Some people thought the late John Gaines was crazy in the early 1980s when he proposed Thoroughbred breeders fund a $10-million day of seven championship races. That idea, the Breeders' Cup – which has grown to a two-day $25-million extravaganza – has worked out pretty well.
It's not surprising that Frank Stronach's proposal for the Pegasus World Cup, a $12-million race funded by a $1-million-dollar entry fee from 12 participants, has raised eyebrows, too. It is out-of-the-box thinking in a sport steeped in tradition.
The concept for what would be the world's richest race is as old as the sport itself: I think my horse is faster than your horse.
The difference here – as details of the Jan. 28, 2017, race at Gulfstream Park begin to emerge – is that the horse in the starting gate doesn't necessarily have to be owned by the person putting up the money. The nominators are buying a slot in the starting gate for the chance to win a $7-million first prize; they can cut a deal with a willing partner that has the horse but not the money or conviction to gamble that kind of cash.
Here are some additional details on the conditions of the race, according to Jack Wolf, the Starlight Racing founder who has been retained by Frank Stronach to be CEO of the Pegasus World Cup:
–The race is nine furlongs on dirt (Wolf said the distance was chosen as a way of getting both mile and a quarter horses and milers who may stretch out an extra furlong)
–In addition to the $7-million first prize, second place pays $1.75 million, with $1 million to third and $250,000 each to fourth through 12th place.
–4-year-olds and up carry 124 pounds
–fillies and mares allowed 3 pound weight allowance
–3-year-olds allowed 3 pound weight allowance
–Southern Hemisphere 3-year-olds allowed 3 pound allowance
–horses competing without race-day furosemide (Lasix) allowed 5 pounds
The date is a quiet one on the sports calendar (it's the weekend before the Super Bowl in Houston) and placed midway between the Breeders' Cup Nov. 4-5 and Dubai World Cup in late March.
It's also early enough in the year that a horse committed to enter stud that breeding season could make the Pegasus World Cup his final career start.
Wolf said he is hoping to land a network television deal. In addition to the prize money, participants would share in 100 percent of the net income from pari-mutuel handle, media rights and sponsorship.
I've been to enough horse races, Thoroughbred auctions and stallion farms to know there are more than a dozen big-time gamblers in this business, and Wolf thinks so, too, as he and former Stronach Group executive Tom Ludt try to sell the concept to the major players.
“The list is fairly obvious of who those people are,” Wolf said. “We've had positive reaction so far. Hopefully we can close this up in the next couple of weeks.”
Wolf would not say who has committed to buying a spot in the starting gate, though sources have said several major players are in. Perry Martin, majority owner of 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome, referenced the race after winning this year's Dubai World Cup.
Wolf said he and Ludt have until Aug. 31 to get to a minimum of 10 nominations he said are necessary to make this a “go.”
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