Horse racing is a sport that desperately needs stars. So with the winner of Saturday’s $ 6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, the richest race in the United States, you’d think the marketing campaign would kick off immediately.
Five of the last six winners of the classic tournament have practically retired after taking part in the race. In fact, Essential Quality’s owners and coaches, a three-year-old who has won eight out of nine races of a lifetime, announced that the light-running foal is ready to head to the breeding barn after Saturday.
There are several factors that influence the decision to ditch a horse, and most of them, unsurprisingly, are money-related.
“The biggest thing people don’t understand is the insurance to buy,” said Elliot Walden, President and CEO of WinStar Farm. “If you take a $ 20 million horse, your training insurance is 4% of mortality. That’s a lot of money to spend and then get paid back at 60% of your wallet, and that’s not even counting how much you pay jockeys and trainers.
“It’s just economically difficult to keep these horses in training. Our wallet structure is loaded up to 3 year olds [and the Triple Crown.]”
This indicates another important factor – the lack of major competitions for horses from 4 years old.
The Santa Anita handicap, once the most prestigious race on the track and costing $ 1 million, has dropped to $ 600,000. Even the bets of San Felipe, the preparatory race for the Kentucky Derby, clouded the race that day. A handicap race is a race in which horses are given different weights that a jockey must carry in the hope of leveling the field.
“I think the handicap race in America has gotten too small and there is too much focus on 2 and 3 year olds,” said John Shirreffs, who won the 2009 classic with mare Zenyatta. “We forget about old horses and don’t give them a lot of opportunities to race with a handicap. I think we need to develop a better handicap program and add some prestige to keep older horses running and staying. “
The Schirreffs has built a stable of owners who enjoy watching horses. He has a 4-year-old Classic Express, which is expected to return at age 5.
Express Train was launched by Union Rags, whose royalty is $ 30,000, compared to Essential Quality, whose father is Tapit, whose royalties are $ 185,000.
Last year’s Kentucky Derby and Classic was won by Authentic, who immediately retired after winning the richest race.
“It cost $ 75,000 and they bred it to 200 mares,” said his trainer Bob Buffert. “That’s a lot of money. If these guys are going to keep doing business, they need money to buy more horses.”
Authentic wins Breeders’ Cup Classic 2020 on Saturday.
The Authentic had another factor that made it more attractive in the nursery than on the racetrack. He was the father of Into Mischief, which goes for $ 250,000 per knit.
“If they have a trendy pedigree like Into Mischief, they go into breeding,” Bufft said.
Buffett coached Arrogate, the only one of the previous six winners to continue running after winning the Classic. He followed up with victories at the Pegasus at Gulfstream and the World Cup in Dubai before leveling off and retiring after finishing fifth in the classics at age 4.
The Pegasus is a horse race designed to give the horse one more result before heading to the kennel, which was taken advantage of by the Classic Gun Runner (2017) and Accelerate (2018) winners. The race takes place at the end of January, just before the start of the breeding season in February. All horses have the same birthday, January 1st, regardless of when they were born. Therefore, breeders try to time birth to the earliest possible period of the year, but never to December. The gestation period for a horse is 11-12 months.
Bufft, who has won the classic four times, won it in 2014 with Bayern Munich and it was decided to manage it for another year.
Bayern, he loved to run, and we were offered a lot of money for him, said Buffet. “We worked with him for another year and we should have sold.”
He ran five times at the age of 4 without a win.
Two horses that shoot well in Saturday’s classics are Medina Spirit, the conditional winner of the Kentucky Derby, and Hot Rod Charlie, the winner of the Louisiana and Pennsylvania Derby. Doug O’Neill, Coach of Hot Rod Charlie, and Buffett, Coach of Medina Spirit, said they would bring their foals back for another year, no matter where they rank in the Classic.
You don’t have to look beyond their sirs to see thinking. Oxbow’s Hot Rod Charlie, which goes for $ 7,500 for the breeding share, and Protonico’s Medina Spirit, goes for $ 5,000 per stallion.
“Unless they’re from a father who throws bulls, they tend to run longer,” Buffet said.