Record wagering at Churchill Downs during the week of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and strong business during the two subsequent weeks of the ongoing spring meet have enabled the track to announce a 10% increase in daily purses for overnight races effective May 31.
Entries for the first of those races scheduled for the "Twilight Thursday" racing program May 31 will be taken May 26. Purses for overnight races—which include overnight stakes, allowance, maiden special weight, claiming and maiden claiming events—will rise by an approximate blended average of $4,034 per race.
The purse increase will cover the final 19 racing days of the 38-day 2018 meet that concludes June 30.
Total overnight purses offered for the meet are projected to be $13.1 million, up from the original forecast of $12.4 million. The daily average purse distribution, not including stakes money or Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund ("KTDF"), will be $344,337 per day. That number grows to $601,456 when stakes and KTDF money is included.
"Despite historic rainfall on Kentucky Derby Day fans wagered at record levels on races presented throughout Derby Week at Churchill Downs, and it's exciting that owners, trainers, jockeys, and breeders who compete in our races will benefit from those increased business levels," said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs. "Kentucky Derby Week racing at Churchill Downs continues to grow as both an on-track event and an increasingly attractive product for online wagering platforms led by TwinSpires.com and at other racetracks and satellite wagering outlets."
Wagering from all sources was the highest all-time for both the Kentucky Derby Day racing program and the Kentucky Derby race May 5. All-sources wagering records were also established May 4 for both the Kentucky Oaks Day race card and the Kentucky Oaks race.
All-sources handle for opening night, April 28, through Derby Day rose to a record of $311.2 million, up 9% from the previous record of $285.1 million set last year. Attendance for those six Derby Week days was 375,346, up 7% over 2017.