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2012 Breeders' Cup Purse Structure

The influx of new races and new purse money has changed the Breeders' Cup over the last five years. Is it time to re-evaluate the purse structure of some of the races?

Hansen banked over $1 milion by winning the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Hansen banked over $1 milion by winning the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Matthew Stockman

One thing that's bothered me the last few years with the Breeders' Cup is the disproportionately large purses on many of the juvenile races. While the juvenile program tends to be popular and features full fields every year, the purse structure seems out of line when compared to the rest of the Breeders' Cup events.

Looking at the four juvenile route race, both the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies are $2 million races, a purse amount equal to the Kentucky Derby and greater than both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. And the juvenile turf events are each $1 million; does this create the kind of incentive for future races and development? Do juveniles need to be racing for $2 million in early November?

Contrast the $2 million juvenile races with the Filly & Mare Sprint and the Dirt Mile, both with $1 million purses. Unless the goal is to simply create a showcase for juveniles (which I don't believe is the intention of the Breeders' Cup, not should it be), those numbers appear, at a minimum, reversed.

Apart from the juvenile races are what I think are significant issues with both the Turf and the Ladies' Classic. The Turf at $3 million is the second highest purse at the Breeders' Cup but it typically fails to draw a really deep field of classy turf runners. While the Turf will never equal the Arc in terms of prestige it could, at a minimum, get a little closer in prize money. The Arc is worth approximately $5.1 million, slightly more than the Breeders' Cup Classic. Perhaps it's time for the Turf to get bumped up to the $4 million range in order to attempt to lure a few more runners each year?

The Ladies' Classic is currently a $2 million race which, to me, is about $1 million too low. As noted above, both juvenile dirt races have the same purse level despite the fact that the Ladies' Classic (or what should still be the Distaff) is the championship race for older fillies and mares on the season. A million dollar bump up in purse doesn't seem out of line at all considering its importance on the calendar.

I put together a quick table summarizing all 15 Breeders' Cup races, their current purse levels and revised purses that keep the total amount at the same level. Obviously, if the Breeders' Cup were to increase total purse money, I think the races discussed above should get the additional money.

Race Current Revised
Juvenile Sprint $500,000 $500,000
Marathon $500,000 $500,000
Juvenile Fillies Turf $1,000,000 $750,000
Juvenile Fillies $2,000,000 $1,000,000
Filly & Mare Turf $2,000,000 $2,000,000
Ladies' Classic $2,000,000 $3,000,000
Juvenile Turf $1,000,000 $750,000
Filly & Mare Sprint $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Dirt Mile $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Turf Sprint $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Juvenile $2,000,000 $1,000,000
Turf $3,000,000 $4,000,000
Sprint $1,500,000 $2,000,000
Mile $2,000,000 $2,000,000
Classic $5,000,000 $5,000,000
Total $25,500,000 $25,500,000

The changes I made are fairly simple and straight forward.

  • I've reduced all four juvenile route races, with the most significant reductions coming in the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies ($2 million to $1 million). I also reduced the juvenile turf events to $750,000.
  • The Turf is bumped up from $3 million to $4 million and the Ladies' Classic gets an increase to $3 million from $2 million. Again, the thought behind this is to create a purse separation of the signature races from the rest of the pack.

    The increase in the Ladies' Classic still keeps it behind the Classic, giving a top filly or mare plenty of incentive to take a shot against the boys.

    The Turf moving to $4 million would create a situation where the winner receives $2 million - a nice, round sum of money. Personally, I would love to see the Turf in the $5 million range, with the Classic moving up to $6 or $7 million. But those are just pie in the sky numbers.
  • The Sprint gets bumped back up to $2 million, which is where it was prior to the Juvenile Sprint's introduction last year.
  • If there was a little more money to spread around, I would increase both the Dirt Mile and the F&M Sprint to at least $1.5 million and, if possible, $2 million.

None of these changes are really earth shattering but simply a re-allocation of resources to highlight races involving older, more experienced horses. The juvenile races are still attractive (you won't find a $750,000 juvenile turf stake in the U.S. and $1 million dirt races for juveniles are few and far between), but the Ladies' Classic, the Turf and the Sprint receive some much deserved increases.