Because of an increase in pari-mutuel revenue from Kentucky Derby (gr. I) week business, Churchill Downs June 1 said it will increase overnight purses by 4% for the remainder of its spring meet, which ends July 2.
Officials said business during the first six programs of the spring meet generated $17.7 million in purses that will be paid to horsemen over three meets this year. Those six programs produced a record $266.8 million in wagering, according to Churchill statistics.
Purses for overnight stakes, allowance, maiden special weight, claiming, and maiden-claiming races will increase by a "blended average" of $1,500 per race. Officials said total overnight purses for the spring meet will be about $13 million, up from the planned $12.4 million.
Not including stakes, purses are expected to average about $341,000 per day. When stakes are added—including the $2 million Derby—the average grows to about $555,000.
For 19 programs from April 30-May 30, Churchill has paid $13.59 million in total purses for an average of $715,597, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. For the 23 programs that fell within the same period in 2015, purses totaled $14.34 million for an average of $623,577.
Average field size thus far this spring is up to 8.19 from 7.88 last year.
Churchill already has the highest purses in the Midwest region. Before the increase, maiden special weight purses were $53,500 for 3-year-olds and up and $46,500 for 2-year-olds. The purse for an open $5,000 claimer was $18,000.