Sierra Leone's Derby Earnings Will Benefit BLC

Sierra Leone | Renee Torbit/Coady

A portion of any purse money earned in the May 4 GI Kentucky Derby by Sierra Leone (Gun Runner), winner of the GI Blue Grass S. and expected to be one of the favorites for the American Classic, will benefit the Backside Learning Center (BLC)'s initiative “Purses for a Purpose.” In addition, should the 'TDN Rising Star' win the Derby, co-owner Brook Smith has promised an additional $100,000 to the BLC.

Smith, who recently joined the TDN Writers' Room, is a Louisville resident and long-time supporter of the BLC, which is a non-profit aiming to provide support and resources for racetrack workers and their families. Funds earned by Purses for a Purpose program go straight to the BLC.

“We're so fortunate to have Brook Smith advocating for the BLC's mission as we work directly with the backbone of the horseracing industry,” said BLC's Executive Director Sherry Stanley. “Now that the BLC has a horse in the Derby, we hope this gives more exposure to the community making it all happen.”

In addition to Smith, Sierra Leone, a $2.3-million yearling purchase at Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga sale in 2022, is also owned by Peter M. Brant, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Westerberg.

“I have a challenge,” said Smith. “If we can get 150 owners, and 150 horses for that matter, and they pledge to donate 1% of purse winnings with these 150 horses, that moves a bigger needle than people realize. And it means a lot, the thought that the owners think about the backside, and those who support it.”

For more information about the BLC and Purses for a Purpose, visit

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