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Bring back championship racing series

Twenty years ago this week, a field of 12 older horses lined up for the 1991 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. Then as now, it was the first Grade 1 race of the year for the nation’s top older horses, but in 1991 it was the start of something even bigger: It was the first leg of the inaugural American Championship Racing Series, a short-lived innovation that may have been ahead of its time but seems well worth revisiting now.


The ACRS, conceived and administered by Barry Weisbord, was an attempt to organize the year’s major races for older horses leading up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic into a coherent and meaningful series. A bonus system offered $1.5 million to the four horses who accumulated the most points for 1-2-3 finishes in the Donn, Santa Anita Handicap, Oaklawn Handicap, Pimlico Special, Nassau County Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, Pacific Classic, Iselin and Woodward.


A generation later, it looks like a golden year. The series attracted consistently big fields, and what proved to be a deep division had repeated and meaningful matchups throughout the year while criss-crossing the country. Seven different horses won those nine races: Farma Way (Santa Anita Handicap, Pimlico Special) and Festin (Oaklawn, Nassau County) each won two, while Jolie’s Halo (Donn), Marquetry (Gold Cup), Best Pal (Pacific Classic), Black Tie Affair (Iselin) and In Excess (Woodward) each won one ACRS race in a division that also included Unbridled, Summer Squall, Pleasant Tap, and Flying Continental.


Farma Way won a $750,000 bonus for the best record in the series, with $375,000 going to Festin, $225,000 to Marquetry, and $150,000 to Jolie’s Halo. Black Tie Affair, however, won the Eclipse Awards as champion older male and Horse of the Year for finishing his season with five straight wins including the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he beat a field full of ACRS veterans including Festin, Marquetry, Unbridled, Summer Squall, as well as the 3-year-olds Fly So Free and Strike the Gold.

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Older Comments about Bring back championship racing series...

Just kidding
The idea is great, but, if a point system led to an Eclipse award, then all buy-outs of judges would be taken out of the equation. Then, horses who lose, would win the award. We can't have that.
All the sponsors left, including the biggest one VISA.
mkstorm you are absolutely right, racing needs a series of races leading to the Breeders Cup with the point leader winning the Eclipse Award. This would revitalize racing by strengthening the major races throught the year and create rivalries.
I think they could revive something like the ACRS if they offered more substantial bonuses AND tied the point system to the Eclipse awards. In 1991, they offered $750K to the horse with the most points over nine races. When you compare that to the $1 million bonus offered by the Japanese for the Arc winner to race in the Japan Cup, the ACS bonus for the nine-race series was chump change. If you tie the Eclipse awards to the point system with extra points given for a Breeders Cup win, then you might see more good horses race agaisnt each other. However, I'm skeptical that the East Coast media would support this because they represent a majority of the Eclipse voters and this would take too much control away from them for deciding the Eclipse winners.
The industry should try this again.
Horse racing groups mismanage money appropriations all the time. Look at the NYRA. They have mismanaged NY racing for years until Cuomo took over the Board. The problem with racing entities is their greed and inability to allow any one else to share in the profits. There are few if any in the industry that look objectively at racing and have any concept of future planning. Each track jockeys for position and races to push another track out of business. All to the detriment of horse racing as a whole and the fans in particular.
In fighting ruined it for eveyone
This is exactly what racing needs, and there should be a series of races leading up to each Breeders Cup race.
I understand your point, tv, but it seems inconceivable to mismanage clear appropriation of monies.
Good idea that was completely mismanaged
Great idea...

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