Edited from Churchill Downs Press Release--
In an effort to boost participation in its stakes races, Churchill Downs announced Jan. 17 it would pay purse money to each participating horse in those contests--excluding the $2-million Kentucky Derby (gr. I)--beginning at the track's April 29-July 16 spring meet.
In recent years, Churchill has distributed purse money to the top five finishers in every race at the track--including stakes events and all overnight races. The new policy calls for horses that finish lower than fifth in any stakes race to be paid 1% of the overall purse, including added money.
The 1% share paid to the horses finishing sixth through last will be taken out of the overall purse first, then all remaining purse money will be distributed to the top five finishers under the track's regular formula. That distribution would send 62% of the purse to the winner; 20% to the runner-up; 10% to third; 5% to fourth; and 3% to fifth.
In races that contain purse supplements from the Breeders' Cup Stakes program, additional purses would be paid from purse funds supplied by the track. Breeders' Cup supplements would then be distributed under the regular stakes formula, provided that the top five finishers in the race are nominated to the Breeders' Cup.
Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Doug Bredar said the change in the track's distribution of stakes purses was developed to provide an additional incentive for horsemen to participate in stakes races, and to allow the track to show its gratitude to horsemen for their support of those races.
"The possibility of recouping nomination and starting fees could provide a sufficient incentive to convince some horsemen who are on the fence to take a chance with their horse," said Bredar. "Our stakes races attract many of racing's brightest stars and, in many cases, the addition of just a horse or two to any stakes field can transform a modestly interesting race into a compelling contest for both fans and horsemen."
Bredar said leaders of Kentucky's two horsemen's groups, the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, support the change.
The Kentucky Derby was not included in the new stakes purse distribution formula at Churchill Downs because it is the one race at the track conducted outside the track's regular stakes structure. Nominations to the Derby are made in a joint process, through Triple Crown Productions, in which nominated horses are also eligible for the Triple Crown's other jewels--the Preakness (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Churchill Downs will offer a program of stakes races--47 events totaling $10.7 million in purses--in the 2006 Spring Meet and its Fall Meet Oct. 29-Nov. 25.