Is The Derby Purse Fair? More Opinion from Readers



In the Sept. 30 edition of the Thoroughbred Daily News, we ran an interview with John Sikura  (Sikura: No Simple Solutions for a Fractured Sport, TDN, Sept. 27) in which he raised questions about the funding mechanism and purse of the Kentucky Derby. In Tuesday's TDN, industry insiders weighed in with their own commentary. Today, we publish additional opinions on the subject.

Scott Heider, owner

It made me smile recently when I saw my friend John Sikura shared his opinions in the TDN. Similar to the ongoing discussions we have on the equine industry (and also plenty of non-industry topics), John has gained some real wisdom over the last few decades. But but he's always open to new ideas and he's far from stuck in his ways, which is why he's succeeded and will continue to do so. John's opinions the other day contained some great nuggets including his view on Churchill Downs and The Derby. I will submit that money does not by itself fix problems and I know John very much agrees with this, too. It doesn't work this way in business (perhaps short term occasionally), and it certainly doesn't work this way in philanthropic endeavors. We'd have largely eradicated poverty and poor school systems in this country by now if it did. What it does take in the public and private sectors is leadership. Leadership that has vision and is willing to do whatever it takes to provide its clients with an experience and/or product that they want more of, not less. Leadership that inspires others, both within a company and within an industry, to raise their games and be better. It's largely what this country is built on. I think most of us either live this or at least fully understand and appreciate it.

Churchill Downs is a publicly traded company, and that, in and of itself, is not an issue. Churchill Downs is a very important player in the industry. They are stewards of two of the most important race days our sport offers each year. Two incredibly visible worldwide race days that can and absolutely should represent everything that makes this amazing sport what it is today. In some ways, they do shine a proper light on our sport for these 48 hours and should be commended for the constant reinvestment that takes place. In other ways, they fail pretty spectacularly for all the reasons we know all too well.

Churchill Downs, a storied brand in our industry and a high visibility player that should be setting the proper tone for the sport itself, is not playing long ball. Far from it, in my opinion. That is the real issue. Everything else, from purses to engagement with industry participants to fan experiences, follows. Can it change and what would it take to embrace a larger role as a high-profile industry leader? That's unclear, but I do know we must have Churchill Downs in this role. Can you imagine for a moment if Augusta National adopted a similar mentality to Churchill for its presentation of The Masters? I can't, either.

Rick Dawson, Owner, Rich Strike

In the weeks leading up to Kentucky Derby #148 in 2022, and even after Rich Strike was fortunate enough to make it into the race at the last minute, the value of the purse never entered my mind. Not once.

Winning the most prestigious horse race in the world, in my opinion, was more gratifying than any purse amount.

As for Rich Strike, he's returning to full training with Bill Mott in the next couple of weeks. GO RICHIE!

Larry Kerr, Fan and Gambler, Miami, Florida

Why would anyone be surprised that Churchill Downs Inc.(CDI) has not raised the Kentucky Derby purse in years, that said purse is woefully inadequate and that CDI does not seem to really care, as they know they will get a full starting gate year after year?

After all, this is the same corporate entity that does not even allow the Daily Racing Form to be sold under the Twin Spires.

CDI could care less about what is good for the game. They only care about themselves and their shareholders.

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