Churchill Purses to Top $10 Million in 2005

With the doubling of the purse for the 131st running of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) to $2 million, the total value of purses in Churchill Downs' 2005 schedule of stakes races will reach a record $10 million.

It marks the first time that stakes purses at Churchill have reached the $10 million plateau. The purse for the Derby had been $1 million guaranteed since 1996. The $1 million increase this year pushed the 2005 total for stakes purses comfortably past the previous record of $9.375 million established in 2004.

The purses for this year's stakes events at Churchill Downs reached the $10 million mark despite a reallocation of $375,000 in stakes purses – which included the cancellation of one stakes event – to help boost the Kentucky Derby purse. The 2005 schedule consists of 44 stakes races, including 32 scheduled in the April 30-July 10 Spring Meet and 12 in the Oct. 30-Nov. 26 Fall Meet. Thirty-four of those races are graded events, including five grade I contests, 10 grade II contests and 19 stakes with grade III status.

The elevation of the Kentucky Derby purse will make Derby Day the richest single day of stakes competition in the history of Churchill Downs, not including the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. The Derby Day stakes menu on May 7 consists of six races with total purses of $3.05 million. When combined with the $1.2 million in stakes purses offered on Kentucky Oaks Day (gr. I) on May 6, the two-day total for Derby Weekend stakes offerings is $4.25 million.

The 2005 stakes schedule includes several days of multiple stakes competition, such as the $1.75 million "Stephen Foster Super Saturday" on June 18.

"We're anticipating a very special and exciting year at Churchill Downs as our $121 million renovation will be complete and our fans will enjoy great racing in spectacular new facilities," said Doug Bredar, Churchill Downs racing secretary.

The $125,000-added Kentucky Breeders' Cup (gr. III) for 2-year-olds will not be run this year, but could return to the stakes schedule in the future. A total of $75,000 from the purse of that race – which also included a supplement of $50,000 from the Breeders' Cup Stakes program – is now part of the Derby purse.

As a result, the stakes schedule will have one fewer graded stakes race than in 2004. The $100,000-added Pocahontas Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on Nov. 5 was granted a Grade III ranking by the American Graded Stakes Committee for the first time, but the $100,000 Derby Trial, which opens the stakes schedule on April 30, lost its Grade III status.

The Fleur De Lis Handicap (gr. II) purse drops from $400,000-added to $300,000-added, while the Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup (gr. III) purse will stand at $200,000-added, but Churchill Downs contribution will drop to $150,000 and $50,000 will be added from the Breeders' Cup Stakes program

The Early Times Mint Julep (gr. III) - purse will drop from $150,000 to $100,000-added, as will the Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III). The Chilukki (gr. II), formerly the Churchill Downs Distaff, drops from $200,000-added to $150,000-added.