Breeders’ Cup to Increase Purses and Safety in 2020

Written By Jennifer Newell on March 5, 2020

Many months of anticipation still separate racing fans from the annual Breeder’s Cup. This week’s news only serves to excite those fans, not to mention participants, even more

The Breeders’ Cup will increase the purses for three of its races, beginning with the 2020 events at Keeneland. The collective $4 million increase to the Classic, Turf, and Dirt Mile races brings the total dollar amount to be awarded over two days to $35 million.

In addition, organizers decided to adopt six recommendations from Dr. Larry Bramlage to ensure the safety of the horses and jockeys. Further, tracks that want to host Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifying races must be a member of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition or adopt its 19 safety and integrity reforms.

Millions and Millions and Millions

At the recent Breeders’ Cup Board of Directors meeting, its members made some significant decisions.

The news garnering the most attention is the money, the $4 million increases in purses. The new purse totals will be in place for this year’s races at Keeneland Race Course in Kentucky, which are scheduled for November 6-7.

The largest increase is allocated to the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. Its $2 million addition brings the total purse to $6 million. The $1 million added to the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic ups that purse to $7 million. And an extra $1 million in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile race doubles that purse to set it at $2 million.

Not only is the money significant, so is the prestige. The Turf is now tied for the richest Group 1 turf race in the world, and the Dirt Mile is now the richest of its kind in the world. And of course, the Classic keeps its place as the richest race in North America and third richest in the world.

Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Drew Fleming noted that the increases will keep the races “competitive on the international stage.”

Another tidbit of news got lost in some of the mainstream news coverage but is important for all participants. Purse payouts will now pay out to the 10th position in each race. The previous payouts stopped at the eighth position.

Fleming said that decision to pay to 10th place in all of the races is a “tribute to the loyal participation of our owners and trainers who support the World Championships each year.”

New Safety Standards

Few will forget the end of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic, as four-year-old Mongolian Groom suffered a broken leg. On the track, in front of 67,811 fans and televised live on NBC, the horse was unable to finish the race. Within moments of seeing the gelding holding his leg up in pain, track workers tended to the horse as others held up green curtains to shield the audience. Mongolian Groom was ultimately euthanized.

Dr. Bramlage conducted an extensive evaluation of the injury and released a report in mid-January 2020. The evaluation concluded with six suggested process improvements that he believed would refine safety protocols and further ensure the safety of horses in future events.

The Breeders’ Cup Board did choose to adopt all six of those recommendations, which are.

  1. Pre-identify horses with historic indications of concerns before arrival, scrutinize to assess if there are reasons for concern, all veterinarians on inspection teams should be aware and observe said horses at every opportunity.
  2. Concentrate responsibilities for individual horse examinations by pairing veterinarians for suitability checks and recommendations, both on-track and off-track.
  3. Improve quality of on-track observations, designate observation areas for trotting under tack before regular exercises begin, observe each horse individually.
  4. Create barn area for veterinary observations for horses on “extra scrutiny” list, observe horses trotting in a circle.
  5. Make diagnostic imaging a regular part of pre-race exams for selected horses, set predetermined thresholds for deciding on radiographs, ultrasounds, and other scans.
  6. View all video footage of “extra scrutiny” competitors before Breeders’ Cup races for veterinarians to view all angles of trotting, appoint someone to review postings.

Further, any facility that will host a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge race going forward must be a member of the recently-formed Thoroughbred Safety Coalition. Those who do not join will have to adopt the organization’s 19 safety and integrity reforms.

Fleming said the increased safety measures will “strengthen its longstanding commitment to instituting the highest standards in the overall conduct of our racing programs.”


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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell is a freelance writer living in her hometown of St. Louis after stints in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. She has written about poker for more than 15 years but added other forms of gambling and horse racing to her repertoire in the last few years. She grew up with a love for horse racing from her now-late father, who loved to play the ponies. Jennifer can be found on Twitter at @writerjen.

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