Record wagering on the Kentucky Derby, steady on-track business and a significant increase in simulcast wagering on its races have combined to enable Churchill Downs to announce a 10% increase in its overnight race purses for its 2003 spring meet.The increase in purses, which affects overnight purses and includes purse supplements from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund is effective Wednesday, June 18. Overnight races include allowance, maiden special weight, claiming and maiden claiming events. Purses for stakes races at Churchill Downs will not be affected by this increase.The 10% increase will add an average of $31,773 per day to overnight race purses at Churchill Downs. The purse increases cover all eligible races in the track's final Spring Meet condition book ("Book 4"), which covers 15 racing days in the period of June 18 through July 6. The total increase for those races during the period is $476,600.The purse increase at Churchill Downs is the first since a 5% increase was announced in June of last year. That purse hike was the first at the track since an increase that took effect in June of 2000 and was only the second increase in purses since 1998."This significant increase in race purses for the final three weeks of our 2003 Spring Meet is wonderful news for our horsemen and for all who have worked to ensure that the racing product offered by Churchill Downs is the finest in the nation," said Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs. "We continue to deal with new competitive challenges from both inside and outside our industry, but the strong business levels that have led to this increase in purses show that fans throughout North America love Churchill Downs racing. We thank our horsemen for their continued efforts to strengthen our racing program and our fans in Kentucky and across North America for their strong support of racing at Churchill Downs."On-track wagering on Churchill Downs races, including wholecard simulcasting, totaled $70,662,073 through the first 32 days of the spring meet, an increase of nearly 1% from the same period in 2002. Simulcast wagering on Churchill Downs races through the period totaled $392,119,690, an increase of 20% from the same period a year earlier.
Those totals include record wagering on the 129th Kentucky Derby, which saw total wagering on the 12-race Derby Day card rise by nearly 14% from the previous year's record to $140,378,922. On-track Derby Day wagering rose by more than 6% to $20,583,143. Total wagering on the Derby race rose by nearly 11% to a record $87,812,798, which included on-track wagering of $9,079,841 - an increase of more than five percent from the previous record established in 2002.The totals for Kentucky Derby Day and the race itself are North American records for wagering on a single day of racing and a single race.