Officials at Churchill Downs have announced that the purse for this year’s 145th running of the GI Kentucky Derby has been raised from $2 million to a guaranteed $3 million, making it the second-richest Derby in the world. The Derby winner will receive a $1.86-million payday in addition to the gold trophy. The runner-up receives $600,000, with $300,000 to third, $150,000 to the fourth home and $90,000 to the fifth-place finisher. The Derby purse was $1 million from 1996-2004 before being raised.
Citing strong early returns from state-of-the-art historical racing machines at Derby City Gaming, Churchill Downs Incorporated’s $65-million facility that opened last September, officials also announced that the purse for the GI Old Forester Turf Classic would be doubled to $1 million, while the GI Kentucky Oaks will see its purse raised by a quarter-million dollars to $1.25 million. The Oaks was a $500,000 race until its purse was doubled in 2011.
“Our recent investment into historical racing machines is paying immediate dividends to Kentucky horsemen,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “It’s extremely gratifying to meaningfully raise the purse of the iconic Kentucky Derby and other important racing fixtures on our stakes schedule as we continue to advance the overall racing program at Churchill Downs. Our steady growth in available prize money is truly exciting for the Kentucky horse racing and breeding industry.”
The Derby and Oaks anchor a 34-race stakes program worth a record-setting $12.03 million. More than $30 million in purse money is expected to be distributed during this year’s spring meet. In the spring of 2018, Churchill offered 32 stakes races worth $8.4 million. Total purses paid over the course of the 372-race meet were $22.2 million.
A total of 15 races will receive purse hikes for 2019, including the GI Humana Distaff ($300,000 to $500,000), while the $600,000 GII Stephen Foster S. is one of four races to be increased by $100,000. The others, each worth $400,000, are the GII Longines Distaff Turf Mile, the GII American Turf and GIII Pat Day Mile.
The Churchill Downs S., recently accorded Grade I status, will carry purse money of $500,000, as will the GI La Troienne S. on the Oaks undercard.
In other changes to the schedule, the Foster, GIII Mint Julep S. and GIII Louisville S. will no longer be run under handicap conditions.