04/26/2010 5:15PM

Unequal Pay

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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).

Dennis More than 1 year ago
If this was 1965, the Preakness would be in a perfect spot. I remember Arts and Letters (1969) did the Blue Grass, Derby, Preakness and Metropolitan Mile before winning the Belmont. That's five races in seven weeks. He also ran as a four year old. But, these aren't your father's thoroughbreds.The Preakness needs to be run a week later and the Belmont switched to a month after the Preakness. The most ludicrous argument against this, other than knee-jerk obstinateness, is that it would diminish the challenge and tarnish the efforts of the horse that will eventually win the triple crown. Balderdash.
Michael Cusortelli More than 1 year ago
Steve, I know these aren't Grade 1 races, but being from New Mexico I feel obligated to report this -- The difference between the purse of the Sunland Derby ($800,000) and Sunland Park Oaks ($200,000) is also 4-1.
Don Carpenter More than 1 year ago
Sidney's Candy is the only top contender who has not been pressed hard to finish at 8.5 or 9 furlongs. That is pretty remarkable because in his last he ran on a hand ride very close to nine even 12 second furlongs. There was another horse who ran that even who make a pretty good name for himself and finished the KD under 2:00. Don't worry about him rating. He rated easily almost on his own in the first two furlongs of the SA Derby. When he took the lead, it was not because he stressed ahead. It was because all the rest dropped back off his steady killer pace. If he stays away from trouble Saturday and keeps out of the spray, he can go wide most of the way and demonstrate that most of the racing world is too obsessed with Beyers to see amazing talent when it presents itself. JMHO.
trotter More than 1 year ago
I do not understand the support for a filly who ran one good race last out but who also ran 5th of 6 at odds on the previous race. Seems to me that fillies who have been successful against males in the Triple crown races were either dominate on multiple occasions against fillies and/or had beaten males in a prep race. Winning Colors, Genuine Risk, Rag to Riches, Eight Belles and Rachel all fit these parameters. Devil My Care would be trounced by any of the above named fillies. Also to dismiss crop as weak on figures alone does not seem right. A horse who wins 6 of 8 in top company with two placings would seem to be a quality individual no matter what the figs say. There is more to a good race horse than mere time. Trying hard every race and always being in the money seems like good traits to me. Horses like Lookin at Lucky, Jackson Bend, Mission Implazible, Super Saver, Sidney's Candy have shown gameness and quality every time they run. When you bet your money what more can you want.
Will G More than 1 year ago
Has anyone found a television schedule for Saturday? I realize the transfer from ESPN to NBC occurs at 4pm, but NBC has utterly failed under these circumstances before. Any chance we are able to see the Churchill Downs Stakes set for 3:52pm?
Tinky More than 1 year ago
John C. – With due respect, if you had read my post(s) carefully, then you wouldn't have been "stumped" at all. I never said, nor in any way implied that Eskendereya was lame, sore, or off in any way on Wood day. I said that a careful observer could have discerned a major clue relating to the physical issue that he was dealing with. Just because a horse is dealing with a physical issue doesn't mean that it will show signs of discomfort on a race day. The only point that I made that was remotely along the lines of your mis-inference was that he switched leads late.
Cass More than 1 year ago
For the multirace bets (Specifically p4), what happens with a scratch at CD for Oaks and Derby? MultiRace scratches go to post time favorite. Surface switch goes to "all" if it wasnt announced BEFORE the start of the first leg.
John C. More than 1 year ago
Tinky, Here's the video I shot of Eskendereya as he walked in front of the winner's circle after the Wood. I was on the track adjacent to the winner's circle myself, with an unobstructed view. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEn6EuTz3b4 Other than the number of circles that they had him walk before stopping for the winner's photo, I just can't see ANYTHING unusual or wrong with him; he is not walking gingerly, his ears seem fine, his neck occasionally bowed, and he certainly doesn't seem winded. I'm stumped. Obviously something was wrong, but I don't think that even a vet from Cornell could have pointed to anything obvious. I appreciate your insights and commentary but I don't see what you saw there.
LongJDan More than 1 year ago
Steve, agree or disagree, I love your analytical approach to making a case for running the filly. She has earned the right to run. I'm just glad to see that they didn't choose to cross enter and prevent a full field in either race. May the best horse win. If Lucky doesn't get the trip, it's Winstar's year.
Stu More than 1 year ago
I am willing to bet that the Haskell Invitational and the Monmouth Oaks have an even greater ratio disparity, either 5-1 or 4-1 depending on how low the racing office has reduced the Oaks' purse. I'm thinking its down to $200,000 now if that. I am almost sure it lost its Gd I or even Gd II status by now. [I only included Grade 1 to Grade 1 comparisons, thus no Haskell/Mth Oaks or Preakness/BE Susan comparisons. --SC]