February 18, 2019

Record Kentucky Derby week yields 10 percent purse hike

Justify (white hat, white silks) rounds the first turn in the 144th Kentucky Derby (c) Coady Photo

Record wagering on races at Churchill Downs Racetrack during Kentucky Derby week and strong business during the two subsequent weeks of the ongoing spring meet have enabled the track to announce a 10 percent increase in daily purses for overnight races effective Thursday, May 31.

Entries for the first of those races scheduled for the “Twilight Thursday” racing program at Churchill Downs on May 31 will be taken Saturday. 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 $4,034 per race.

The purse increase will cover the final 19 racing days of the 38-day 2018 spring meet that will conclude on Saturday, June 30.

Total overnight purses offered for the meet are projected to be $13.1 million, up from the original forecast of $12.4 million. The daily average purse distribution, not including stakes money or Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF), will be $344,337 per day. That number grows to $601,456 when stakes and KTDF money is included.

“Despite historic rainfall on Kentucky Derby Day, fans wagered at record levels on races presented throughout Derby Week at Churchill Downs, and it’s exciting that owners, trainers, jockeys and breeders who compete in our races will benefit from those increased business levels,” said Kevin Flanery, President of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “Kentucky Derby Week racing at Churchill Downs continues to grow as both an on-track event and an increasingly attractive product for online wagering platforms led by TwinSpires.com and at other racetracks and satellite wagering outlets. We thank all involved in the presentation of our outstanding race product for their ongoing support and participation and we look forward to an exciting final month of our 2018 Spring Meet.”

Wagering from all sources was the highest all-time for both the Kentucky Derby Day racing program and the Kentucky Derby race on Saturday, May 5. All-sources wagering records were also established on Friday, May 4 for both the Kentucky Oaks Day race card and the Kentucky Oaks race. All-sources handle for Opening Night, Saturday, April 28, through Derby Day, Saturday, May 5, rose to a new record of $311.2 million, up 9 percent from the previous record of $285.1 million set last year. Attendance for those six Derby Week days was 375,346, up 7 percent over 2017.