The Washington, D.C. International will have a new distance and a unique purse structure when it is run for the 35th time Nov. 15.
Frank DeFrancis, president of Laurel Race Course, announced yesterday that the the race would be shortened to 1 1/4 miles from its traditional 1 1/2 miles. The finish line will be at the end of the stretch, giving the International the longest stretch run of any North American turf event.
Shortening the distance of the race also will give the field a long run to the first turn. "We think the change will give us the truest-run race we can possibly have," DeFrancis said.
The purse of the International will be boosted from $400,000 to $600,000. To generate the extra money, Laurel is changing the International from its traditional status as an invitational race into a hybrid with a "two-tiered purse structure."
Owners must now pay to nominate and start their horses; fees for a starter would total $4,500. DeFrancis estimates that the track will receive about $200,000 in nominating fees to put into the total purse. But so the International can attract late-bloomers or stars who weren't nominated, the track will reserve the right to invite three horses to the race.
These invitees, however, will compete for a maximum of $400,000 in purse money and, if they finish in money-winning positions, Laurel has established a formula so they won't be taking money from the horses who have paid their way there.
If, for example, an invited horse wins the International and a nominated horse runs second, each would collect $240,000. In one extreme case, a nominated horse could earn $180,000 by finishing fourth.
"We think we have the best of both worlds," DeFrancis said. "We have a substantially increased purse structure and, by the use of invitations, we are still able to secure the 'horse of the moment' who may not have been nominated."