Citing higher than expected all-sources wagering during Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) week, Churchill Downs announced a 10% increase in overnight purses effective May 28.
According to an announcement from the track, purses for overnight stakes, allowance, maiden special weight, claiming, and maiden-claiming events will increase by an approximate blended average of $3,400 per race.
Total overnight purses for the meet are projected to be $13.5 million, up from the original forecast of $13 million. The daily average purse distribution, not including stakes money, will be approximately $346,000 per day. It will be $505,000 when stakes money is included.
Churchill reported that all-sources wagering on Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Kentucky Derby days increased 11.9% from 2011 to total $226.9 million.
“We’re elated that our engaged owners, trainers, jockeys and breeders will benefit from a 10% increase in prize money over the final five weeks of the season, thanks in large part to our record Kentucky Derby week business levels,” Churchill president Kevin Flanery said. “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% purse increase is not a long-term solution to the problems we continue to face in Kentucky’s signature horse racing industry.”
Churchill noted that the track averaged eight horses per race during the first three weeks of the spring meet, and that field sizes have averaged 7.9 per race since the May 5 Derby.