The Breeders’ Cup bills itself as the World Championships of horse racing.  While this claim is hyperbole, the Breeders’ Cup races that come closest to being world championships are held on grass.  Unlike the dirt races, turf fields normally include a significant number of top-flight European runners.

My personal favorite race on the Breeders’ Cup two-day cards is the Breeders’ Cup Turf.  The 1 ½ mile challenge is a classic distance and the horses run over a grass surface that is in keeping with the traditions and origins of horse racing in the 18th century.  Turf racing, in my view, has an unrivaled elegance about it and the 12-furlong distance requires the utmost in tactical riding.

This year’s field will once again include formidable entries from Ireland’s Tipperary County-based Coolmore Stud and its partners.  In the recent 1 ½ mile Qatar Prix De L’Arc Triomphe at Chantilly in France, Coolmore accomplished an amazing feat.  Its runners, all trained by Aidan P. O’Brien, finished one-two-three:  Found, a 4-year-old filly,  won, followed by the 4-year-old colts Highland Reel and Order of St. George.  All three were sired by Coolmore’s Galileo, who finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt in 2001.  Found won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf and has career earnings of over $6.9 million.  Coolmore connections and Aidan O’Brien have dominated the Breeders’ Cup Turf in the 21st century with five wins.

The Breeders’ Cup Turf will draw a strong field of European and American runners to take on whatever horses Coolmore decides to send to Santa Anita.  Though turf races are the European’s forte, North American horses have been competitive.  Results are closely divided with European-based runners  having a slight advantage of 17 wins in the previous 32 Breeders’ Cup Turf races.  However, European horses must overcome the side effects of long-distance travel and time-zone differences.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business


When the 2016 Breeders’ Cup is over, it could very well be that the most memorable race turned out to be run on the Friday four-race undercard rather than on the Saturday eight-race main event.  The Longines Distaff at 1 1/8 miles on dirt is the last Breeders’ Cup race on Friday and offers a stellar field to behold (puns intended) and handicap.

Barring injury or illness, the Distaff will pit the undefeated 3-year-old Songbird (10 wins and earnings of $2.8 million) against the 4-year-olds Stellar Wind and I’m a Chatterbox and the 6-year-old Beholder, who won the 2013 Distaff and has lifetime earnings of almost $5 million.  The Distaff should attract only a small field because of the presence of these formidable fillies and mares.

Songbird was the most expensive of the four in terms of auction prices at $400,000.  Beholder sold for $180,000, Stellar Wind for $40,000 and $86,000, and three-time Grade I winner I’m a Chatterbox for a bargain-basement $30,000.

The 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff is one of the most exciting races in Breeders’ Cup history, as Personal Ensign rallied mightily to catch Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors at the wire.  It is doubtful that the 2016 edition of the Distaff will have this kind of historical footprint, but one never knows about a horse race.  At any rate, the 2016 Distaff has the look of a race to remember.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business


On September 17, 2015, Rick Kissell in a Variety article said:  “The National Football League may have had its share of off-the-field distractions in recent years, but its TV ratings have never been higher…With an average audience of 19.9 million viewers for games last Thursday, Sunday and Monday, the NFL saw its largest-ever Week 1 tune-in, according to Nielsen.  The previous high of 19.6 million came for the 2013 Kickoff Weekend.”

Fast forward to October 4, 2016, when Brandon Katz wrote for Forbes:  “It seems likely that the numerous #BoycottNFL online campaigns and fan outrage aimed at the National Anthem protests in the NFL have taken a toll in terms of viewership this season.  Additionally, cord-cutting continues to eat into traditional TV’s ratings at an alarming rate…We’re barely a year removed from the NFL setting all-time records in viewership, yet now the league is on pace for its lowest ratings in years.  That’s a sharp and unexpectedly sudden turn.”

Katz believes that “football fatigue” among viewers also accounts for some of the ratings decline, and he may be right.  However, the extremely negative publicity that the NFL has received over player protests during the National Anthem surely is a major contributing factor, as he clearly points out.

The NFL is a prime case-in-point of how to damage a terrific brand via self-inflicted wounds that turn off a sizeable portion of fans.  North American horse racing wrote the textbook on this technique and, to its detriment, continues to add chapters.

For example, in the early days of simulcasting, Luddite executives at many racetracks resisted embracing the communication and information technologies that would provide convenience for their bettors.  Currently, the sport persists in not rallying around a federally-mandated uniform system for regulating medication usage and for sanctioning offenders.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business