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Breeders’ Cup : Owners Still Willing to Risk High Supplementary Fees

Times Staff Writer

Owners complain that the 6-figure supplementary fees--ranging from $120,000 to $600,000--charged to make non-nominated horses eligible for the Breeders’ Cup are prohibitive and a bad gamble. But yet, some have risked such outlays every time the races have been held, and this year will be no exception.

When Churchill Downs runs the 7 Breeders’ Cup races next Saturday for purses worth $10 million, the owners of 2 of the 87 horses will have more to lose than others. Cutlass Reality and Waquoit are running in the $3-million Breeders’ Cup Classic only because their owners believe it’s worth $360,000 to get them into the starting gate.

The other 85 starters are either foreign horses covered under a special program, or American horses that were nominated shortly after birth for $500.

The owners of these horses must also must make 2 entry payments--the second of which is due Wednesday--to keep their horses eligible. These fees range from $20,000 to $60,000, depending on the purse value of the race.

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The purses for the first 3 finishers in the Classic are $1.35 million, $675,000 and $324,000, which means that to turn a profit in the race, Cutlass Reality and Waquoit would have to finish first or second. Both horses are multiple stakes winners--Cutlass Reality even upset Alysheba, the Classic favorite, early in the year--but one Las Vegas odds maker lists Cutlass Reality as the third choice, at 3-1, and rates Waquoit at 12-1.

Said Craig Lewis, who trains Cutlass Reality: “I’m not the one putting up the money but I’m pretty confident that he’ll be in the money. It’s different than most other races, because usually when you supplement, that money is added to the purse.

“It would be better if you got back the $360,000 if you won. It’s a gamble, but it would enhance the horse’s stud value if he won.”

Cutlass Reality’s owners, Howard Crash and Jim Hankoff, had no control over the 6-year-old’s not being nominated as a yearling, since they bought the horse late last year.

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And for most of his 63-race career, until he blossomed this year under Lewis, Cutlass Reality never looked like a horse who deserved to be in the Breeders’ Cup. Cutlass Reality didn’t win a stake until his 35th race, and he didn’t win an important race until his 58th start.

Until recently, Waquoit had only one owner, but he, too, didn’t look like a horse who was worth a $500 investment for the Breeders’ Cup. Joe Federico, of Boston, bought Waquoit as a yearling for $15,000 and even then, trainer Guido Federico, a shirt-tail relative of the owner, wondered what they had.

“When I first got him, he was big and fat,” Guido Federico said. “I was a little disappointed with him and I didn’t think he was going to stand up. But as he went along, he got graceful. He turned out to be a real nice horse.”

In his last start, with Alysheba scratched from the race because of a sloppy track, Waquoit won the $1-million Jockey Club Gold Cup by 15 lengths at Belmont Park, increasing his earnings to almost $2 million.

Still, the Federicos wavered about paying $360,000 to run in the Breeders’ Cup, but then last week they sold the 5-year-old gray to Helena Allaire Crozer du Pont and Richard Golden. The new owners and Joe Federico will each pay half of the $360,000 Breeders’ Cup fee and split whatever purse money Waquoit earns.

In the 4 previous Breeders’ Cups, no one had to pay the $600,000, which would be the fee--20% of the purse--if a horse wanted to run and neither he nor his sire had been nominated. Sires are nominated for whatever their listed breeding fee is, and that makes all of their offspring eligible, providing the $500 yearling fee is paid. The supplementary fee to the Breeders’ Cup is 12% of the purse if the sire but not the horse has been nominated.

There have been 17 horses supplemented into the Breeders’ Cup, but the number has dwindled, from a high of 8 in 1985 to just 1 last year and 2 this time. That is probably because more horses have been made eligible when they’re young, and because owners realize how small their chances are of recouping their payments.

The supplementary fees for the 17 horses have totaled $3,040,000 and they have earned purses of $3,237,000, but only 8 of them have cashed checks.

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The rewards are distorted because Wild Again, supplemented for $360,000 into the Classic at Hollywood Park in 1984, won the $1.35-million first prize in a bang-bang finish with Gate Dancer and Slew o’ Gold, and because Pebbles, supplemented for $240,000 into the Turf at Aqueduct in 1985, also won and earned $900,000.

The only other supplemented horse that won was Tasso, who earned $475,000 in the 1985 Juvenile after his owners put up $120,000.

The biggest of all these gambles was by the owners of Wild Again.

“You knew those guys had to be dead game to put up that kind of money for that horse,” said Mickey Taylor, one of the owners of Slew o’ Gold.

Wild Again was owned by the Black Chip Stable, a group of horsemen who took their racing name from the color of the $100 chip--the highest denomination--in Las Vegas. Not only was their horse a longshot, but he also went off at 31-1, the second-highest price in the 8-horse field.

Wild Again went into the Classic with only 1 win in his previous 8 races and he had done no better than third in an allowance race at Golden Gate Fields 11 days before the Breeders’ Cup.

Not counted in the summary of Breeders’ Cup supplementaries is the $133,000 that Sam Rubin paid for John Henry in 1984. That was the first payment on what was to have been a total supplementary fee of $400,000.

