Filly and Mare Sprint and Juvenile Turf. Those races were run without being graded.

Breeders' Cup Limited last month asked the American Graded Stakes Committee to issue Grade I status to those races, but the request was not acted on at a grading session Nov. 27-28 at Lexington. The same request was denied in April, but the Grade I status for those races is still a possibility.

However, it's doubtful that the three races now being added would get Grade I status before next year's Breeders' Cup.

In general, races are not eligible for grades unless they have been run twice. But that rule was waived in 1984 when all seven original Breeders' Cup races were granted immediate Grade I status and again in 1999, when the Filly and Mare Turf got immediate Grade I status.

Avioli called the addition of the new races an example of "our aggressive expansion."

He also said the new races "continue our mission in providing more opportunities for horsemen to compete at the highest level."

A week ago, Avioli met with an ad hoc committee consisting of racing secretaries at major tracks throughout the country and headed by Martin Panza of Hollywood Park. The meeting took place at a racing symposium in Tucson, and Avioli laid out the plans for the three new races at that time.

"Last year when we added the three new races for this year's Breeders' Cup, we didn't do a very good job of communicating our rationale," Avioli said. "We didn't want to make that mistake again."

One of the recommendations from the committee was the creation of a series of mile-and-a-half races leading up to the Dirt Marathon.

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larry.stewart@latimes.com

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