Churchill Downs: Sixth Time Around for BC Day
by Greg Melikov - 10/23/2006
Total purse money was jacked up $6 million to $20 million for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on Nov. 4 to keep the races competitive with other major stakes throughout the world.
The BC event is being held for a record sixth time in 16 years at historic Churchill Downs. Seven of the eight races were increased from $500,000 to $1 million. That's plenty of moolah. No purse is less than $2 million.
The BC, which continues to increase in popularity, has enjoyed its best afternoons at Churchill Downs. A record crowd of 80,452 turned out in 1998.
When the BC returned to Churchill Downs in 2000, more than $108 million was wagered, the pari-mutuel record for the 22 programs first held in '84.
The Louisville track was supposed to host BC's 21st edition, but was forced to pass because of the 3 ½-year-long renovation. Lone Star Park got the gig and the Texas track was praised for its performance.
In addition to enhanced purses, there was a reduction in entry fees: from 3 percent to 2 ½ of the total purse for nominated horses and from 20 percent to 15 for supplemental fees to each race.
"We're happy to have the first $20 million day at what we consider to be the home of the Breeders' Cup," said Churchill president Steve Sexton.
I've found over the years that it's a big plus to know how the dirt and grass surfaces are playing at the host track, which begins its fall meeting on Sunday. Remember track bias changes, sometimes daily.
For example, take a look at how Churchill Downs played during June and July of the summer meeting, according to weekly reports compiled by Brisnet.com:
June 1: The main track favored speed runners on Friday (May 26) and stalkers on Sunday (May 28). There was no apparent path bias last week. The lone turf bias occurred on Saturday (May 27) when off-the-pace runners fared best.
June 8: The main track played honestly to begin the week. It seemed somewhat biased toward early speed types on Friday (June 2), but returned to normal over the weekend. There was no apparent path bias last week. The turf favored speed on Thursday (June 1) while come-from-behind runners did best on Saturday (June 3).
June 15: Speed did well on dirt when racing returned on Wednesday (June 7), with the track playing uniformly until Saturday (June 10). Stalkers and closers held the advantage in sprints over the weekend (June 10-11). There was no apparent path bias last week. The turf course favored off-the-pace runners on both weekend days.
June 22: Speed did well over the main track on Friday (June 16) and Sunday (June 18). No path bias was discernible last week. The turf course was definitely biased towards early speed in sprints.
June 29: The main track remained bias-free all week, as did the turf course. There was no pronounced path bias to report on last week.
July 6: The main track was bias-free on Wednesday (July 5) and Thursday (July 6). Horses near the lead fared well on Friday (July 7), with the track returning to normal on Saturday (July 8) and remaining that way through Tuesday (July 11). The lone bias on the grass occurred Friday (July 7) when closers were definitely advantaged.
July 13: There was no running style or path bias over the main track when racing returned on Friday (July 7). The grass course played honestly as well.
July 20: The main track was biased toward early speed on Thursday (July 13) and Friday (July 14). The track played uniformly over the weekend. There did not appear to be any detectable path bias last week. The turf course played honestly when in use.
During the meeting that opened April 29 through July 16, early speed didn't do well at six furlongs as only 17 percent of 99 winners led at every call. However, 29 percent of 69 winners at 1 1/16 miles went wire to wire. In 86 turf routes, only 14 percent of pacesetters triumphed. Closers were at a disadvantage and inside posts were the place to be.