Officials say the upcoming Breeder’s Invitational could be one of its biggest editions ever.
The show, always a major event on the cutting calendar, is expected to return with a bang after being canceled in 2020 due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a similar situation to 2012, when the show had it’s biggest edition ever after being canceled in 2011 due to the equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) outbreak.
Breeder’s Invitational Executive Director Bob O’Bannon said this year’s show, slated for May 12-29 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, will offer $965,000 in added money and sales incentives. That’s nearly twice the total from 2019, the last time the show was held.
“There will be a lot of money,” O’Bannon said. “We will be writing some big checks.”
The Special 5
That increase in money is due to the Special 5, an extra class for eligible 5-year-old horses sired by stallions who are part of the Breeder’s Invitational program. Typically, eligible horses compete for that money as 4-year-olds, However, because the show wasn’t held during their 4-year-old year, it is being made available to them as 5-year-olds though the Special 5.
Eligible horses will have the option to be entered in the Special Five, the regular Classic or both.
“This year I have a pot of [nomination] money sitting in the bank that belonged to those  4-year-olds, which is where the ‘Special Five’ comes from,” said O’Bannon, explaining this year’s Special 5 will offer $340,000 in added money. “There is a lot more money in the pot, so the cutters are all wanting to come.”
The Breeder’s Invitational previously offered a Special 5 in 2012. That year, the extra money paid out to 5-year-olds helped boost the show’s total added money to $1.1 million, and pushed the total purse money to more than $2.7 million.
Leveling the Breeder’s Invitational
Another reason O’Bannon thinks this year’s Breeder’s Invitational is drawing more interest is because it is leveling the amateur. For the first time, the show will offer an Amateur, Intermediate Amateur and Limited Amateur classes.
The 2021 show already had 1,200 entries as of May 3, which was already more than the final tally from the 2019 show – but O’Bannon expects that number to grow. Because horseman can enter during the show – which they often do, especially in 4-year-old classes – he said the show typically has a surge of late entries.
“Entries and stalls are up relative to the same time period from previous shows. But it doesn’t mean anything, because it’s ain’t over till it’s over,” O’Bannon said. “We’ll be taking entries after the show starts, and we don’t have the 4-Year-Old Open until the second week, so they can come to the show, test their horses and decide whether they want to enter.”
O’Bannon explained that in 2012, the Breeder’s Invitational had to use an additional barn to stall a few more horses. This year, the Expo Square Facility is setting aside an entire extra barn of stalls for the anticipated turnout.
“I don’t know if we will [use the entire barn], but I’m sure we’ll use more stalls than we did [in 2012]. The show should be really fun for everybody. Maybe some longer days than we’re used to, but it’s worth it,” O’Bannon said.