Purses for overnight races – which include overnight stakes, allowance, maiden special weight, claiming and maiden claiming events – will rise by an approximate blended average of $3,400 per race.
The purse boosts were made possible by record all sources wagering on Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby days. The stellar two days of racing attracted $226.9 million in wagers, an 11.9% gain from the $202.7 million bet in 2011.
“We’re elated that our engaged owners, trainers, jockeys and breeders will benefit from a 10-percent increase in prize money over the final five weeks of the season, thanks in large part to our record Kentucky Derby Week business levels,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “In fact, the record $187 million wagered on Kentucky Derby Day by fans all over the world helped generate $8.3 million in purses that will be paid to horsemen this year.
“Regrettably, our inability to regularly card races for high-quality horses due to Kentucky’s declining horse population is another factor for the purse increase. Those types of races typically equate to higher purse money being offered, but they aren’t filling as often as we’d like. Therefore, we have more money to distribute than originally projected. Instead, horses of that caliber are continuing to leave Kentucky for more lucrative opportunities in states that boost their purse structure from alternative revenue streams. This positive 10-percent purse increase is not a long-term solution to the problems we continue to face in Kentucky’s signature horse racing industry.”
Just as it was last year, the average field size through the first three weeks of the Spring Meet was 8.0 horses per race. That number dipped slightly to 7.9 horses per race since Kentucky Derby Week (May 10-20).
Churchill Downs’ 39-day Spring Meet will continue through Sunday, July 1.