Million-Dollar Boost for Kentucky Purses

Million-Dollar Boost for Kentucky Purses
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has approved a plan to distribute an additional $1 million in purse money from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund in 2014 and 2015.

The money was made available through a transfer of funds from the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council to the KTDF. That transfer was dictated through state legislation at the 2014 session. At its regular meeting July 16 in Louisville, the KHRC approved the $1 million total distribution to four Kentucky tracks. 

Under the plan, Churchill Downs, Ellis Park, and Keeneland will each receive $300,000 while Turfway Park will receive $100,000. Kentucky Downs noted that its KTDF purse funding is in good standing and did not apply.

The allocations approved by the KHRC follow the recommendation of its KTDF committee, which is chaired by J. David Richardson, who also is a commissioner.

Ellis Park, which had requested $350,000, plans to use the awarded funds at the current meeting to add eight allowance races for 2-year-olds. Next year it plans to use the funds to add a pair of stakes races, one for juveniles and one for juvenile fillies. Ellis officials had considered adding those stakes races this year, but noted that because of the late timing, the races likely would not have received listed status.

Churchill had requested $450,000, based on its 45% KTDF participation in the past, but was awarded just $300,000. The KTDF recommends that $300,000 be used to address a $125,000 shortfall at the end of the spring-summer meet with the rest to be awarded in Churchill's September and November meetings.

Richardson noted that Ellis has shown a commitment to improving purses by putting Instant Racing gaming in place while Churchill has not added the machines. He said there was no single factor in determining the dispersals but that the committee was impressed by Ellis Park' efforts.

"The committee felt like Ellis is doing everything they can to improve racing," Richardson said. 

Ellis general manager Bob Jackson said this month the track surpassed $2 million in Instant Racing handle in two weeks, which is the shortest time it has ever taken to reach that handle milestone. He said pari-mutuel handle during the first week of the live meet was up 15%.

Keeneland, which will add Instant Racing next year, had proposed using its $300,000 to boost its fall 2015 meeting that will end with the Breeders' Cup World Championships. But the committee did not want the track to wait that long and recommended the money be awarded at the 2014 fall and 2015 spring meets.

Turfway, which requested $225,000, received $100,000 that it plans to use to maintain its 3-year-old stakes schedule. Richardson noted that after cancellations last year, the track already has a surplus of KTDF funds. 

In 2015, Ellis plans to bring back to its schedule the Anna M. Fisher Debutante Stakes for juvenile fillies and the J. C. Ellis Preview for 2-year-olds. Both races would offer purses of $125,000 with a combination of association funds and KTDF funds used. This year Ellis plans to increase its number of maiden and allowance races from 32 to 40 while increasing KTDF purses by $5,000 a race.

In other KHRC news:

The commission renewed its contract, up to $250,000, with its lab HFL Sport Science to allow study and development of tests for emerging illegal substances. The "rapid response" protocol was put in place last year and funding has been used to improve testing for Cobalt.

The KHRC approved planned improvements at Kentucky Downs, including a new safety rail and other course upgrades, in time for its five-day meeting that begins Sept. 6. Ron Moore, former track superintendent at Santa Anita Park, will oversee the changes. 

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