08/13/2014 2:40PM

Boosting Arlington Million's purse wouldn't solve problem of short fields


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – As with most anything else, this is the logical knee-jerk solution to the alarmingly short field for the Arlington Million: Throw money at it.

But they tried that before, and it didn’t work.

In 2000, the purse for the Million was raised to $2 million. It was the only time in race history the purse has been anything but $1 million.

The field size for that 2000 running? A mere seven, which is still the record for the fewest number of starters since the Million was inaugurated in 1981.

Now, with only seven horses set to run Saturday in the 32nd Million at Arlington Park, the track’s venerable chairman, Richard Duchossois, said he is not disappointed and that he is not considering raising the purse again.

“Million-dollar races are all over the place now,” he said. “It’s the prestige that separates this race. We aren’t disappointed. We have a wonderful group of Europeans over here.”

Even if Duchossois wanted to raise the purse, it is highly questionable whether it could happen. Forget for a moment the major implications involving Arlington’s corporate owner, Churchill Downs Inc., and how such a move might be viewed within the company; there is the looming crisis in Illinois racing involving the potential far-reaching negative effects of the evaporation of the casino “impact” money that has propped up purses for the last several years. The latter is a complex issue that brings into question the viability of the state’s Thoroughbred industry as a whole.

Whether or not the state’s longtime showcase, the Arlington Million, has become anachronistic in an ever-evolving and Breeders’ Cup-dominated age has been a subject of debate for years, with this small field for the Saturday renewal adding fuel to that fire. Also, there’s a question of whether the small field this year is not an aberration, since the race also got just seven in 2007 and 2008.

Still, casting aside issues of its spot on the racing calendar and competition from other major turf events in America and elsewhere, it would not be unreasonable for someone to argue that a purse increase might help – although clearly it would not guarantee anything, as evidenced by what occurred when the race was worth $2 million in 2000.

“We tried doubling the purse,” said Duchossois. “It didn’t make a bit of difference.”

“The $2 million [in 2000] was not done at the right time, perhaps,” said Adrian Beaumont, a director for the International Racing Bureau, the agency that recruits foreign horses to Arlington for the Million and its supporting features. “Now you have several major races in Europe run at basically the same time with considerably bigger purses [than 14 years ago], such as the Juddmonte International at York and the Irish Champion at Leopardstown.

“We typically can only get three or four horses here for the Million anyway because all the trainers there are looking at what the others are doing, and that’s what we end up with. Some major factors in favor of the Million are its prestige, tradition, and quarantine facility, and Arlington certainly does things first rate in the way they treat horsemen.

“There don’t seem to be any easy answers.”

– additional reporting by Marcus Hersh

James Keefe More than 1 year ago
is there any deader sport than horse racing??
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Running the same weekend as the Sword Dancer takes a lot of sting out of the field.
Thomas Laughlin More than 1 year ago
As I see it. this is racing secretary issue. Maybe one of the reasons for the short Million fields for the past several seasons is that its being run at the same time the Sword Dancer Turf stakes is run at Saratoga. Perhaps a schedule change maybe the answer?
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
The bread and butter of any race track is the lowly claimer. Do I really care that a race is a one million dollar purse? Give me a race with 10 to 12 horses going 1 1/8. I don't care if they are running for 12,500 - 35,000. Put extra purse money into those races and trainers will put their horses into those races.The problem, is that both trainers and owners would rather compete in five and six horse fields. It gives them a better chance to win a purse. For the bettor they are poison. I search tracks that offer races that are decent betting propositions. Long ago studies showed more was wagered on two turn routes than sprints.
russell More than 1 year ago
Never support CDI and there obscene takeout. They stink
dude More than 1 year ago
The Million Day card is OK but there have been much better. Another 5F turf race again and a couple of maidens as there seems to be every day. Seven horses for a million dollar purse is laughable. I won't be there for the fifth consecutive year after never missing. CDI please lower the takeout.
Perl More than 1 year ago
The 50 cent pic 5 has a 15% takeout.
William Kelley More than 1 year ago
Why all the talk about the European horses? Where are all the American horses?
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
3 euros and one Canadian out of 7 horses. The Domestic horses are out numbered.
Henry Malmoth More than 1 year ago
I can't bet the race unless I reopen my Twin Spires account? Forget it! The same for all C.D.I. tracks. (And I used to be a box holder at Arlington). When they first reopened (1989) I recall seeing an elderly man arguing with an usher who denied him access to his clubhouse box because the man's 6-7 year old grandson was in violation of the dress code. He was wearing gym shoes!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
hey , I got an idea, instead of throwing away another million, how bout lowering the takeout? Strange article, if you raise it, you'll see more Euro's for sure. However $1 million in the US is still a big race. so why are not enough Horses showing up? maybe they don't think they can beat the Euro's. Study the Queen's plate, they get 20 horse fields.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Juddmonte International, Irish Champion, King George, Fourstardave and the Sword Dancer are the reasons for the short/weak field. Just not enough good horses to go around. The Arlington Million is one of the most OVERRATED races there is anyway. Europe has never sent their best over for the Million and they never will. Only reason Magician is coming is because he can't win in Europe. The whole day is overrated. I'm supposed to get excited about a bunch of 3rd or 4th string euros? Please.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Magician can't get the firm ground he wants. THAT is why he is up the track the last two outings. People need to learn more about European racing and the horses to make statements.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Magician ran in the KG and shipped. The Juddmonte doesn't always have the strongest fields because some will opt for the KG and skip the Juddmonte for the Irish Champions, or French races to prep for the Arc. Then you have the Arc, and Champions Day to follow. It is very difficult to schedule top turf races in the beginning to mid summer. Royal Ascot, Deauville, Goodwood, the Curragh all run big races. Then you have York, Longchamp, Leopardstown, and Ascot again in the late summer/Fall.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Sandown Also