BREEDERS’ CUP PURSES, 1984 vs. 2017

The Breeders’ Cup inaugural came on November 10, 1984 at Hollywood Park with seven races.  The purses were extraordinary for the time with a range of $1 million to $3 million.

Consider how much the seven races paid in purses in 1984 compared to 2017 and how much the 1984 purses would be worth in 2017 dollars, in other words after accounting for inflation.

In 1984, five of the races had purses of $1 million:  BC Juvenile; BC Juvenile Fillies; BC Sprint; BC Mile; and BC Distaff.  One million dollars in 1984 is equivalent to about $2.4 million in 2017.  In 2017, four of these races have purses of $2 million, with the exception being the BC Sprint at $1.5 million.  The BC Turf had a purse in 1984 of $2 million and this is the same as $4.7 million today, with an actual 2017 purse of $4 million.  The BC Classic was a $3 million race in 1984, which is worth $7.1 million in 2017 dollars, and pays a purse in 2017 of $6 million.

The seven races in 1984 had total purses of $10 million in contrast to the $26.5 million in purses today spread over 13 races.  Twenty-six and a half million dollars in 2017 would be equivalent to $11.3 million in 1984.  Thus the purses for the original seven Breeders’ Cup races have all decreased in value in real-dollar terms over the years, while the total purses awarded have increased in both nominal and real dollars.

The Breeders’ Cup board has opted to run more races rather than maintain the real monetary value of seven races.  As a result, the purse for the feature race—the Breeders’ Cup Classic—is much smaller than the purses for the Dubai World Cup and the Pegasus World Cup Invitational.

Whether the Breeders’ Cup card would be more appealing to the public, especially the television audience, with fewer races–worth more money and run in one day rather than two–than the current arrangement is arguable.  In my view, seven rich races run on Saturday with the BC Turf and the BC Classic held in television prime time on the east coast would be better in terms of attracting fan interest.

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