Feedback to the GFS Roundtable Discussions

The 2020-2022 Godolphin Flying Start trainees were tasked to use their knowledge and creativity to come up with proposals for a new look U.S. Graded Stakes Program for 3-year-olds. These four round table discussions were published in TDN on May 15, 17, 19, and 21. The trainees were given the opportunity to respond to the feedback/questions they received from TDN readers.

  • 3-Year-Old Turf Races – Angus Robertson, Brigitte Murphy, Tom Murphy (Click here)

Feedback: As you talked about maiden races running on the turf at Belmont for $90,000, I wonder if you think that if the U.S. does keep expanding their turf races, the result will be more European-bred horses being imported to take advantage of prize-money rather than U.S. breeding more for the turf?

Response: Regarding the maiden races and U.S. purse money, we concede there is definitely a risk of European horses coming in and exploiting the U.S. turf racing bonuses and incentives. However, we certainly don't believe this will disincentive U.S. breeders and trainers. We hang our hats on the belief that more international horses will promote the competitiveness of U.S. turf racing in general, and the notion that higher competitiveness will lead to greater pursuit of turf racing success by U.S. based stakeholders.


  • 3-Year-Old Colts – George Broughton, Tommy Lyon Smith, Marine Moussa. (Click here)

Feedback: Could not agree more about the number of races regarded as prep races. Would have liked to have heard more about dirt and turf options. Ideas for sponsorship and funding of an enhanced sprint programme? Is there any way they could collaborate with sales houses?

Response: In response to the comment regarding the creation of new graded stakes races, we believe that it is more appropriate to make alterations to the program rather than add further races and devalue black-type. Here prize money is key with the graded stakes pattern committee reviewing graded stakes of at least $75,000 based on race condition and longevity. Here the aimed boost to prize money as well as the targeted races taking place on popular days will help greatly.

With regards the comment about sponsorship and funding and suggested collaboration with a sales company. One could follow the popular model in Australia and New Zealand however, this would create restricted listed races taking us out of the graded stakes system and our original brief. Therefore, a bonus in partnership with Fasig-Tipton or Keeneland could prove successful perhaps emulating the new Tattersalls Royal Ascot/Group 1 Bonus. Whilst it could be possible to tie in with existing bonus schemes we believe that the lack of focus on 3-year-old sprinters and routers in the current program requires there to be a new incentive to bolster these divisions which are currently dwarfed by the eight to nine furlong races.


  • 3-Year-Old Fillies – David Skelly, Donncha McCarthy, Solene Hudbert (Click here)

Feedback: Nationwide race series could be difficult to implement, timing would need to be right, could we have more detail on that?

Response: We fully agree, timing is essential to implementing our series. To limit the amount of interference, we decided to implement it around the current schedule that is in place. The only change we intend to make is to introduce the Royal Tiara S. on the weekend of the G1 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup during the Keeneland Fall Meet.

We believe that the current stakes schedule works well for 3-year-old fillies, but an incentive such as ours which will give each race an alternative purpose and attraction could further promote the graded stakes races in both field sizes and public following. The product is there, it's just a case of finding new and innovative ways to promote it and we believe our concept will help contribute to this.


Feedback: Would like to hear about more innovative funding ideas perhaps from other racing jurisdictions where the trainees are from or where they have had experience. Money makes the world go round!

Response: The funding models from each jurisdiction around the world differ hugely, meaning there are definitely positives and negatives to take from them. As outlined in our discussion, the basis of our funding will be nominations and declarations, sponsorship and betting handle. The nominations concept which we mirrored from that of the Breeders' Cup is a brilliant idea in our view and is one that is sustainable for the future.

All three of us have spent time in the southern hemisphere and one race that has an innovative funding model is 'The Everest'. The race is run over six furlongs and has brought together Australia's top sprinters for one of the most highly anticipated races of the season. The main revenue source for the races purse is through $600,000 'slots', 12 of which can be purchased by owners, or industry stakeholders and leased to connections of horses looking to run in the race. This race has proven to be one of the major success stories in a racing nation which is thriving.


Feedback: I liked how they looked into other sports; are there any other ideas from outside the horseracing industry that could be implemented?

Response: Our fantasy league idea from the 'Road to Royalty' was definitely inspired by the success of fantasy leagues in other sports. Fans update their teams on a weekly basis, keeping them informed and giving them an added incentive to follow the sport. All three of us believe horse racing has one of the most unique and visually impressive sports, though we don't believe its utilized the way it should be to gain a broader fanbase.

Formula 1 has gained a new found following in recent times as a result of the Netflix series 'Drive to Survive', which follows the drivers and key team members throughout the season, conveying brilliantly the excitement and drama of a brilliant sport. Were horse racing to replicate something similar we believe the sport and product have the power to gain a broader following and fan base, and give watchers and insight into how amazing horse racing truly is, as well as highlighting the care and attention race horses get on a daily basis.


  • Overall – Samantha Bussanich, Devon Dougherty and Erin McLaughlin (Click here)

Feedback: It would have been interesting to discuss the ideas relevant to the countries of origin that the ideas stemmed from, with the trainees being an international group many of the ideas may have been formulated based on similar concepts in their home racing jurisdiction. This could add further credibility to the idea as it would provide evidence based facts as to how it has improved their racing market.

   Response: We acknowledge the ideas that arose from the round table discussions were an amalgamation of our fellow trainees' home racing jurisdictions and past experiences. Understanding the successes and strengths of international racing adds to the variety and credibility of the proposed innovations of the American racing calendar. Ideas such as more 3-year-old restricted graded sprint stakes was an example that has stemmed from trainees' backgrounds, and may be an emerging market for the calendar.


Feedback: I wish they would have expanded on the idea of the fantasy league a bit more; it's an interesting proposal. Who hosts it, app or web-based? One of the big reasons fantasy leagues are so popular in other sports is because they are well-done and engaging, how do the trainees think racing could offer something like that successfully.

Response: The development of a fantasy league could be beneficial to racing. The league should be accessible through an app and website. The league should be based off of other successful models such as Fantasy Football leagues in America. We cannot speak as to who should host it, but ideally it would be an organization that has strong ties to the racing industry and also with this sort of gaming experience.

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