IF the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup, the new and innovative creation from Frank Stronach and the Stronach Group proves successful, it could have the most dramatic impact on horse racing since the creation of the Breeders’ Cup in 1984.
The Pegasus, scheduled for 28 January 2017 at Gulfstream Park in Miami, is uniquely funded and structured. Stronach-owned Gulfstream Park replaced the G1 Donn Handicap with the 1700m Pegasus, but is not supplying the purse money. Instead, the Pegasus is akin to a 12-horse match race with each of the starters paying $1 million to compete in the race.
There is more to the race than a large outlay of cash. To help offset the cost of a spot in the starting gate, the Stronach Group put together a novel package in which it will share revenue from wagering on the race, media rights and sponsorships with the owners of the 12 berths in the race.
To appreciate what awaits horsemen, consider that in 2017 a horse running in just the Pegasus World Cup, Dubai World Cup ($10 million purse) and Breeders’ Cup Classic ($6 million) will be competing for a grand total of $28 million. Add in a few other starts in major G1 stakes and the total could easily top $30 million.
For decades, the sport has futilely searched for ways to keep the best horses in training as opposed to making quick exits to stud farms, and the Pegasus surely has the capability of being a Holy Grail.
“It’s an incentive to keep horses racing and racing need its stars,” said Donald V. Little Jr., President of Centennial Farms, one of the sport’s leaders in racing partnerships. “It is so difficult to get the next great sire, like a Tapit or Northern Dancer, so to create more interest in keeping horses in training and get more people to bet on races rather than at the casino is a positive.”
Bill Thomason, President and Chief Executive Office of Keeneland, commented: “What you hear around the industry is that the Pegasus has incentivized talking about extending horses’ careers after the Breeders’ Cup and connecting all of the racing seasons we have.
“The talk alone has generated new and significant interest around the world. I’m actually excited by it. Where it used to be that you finish up at the Breeders’ Cup and you’re done, that’s no longer automatic. It opens new avenues for people to consider and makes the decisions harder about retiring a horse, and that’s all great for racing. There’s no one single thing that will grow the sport. It’s all of these things that we’re all doing together in concert that will continue to add appeal to our sport.”
For trainers and jockeys, who customarily receive 10 percent of their horse’s earnings, the advent of a new eight-figure race and the possibility of a $30 million campaign is also nirvana.
“I think it might take another year or two for them to figure everything out about the race,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Whitney and Metropolitan Handicap winner Frosted. “But, as a trainer, I’m all for big races like the Pegasus because we earn our keep through commissions. I hope I have a horse in it.”
Seven-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Todd Pletcher, the sport’s all-time leader in the U.S. with more than $320 million in career earnings, sees a powerful trickle-down effect from a race as rich as the Pegasus.
“It is good, period, for racing to have those types of purses. But it’s also good to keep the better horses around and give the fans more time to follow them,” Pletcher said. “It could potentially change the economics of breeding deals. If someone is on the fence about retiring their horse, they now have a $12 million and a $10 million race in the next four months as an option to keep racing. It could turn out to have a much larger impact than just adding a $12 million race to the year’s schedule.”
Just how huge it becomes should start to become more apparent in a few months. At the present time, horsemen are focused on the Breeders’ Cup, and they can only speculate if one of their horses has the right stuff to justify a $1 million entry fee. Yet once the smoke clears from the World Championships on 4 and 5 November at Santa Anita, the scramble to match horses and spots in the field will begin in earnest.
-Edited extracts of an article by Bo Ehalt originally published on thoroughbredracing.com.