Q and A with Courtney Reid on New Breeders' Cup Incentive Programs

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Breeders' Cup's Director of Racing and Industry Relations
Courtney Reid | photo courtesy Courtney Reid

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An incentive-based participation bonus program called the Breeders' Cup Dirt Dozen was unveiled by the Breeders' Cup this Thursday. The new program will award monetary credits, funded by Breeders' Cup, for first through third-place finishes in selected races for horsemen to use toward entry fees in six of the Breeders' Cup World Championships dirt races. Learn more here.

Also this week, Breeders' Cup announced that the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Win and You're In schedule will feature 82 qualifying races in 11 counties. New for this year, the 2022 series in the U.S. has been restructured into a regional qualifying program in order to balance divisional competition across the country. Learn more here.

The TDN spoke with Courtney Reid, the Director of Racing and Industry Relations at Breeders' Cup, to learn more about these new programs ahead of this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships at Keeneland. The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.

TDN: How did the idea for the Dirt Dozen come about?

Reid: Just like the Challenge series, we try to make our races more attractive for our horsemen to participate in each year. We decided that offering bonus money toward these 12 graded stakes races is a great way to defray the entry fee costs into the Championship dirt races. The incentives offered with this program will not only add starters to our Championship dirt races, but also hopefully help bolster the field sizes of the 12 races selected for the Dirt Dozen. We have received positive feedback so far from the racing secretaries included in the program.

TDN: How are the divisions in the program set up and how will the bonus credits be allocated?

   Reid: Of the 12 races, there are two races per division. So for example, in the Breeders' Cup Sprint division, the first Dirt Dozen race is the GIII Smile H. at Gulfstream Park on July 2. The first three finishers of this race will receive a bonus tier of credit funds that will go toward entry fees for the Championship race. The first-place finisher will receive $30,000, which is half of the entry fee. They would just need to pay the remaining $30,000 to run in the GI Qatar Racing Breeders' Cup Sprint. The second-place finisher will get $15,000 and the third-place finisher will receive $7,500.

With these races, a horse could technically get complete free entry into the Championship if they ran in both races in the division. With the Qatar Racing Breeders' Cup Sprint example, if they ran in the GIII Smile H. and the GII Santa Anita Sprint Championship, they could have the entries fully paid for if they won both.

TDN: Do you think that in the past, entry fees have held horses back from attending the Breeders' Cup?

   Reid: I don't think that entry fees have been the main factor that has held horses back, but I will say that over the years, prohibitive favorites have discouraged some outfits who might be on the fence. But if you take last year for example, we had three heavy favorites in Jackie's Warrior, Gamine and Letruska who were all defeated, so you never know. We hope that this new program will be additional incentive for connections who might be on the fence.

TDN: Why was there a need to create this program specifically for dirt races?

   Reid: We have 56 turf races in the Breeders' Cup Challenge series program, so we think there is ample room to automatically qualify in a Challenge race for a turf race. We wanted to give more opportunities for dirt races. Historically, dirt races around the country–particularly in stakes races–haven't been filling as much as they have in turf races. This was an opportunity to bolster our dirt races.

TDN: Could you give an overview of the restructured format this year for the regional qualifying program in the U.S.?

Reid: The Breeders' Cup Challenge Series is in its 15th year this year. We will have 82 challenge races worldwide in 11 countries covering all the divisions. We have 43 domestically and 39 international.

Domestically, we have restructured the program to establish regional balance throughout the country with an East, West and Midwest division. In 11 of the 14 divisions, there will be one Breeders' Cup Challenge Series race per region. We wanted to ensure that one part of the country did not have an advantage over the other.

TDN: What are some of the most notable changes with races that will or will not be considered a Win and You're In?

Reid: For example, in New York, the Jockey Club Derby, the John A. Nerud S. and the Personal Ensign S. are no longer Challenge races, however they gained the Pilgrim S. and the Miss Grillo S. Some of these categories had too many races in certain parts of the country, so this was an effort to balance it out. For some of the dirt races that lost Challenge series designation, we were able to add them to the Dirt Dozen program.

The GI Longines Breeders' Cup Classic is an outlier here. It's our richest and most poplar race, so we are continuing to give more opportunity to earn automatic qualifying in this division. With that, four of the six U.S. Classic division races will be nationally televised on NBC and CNBC for Breeders' Cup Challenge Series programming.

TDN: With this new setup, do you expect to see regional rivalries form on the road to the World Championships?

   Reid: Absolutely. Rivalries are part of what makes sports more interesting and exciting. We want to see fans have a rooting interest for horses in their part of the country. Surely there will be racing fans in California who will be rooting and betting on horses in their region to beat the best in the East and Midwest at Keeneland this fall.

TDN: The Breeders' Cup Win and You're In Challenge Series has evolved since it was launched 15 years ago. What do you think has made it so successful over the years?

Reid: Each year, we assess the races and we have had a lot of participation from our horsemen. We think it's special to participate in a Challenge series race. We're thankful and proud of our owners and trainers who have channeled their efforts into training horses toward winning a Challenge series race so they can take advantage of gaining that automatic starting position. The horsemen have always told us that if they are deciding between two races and one is a Challenge series race, they typically will point for the Challenge race.

TDN: As you plan for the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Keeneland this fall, how do you envision the entries shaping up in respect to these new formats and programs.

   Reid: We always get a significant number of our Challenge winners to run in our Championship races and we hope that our Dirt Dozen program will have the same results. We hope it will add one or two, if not three or more starters per dirt race. Our goal is to bolster field size for our races. We want to offer the most competitive betting races and provide entertaining races for our fans each year. We think that this year at Keeneland will be an exceptional experience.

TDN: Will there be any major changes or updates this year specifically with respect to international participation, given their incredible results last year?

Reid: The only international change in regard to the Challenge series is that at Royal Ascot, the King's Stand S. will replace the Diamond Jubilee S. The King's Stand is a five-furlong race, which better suits a runner for our Championship Turf Sprint division.

We expect to have another strong international contention as we did last year. We're constantly reaching out to connections there. Josh Christian will be making a few trips abroad and we have our international liaisons, John Fulton in South America and Kate Hunter in Japan, who do a great job for us with creating awareness and helping recruit horsemen to come to the Championships.

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