04/26/2010 5:15PM

Unequal Pay


There are several reasons that Devil May Care's handlers have decided to run her in the Kentucky Derby instead of the Kentucky Oaks, including a perceived weakness in this crop of Derby colts, her camp's belief that she may better suited to 10 than 9 furlongs, and Eskendereya's defection freeing up jockey John Velazquez to ride her. The discrepancy between the Derby and Oaks purses is another.

As the chart below shows, the 4-1 ratio between the $2 million Derby and $500,000 Oaks is the widest among all the "pairs" of U.S. Grade 1 races that have an obvious male and female equivalent run at the same track at the same meeting:

Obviously, these result are all over the map, even in the most closely parallel of races.

Within the Breeders' Cup program alone, for example, the ratios range from 2.5-1 between the $5 million Classic and $2 million Ladies' Classic, to 2-1 between the two main-track sprints, to dead-even in the two pairs of juvenile races.

The most striking thing is how nearly all the 2-year-old Grade 1 races have equal purses for males and females, with the first sharp divide coming only in the final two Grade 1's of the year, the Hollywood Futurity and Starlet. Then the gap is suddenly a wide one in almost all of the 3-year-old races, reflecting the focus on the road to the Derby.

There's obviously a case to be made that unrestricted races should be worth more than their counterparts restricted to females, but these differences are a hodgepodge rather than any sort of well-thought-out plan. At some point there is going to have to be an overhaul of much of the American stakes schedule to reflect the smaller foal crop and the fewer starts horses are making each year. Perhaps a more rational alignment of open vs. female races could be part of that process.

In the meantime, the Derby/Oaks discrepancy remains glaring. Given the growth of the Oaks as the clear marquee race of the division, not to mention the booming business on the race, it's probably time to raise its purse to $750,000 if not $1 million.

As for Devil May Care, as discussed in a post here last month, her G2 Bonnie Miss victory March 20 earned a 100 Beyer and was slightly faster (1:49.06) than the two other nine-furlong graded stakes on that card: the G1 Florida Derby (Ice Box - 1:49.19) and the G3 Rampart for older fillies (Unrivalled Belle -1:49.36.) She and Ice Box have not raced since that day and will run in the Derby off six-week layoffs -- the longest in the field except for Homeboykris, unraced since Feb. 27.

Without having tried to do a real line for the race yet, my gut says she'll get plenty of support, going off as something like the 4th to 6th choice in the 9-1 to 15-1 area. She'll attract plenty of casual money from those who want to root for a filly, and it appears she'll be one of only four horses in the Derby with as much as a single three-digit Beyer Speed Figure on her resume, along with Endorsement (101), Sidney's Candy (100) and Jackson Bend (100).