“My friends tell me I’m crazy, and I’m opposed to the principal that you’re risking money that you don’t have the chance to run for,” Rubin said. “But I want to see the horse run and I’m paying it.”

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Twelve days before John Henry was scheduled to run in the Turf, Rubin paid the nonrefundable fee. Then a week before the race, John Henry injured his leg and was scratched.

But for Rubin, it could have been worse. If John Henry had hurt himself 4 days later, Rubin would have blown the entire $400,000.

In 1985, the owners of Greinton wanted to supplement him into the Breeders’ Cup, but they couldn’t decide whether to run him in the Classic on the dirt or the Turf. The supplementary fee was either $360,000 or $240,000.

On deadline day, 3 days before the races, trainer Charlie Whittingham took New York weather forecasters at their word. They were predicting so much rain that there was an excellent chance of an off track.

Greinton would be lucky to stand up on a muddy main track, but he had shown a liking for soft turf. Whittingham picked the Turf.

By Breeders’ Cup day, though, the sun was shining, the dirt track was fast and the grass course was firm. Greinton finished 7th and earned nothing. It was a supplementary that amounted to a gamble within a gamble, and neither of them paid off.

Horse Racing Notes

It was trainer Charlie Whittingham’s confidence in Bill Shoemaker that was instrumental in the revival of the jockey’s sagging career a few years ago. Now Shoemaker is citing a lack of support from Whittingham as one of the reasons he’ll retire at the end of next year. Whittingham has 3 horses in the Breeders’ Cup and none will be ridden by Shoemaker: Eddie Delahoussaye has the mounts on Lively One in the Classic and on Goodbye Halo in the Distaff, and Cash Asmussen rides Mill Native in the Mile. “Shoe would have ridden Ferdinand if he had run in the Classic,” Whittingham said. “I’ve gotten some pressure from owners to use other riders on certain horses. And let’s face it, Bill is 57. When 2 horses are fighting down to the wire, a 25-year-old jockey is going to have an edge over a 57-year-old, and that could make the difference. Johnny Longden rode until he was almost 60, but it was a different game back then.”

Mill Native’s owner, C.N. Ray, has a 4-passenger Lear jet that will enable Whittingham to quickly commute between Louisville and Los Angeles during Breeders’ Cup week. . . . There’s disappointment in the Whittingham barn that Nasr el Arab, the winner of the Oak Tree Invitational, will run in the Burke Handicap at Santa Anita a week from Monday instead of in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The sheik who owns Nasr el Arab has 2 other horses--Indian Skimmer and Sarboob--eligible for the Turf, but Indian Skimmer, the better of the pair, won’t run unless the grass course at Churchill Downs is soft. It rained in Louisville Thursday night, but the forecast is for sunny, cool weather through Wednesday.

It looks as though Precisionist will run in the Sprint instead of the Classic, a move that makes sense. The 7-year-old, who’s the oldest horse in the 7 races, has never been a genuine 1-mile horse and he won the Sprint in 1985. Chris McCarron regains the mount after skipping Precisionist’s last race because of the jockeys’ strike in New York. . . . Waquoit’s arrival at Churchill Downs has been delayed because the horse showed a high red-blood count at Suffolk Downs. . . . Craig Perret has taken the ride on Cryptoclearance in the Classic, a tipoff that his regular mount, Bet Twice, will run in the Mile. . . . Very Subtle, who is trying to win the Sprint for the second straight year, worked a fast 5 furlongs in 1:00 1/5 at Churchill Downs. “It’s as good as she’s gone,” trainer Mel Stute said of the filly, who will be running next Saturday after only 1 prep race. “She’s coming to this race just like she did last year.”

THE SUPPLEMENTARY ENTRIES HOW SUPPLEMENTARY ENTRIES HAVE FARED IN THE BREEDERS’ CUP:

1984

Horse Race Supplementary Fee Finish Purse Wild Again Classic $360,000 1st $1,350,000 Spend a Buck Juvenile $120,000 3rd $108,000 Night Mover Mile $120,000 8th $0 Pac Mania Sprint $200,000 9th $0

1985

Horse Race Supplementary Fee Finish Purse Pebbles Turf $240,000 1st $900,000 Tasso Juvenile $120,000 1st $475,000 Dontstop Themusic Distaff $120,000 3rd $108,000 Isayso Distaff $120,000 6th $10,000 Greinton Turf $240,000 7th $0 Vanlandingham Classic $360,000 7th $0 Rousillon Mile $120,000 9th $0 Committed Sprint $200,000 7th $0

1986

Horse Race Supplementary Fee Finish Purse Estrapade Turf $240,000 3rd $216,000 Classy Cathy Distaff $120,000 4th $70,000 Hatim Mile $120,000 13th $0 Truce Maker Mile $120,000 14th $0

1987

Horse Race Supplementary Fee Finish Purse Zany Tactics Sprint $120,000 9th $0 TOTALS 17 races $3,040,000 $3,237,000


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