Churchill Downs to Offer Record Stakes Schedule

(Edited track report)
Churchill Downs has unveiled a stakes schedule for 2003 that includes a record $8.5 million in total purses, five grade I stakes races and three days of multiple stakes competition headed by the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I).

Total purses in Churchill Downs' 2003 schedule reflect an increase of $225,000 over the previous record of $8.275 million established in 2002. The 2003 schedule will mark only the second time in the track's 129-year history that its stakes purses have exceeded $8 million.

Stakes purses for the April 26-July 6 Spring Meet total a record $6,450,000 - an increase of $175,000 from the previous record for spring purses set in 2002 - and those purses for the Oct. 26-Nov. 29 Fall Meet will see an increase of $50,000 from last year's previous high to a record $2.05 million.

The 2003 stakes schedule and the Spring Meet at Churchill Downs is headed by the $1 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby, which will be renewed for the 129th consecutive year on Saturday, May 3, and the 129th running of the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks, the Derby's sister race for 3-year-old fillies, which will be run on Friday, May 2.

The Spring Meet includes three other grade I events - the $400,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic for 3-year-olds and up on the turf and the $200,000-added Humana Distaff for older fillies and mares, both on Derby Day; and the $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap for 3-year-olds and up on Saturday, June 14. The Spring Meet schedule also includes the $100,000-added Hard Scuffle Steeplechase, a National Steeplechase Association Grade I race scheduled for Thursday, May1.

The headline event of the Fall Meet schedule is the 129th running of the $400,000-Clark Handicap on Friday, Nov. 28. The Clark heads a star-studded three-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend that closes the meet and also features the $250,000-added Falls City Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares ages 3 & up on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, and a pair of Grade II races for 2-year-olds on Saturday, Nov. 29 that will offer a preview of the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks: the $200,000-added Golden Rod for fillies and the $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club.

"We believe the 2002 stakes program at Churchill Downs was the strongest in our history in terms of purses and the quality of the competition," said Don Richardson, Churchill Downs Incorporated senior vice president, Racing. "The purse enhancements and small adjustments that have been made in the stakes program for 2003 should continue that growth in strength and quality and should be attractive once again to owners and
trainers throughout North America."

Highlights of the 2003 Churchill Downs stakes schedule include:

* Kentucky Derby Day, May 3 - $2 million in total purses will
be on the line as the $1 million guaranteed "Run for the Roses" is supported for the first time by a $1 million undercard of stakes races. The roster includes three Grade I races -- the Derby, the $400,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and the $200,000-added Humana Distaff - along with the $200,000-added Churchill Downs Handicap (GII), which has had its purse raised by $50,000. Rounding out the Derby Day schedule are the $100,000-added Citgo Distaff Turf Mile (GIII) and the $100,000-added Three Chimneys Juvenile.

-* Kentucky Oaks Day, May 2 - The $500,000-added Oaks is the main event on a $1.1 million day of stakes racing that also includes the $300,000-added Louisville Breeders' Cup (GII), $100,000-added Crown Royal American Turf (GIII), $100,000-added Aegon Turf Sprint (GIII) and the $100,000-added Edgewood.

*Stephen Foster Super Saturday, June 14 - Total purses for a roster of four major stakes races headlined by the $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) will climb to a record $1.35 million in 2003. Pushing the "Super Saturday" purses to new heights is the $200,000-added Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies on the turf, which reflects an increase of $50,000. The $300,000-added Fleur de Lis (GII) and the $100,000-added Northern Dancer are also part of the Stephen Foster Super Saturday card for the third consecutive year.