The 2016 horse racing purse is now settled, and the results are in. As we’ve come to expect, the favorites came out on top, while the underdogs struggled to make much of a comeback. Here is a breakdown of how the prize money was allocated.
Winner Takes All
The first and most obvious takeaway from last week’s horse races is that the favorites usually win. Of the nine races held last week, there was only one that could be considered a real underdog win, and even then it was only by a nose.
For decades, the mantra when it came to horse racing has been “favorite+luck+expertise=a winning ticket”, and in most cases, it really is that simple. When you look at the results of the last nine races, it’s clear that the favorites get all the luck and all the expertise – and the rest are just waiting to fold.
This year’s example is clear: Front-running favorite Always Dreaming finished off an undefeated season by capturing last week’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. She also won the Belmont Stakes a week earlier by a record-breaking 11 lengths. So while the underdogs were fighting for their lives, the favorites were leisurely enjoying the sweet, sweet taste of victory.
The favorite son of the 2015 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Always Dreaming, California Chrome, has something to say about this as well.
“I don’t know what to believe at this point,” California Chrome said. “I mean, I know my mom’s intentions were good, but… we’ll see what happens. You never know. It’s been a crazy year, and I’ve definitely learned a lot.”
While he may not have enjoyed the best luck, the always humble Triple Crown winner was at least aware of what he was up against. California Chrome was fighting for high honors, and he had the training and the talent to back it up.
He broke the heart of every racing fan when he was unable to stop Ghostzapper from winning the Santa Anita Derby in a photo finish. It was the third year in a row that his rival had denied him victory in the final strides. Even more crushing was the defeat four weeks later in the Preakness Stakes, where he came from behind to win yet again. In some ways, California Chrome’s ability to bounce back from these defeats made him a modern-day Greek hero.
Another interesting point to come out of last week’s races is the fact that several popular, top-selling horses finished in the middle of the pack. Take Away, the 2015 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, drew only seven flat tracks last week and finished 12th. She was followed by another Preakness participant, Bravestem, who drew only seven flat tracks and finished 13th. In fact, only seven of the 19 horses who ran last week sold for more than $100,000.
This is in sharp contrast to 2015, when a total of 19 horses sold for more than $100,000, including four who ended up winning the big one (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes). If you compare that to 2014 when 24 horses sold for $100,000 or more, it’s clear that this year’s crop of early-season races favored the average fan more than the elite participant.
Collecting the Purse
One of the most interesting aspects of the 2016 horse racing season is the fact that the winning purse is going to charity. The winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Always Dreaming, will donate her entire purse, a massive $1 million, to causes that benefit horse charities. The other $500,000 will be split between the other eight runners-up.
This is a significant shift in how the purse is collected. Traditionally, the winner would walk away with the entire purse, or at least the majority of it. This year’s donations are meant to right some of the wrongs of the past, where the winning purse went to the lucky individual or their family instead of a charity. When the dust settled on one of the greatest weekends in American sports, fans and participants knew that the best way to celebrate was by helping animals in need.