(Edited press release)
Churchill Downs has announced a stakes schedule for its Spring and Fall racing meets in 2007 that features a record $11.3 million in purses for 47 stakes events, including a Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) program May 5 that offers record purses of $3.35 million and five supporting stakes races. The schedule is the first in track history to surpass $11 million in total purses.
The 2007 stakes schedule at the Louisville track includes purse increases for 13 black-type events--with the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) on Derby Day getting a boost of $100,000 to raise its purse to $500,000-added. The track will feature 37 graded events from its 47 races, with five grade I races, 10 grade II races, and 22 events with Grade III status.
The April 28-July 8 Spring meet will feature 32 stakes races during its 52 days of racing, 26 of which are graded. The Oct. 27-Nov. 24 Fall Meet will feature 11 graded races among its 15 stakes events.
In a significant change, three races that had previously been run as handicap events will be renewed in 2007 under allowance conditions. Those races are the $300,000-added Louisville Breeders' Cup (gr. II) for fillies and mares 3-year-old and up on the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) undercard May 4; the $250,000-added Churchill Downs (gr. II), a seven-furlong race for 4-year-olds and up run on Kentucky Derby Day; and the $150,000-added Aristides Breeders' Cup (gr. III), a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up June 2.
The Kentucky Derby program May 5 reached its record $3.35 million purse level after values were increased for each of the five graded stakes events on the Derby undercard. The purse for the Humana Distaff (gr. I) on the Derby undercard reflects an increase of $50,000. The remaining races--the $250,000-added Churchill Downs presented by SHPS (gr. II), the $150,000-added La Troienne presented by GE Consumer and Industrial (gr. III), and the $150,000-added Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile presented by American Commercial Lines (gr. III)--each received purse increases of $50,000.
The Kentucky Derby Day program remains the richest single day of racing at Churchill Downs. Its $3.35 million in total stakes purses for 2007 will surpass last year's Derby Day record of $3.05 million.
"We are looking forward to another exciting year of memorable stakes competition at Churchill Downs," said Don Richardson, Churchill Downs' senior vice president of racing. "Our 2007 stakes schedule offers opportunities for horses of all ages and divisions, along with big event days that should excite both horsemen and racing fans. Horsemen from around the country and the world participated in our stakes program in 2006, and we thank them for that support and look forward to welcoming them back to Churchill Downs for more great racing in 2007."
Two Churchill stakes events will be run at new distances in 2007. The $100,000-added Derby Trial, the featured event on the April 28 Spring Meet opener, has been reduced from one mile to 7 1/2 furlongs. The $150,000-added Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) May 26 will be run at the new distance of 1 1/2 miles. It was previously run at 1 3/8 miles.
The 2007 racing season will also see two races run as graded events for the first time. Grade III status has been given to the $100,000-added Alysheba on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, and the $100,000-added Winning Colors, scheduled for the Memorial Day program May 28. The $500,000-added Clark Handicap was downgraded to grade II status after one year of grade I status.
A race that could benefit from both an increase in purse and a new spot on the track's racing schedule is the River City Handicap (gr. III), a 1 1/8-mile Fall meet turf race for 3-year-olds and up. The purse for the River City has been increased by $50,000 to $200,000-added and is now scheduled as a co-feature with the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Nov. 23.
"The River City Handicap has the potential to be a very important year-end race for older turf horses, and one that should attract international competitors in any year," said Ben Huffman, Churchill Downs' racing secretary.
Other Churchill Downs stakes races that will carry larger purses in 2007 include the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) and Golden Rod. Those 1 1/16-mile races, the traditional closing day events of the Fall meet, have seen their value increased by $50,000 to $250,000-added. The major preps for those races, the Iroquois and the Pocahontas (both gr. III), will also each receive a $50,000 boost that will raise their respective purse values to $150,000-added.
Churchill Downs has also raised purses for three races on the Kentucky Oaks program on May 4: the Edgewood, the Aegon Turf Sprint (gr. III), and the Crown Royal American Turf (gr. III). The purse of each race will climb by $50,000 to $150,000-added. Other races with increased purses for 2007 include the Chilukki (gr. II), which has been raised by $50,000 to $200,000-added, and the Early Times Mint Julep (gr. IIIT), which will carry a purse of $150,000-added after a $50,000 increase.
Purse hikes for some of those stakes races will lift total 2007 purse levels for Churchill Downs second and third largest race days to new heights. The larger purse for the Early Times Mint Julep will raise total purses for "Stephen Foster Super Saturday" June 16 to a record $1.8 million. The boost in purses for the Crown Royal American Turf (gr. IIIT), Edgewood, and Aegon Turf Sprint on Kentucky Oaks Day will raise the total purse value for the six stakes races to a record $1.35 million.
Two Churchill Downs stakes races will have smaller purses in 2007. The Cherokee Run and Very Subtle, both scheduled for Nov. 4, will carry purses of $100,000. Though both races were worth $200,000 in 2006, they were supplemented with additional funds from Breeders' Cup weekend.
One Churchill Downs stakes event will be run under a new name in 2007. The $100,000-added Mariah's Storm is scheduled for Nov. 18. That race, previously named the Pent Up Kiss, honors the brilliant daughter of Rahy who was a stakes winner on turf and dirt at Churchill Downs.