For Third Straight Spring, MSW Purses at Keeneland and Churchill Projected to Remain Level

Keeneland in the spring | Coady

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Purses for maiden special weight (MSW) races are projected to remain unchanged for the third straight spring at both Keeneland Race Course and Churchill Downs.

Track executives disclosed the pre-condition book figures during the Feb. 1 Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF) advisory board meeting.

Keeneland expects to write $100,000 MSW races for 3-year-olds and older horses, with 2-year-olds competing for $80,000, according to Gatewood Bell, Keeneland's vice president of racing.

Continuing a condition that Keeneland tried last fall, Bell added that there will also be four maiden-auction races written for $70,000, one for each sex going both short and long.

Back during Keeneland's 2021 spring meet, the comparable MSW purse levels were $79,000 and $60,000 for older and juvenile races, respectively.

Keeneland's $100,000 and $80,000 levels have been in effect since 2022.

Churchill's MSW races for older horses will remain at the $120,000 purse level this spring, according to Ben Huffman, the track's vice president of racing. He did not state an amount for 2-year-old races.

In the spring of 2021, Churchill carded two levels of MSW money. For the lead-in week to the GI Kentucky Derby, the purses were $115,000. After that, MSW races were written for $100,000.

In 2022, Churchill's MSW purses for older horses got raised to $120,000 for the spring meet.

The purse levels stayed that way in 2023, even after Churchill's corporate ownership opted to move the remainder of the meet to another Kentucky track in its portfolio, Ellis Park, in the aftermath of 12 equine fatalities that occurred in the first six weeks of the Churchill season.

Bill Landes III, the chairman of the KTDF advisory committee, who represents the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders (KTOB) association on the KTDF board, briefly addressed both Keeneland and Churchill about potentially increasing those MSW purse levels in the future.

“If things come good for you, we would be amenable to any hike or anything you could afford us,” Landes said.

Braxton Lynch, who also represents the KTOB on the KTDF board, suggested that any available purse money would be better spent on upping the amounts carded for allowance races.

“As much as Bill likes to focus on the MSW numbers, [and] I think we're really lucky to be where we are on the MSW numbers, if we ever got a chance [to] put [a purse] increase somewhere, I'd love to see a bigger gap between MSW and allowance, with allowances going a little higher. They become so much harder to win that I think there should be a little more reward there.”

KTDF board member Rick Hiles, who serves as the president of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent & Protection Association, agreed with Lynch.

“I've been saying for years there should be a bigger gap between maidens and the non-winners of two or 'a-other-than' [allowance conditions].”

The KTDF is funded by three-quarters of 1% of all money wagered in the state on both live Thoroughbred races and historical horse race gaming, plus 1% of all money wagered on Thoroughbred races via inter-track wagering and whole-card simulcasting.

On Thursday the KTDF advisory committee approved the recommendation of allotment requests that the Churchill and Keeneland purse estimates were based on, but the full Kentucky Horse Racing Commission still has to vote on final approval of the funding.

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