Pony Express FTC ran a National Qualifier this past spring with a $300 entry fee PLUS a Derby stake that paid back 100%. The Club also GAVE an additional $500 for the "Find of the Stake" which was determined by the judges and a Club official. Purina was very generous in their support. This had the potential for a good pay out, National Qualifier, Purina Points and should have been attractive to professionals.
This was a new trial and every attempt was enlisted to make sure it fit into the existing schedule of NQ Open AA stakes in the general Midwest region. Pros were contacted before hand and after the trial was advertised but as far as I know, the stake maybe was too new for them to adjust or they just were tired or perhaps didn't need another trial. They have a long season and demands and history of going to certain trials. They did not attend and everyone wanted them to come! Brought in one judge from KY and one from AL whose reputations were excellent and a long way from home. The Club received complements from them on the grounds, facilities, the organization and conducting of the trial, etc.
The lower than desired entry was NOT the Club's fault in my mind unless I am missing something. It was certainly not set up as an "easy" trial to win and just held for that purpose. The Club has again contacted area pros and asked for suggestions as to scheduling or what would attract them to attend and compete on the grounds which are excellent and fair in my mind. There are other Open AA trials in the USA of similar quality and longer history which periodically attract a limited starting field. NO ONE likes this. Costs money to put these on and lots of time and judges traveling and expectations built, etc.
We'll see what happens. No hard feelings either way. So...having a $300 entry fee, giving back 100% of monies in the Derby and handing back another $500 in bonus money didn't have the door being beat down. Clubs that run Open stakes with small entry fees, I have no problem with either. You get what you get and they aren't trying to trick anyone to my knowledge. They just didn't go as far out on a limb as charging $300 and hoping a party ensued! Of course maybe Pony Express can make this up on volume ---you know---keep losing money until you break even.