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Breeders' Cup reinstates stakes program

After days of outcry from horse breeders, the Breeders' Cup officially reversed plans to kill funding for its national stakes program, at least for next year.

The Breeders' Cup issued a statement Wednesday saying the board of directors had agreed to fund the program through 2009 from reserve funds.

"We temporarily suspended the Breeders' Cup Stakes program last week with the goal of achieving a balanced budget for 2009 in the face of declining revenues," said Breeders' Cup chairman William S. Farish Jr. "Since then, we have been urged by a number of leading nominators and trustees to reconsider. Given the economic circumstances of our breeders and with our goal of being responsive to our nominators, we have listened and have authorized a portion of the Breeders' Cup reserve funds be made available to maintain the stakes program in 2009."

On Friday, the board abruptly announced it was cutting the stakes funds, blaming expected shortfalls in revenue from foal nominations. With the Thoroughbred market contracting, The Jockey Club has predicted foal numbers to decline next year. The Breeders' Cup is financed primarily from the nomination fees paid for foals and stallions.

So the board decided to maintain the $25.5 million in purses for its two championship days while scrapping the stakes purses entirely. In 2008, Breeders' Cup put almost $6 million into purses for 121 races across the country.

Canceling the program just after the deadline to nominate foals proved controversial, with prominent breeders publicly criticizing the move. Some called for their money from nominations to be returned; others said they would not nominate next year if the funding was not restored.

The stakes schedule and purse allocations will be announced early in 2009, according to the news release.

However, the matter might not be closed entirely. Horse industry publications have reported other cuts and losses. The Blood-Horse cited a memo it obtained that showed the Breeders' Cup also planned to cut $5 million in funding for marketing and television programming next year. The Paulick Report, a blog, reported that the Breeders' Cup organization might have lost more than $10 million in the past year in the stock market, cutting its reserves to $30 million.