Churchill Downs has significantly raised the stakes for this year’s Kentucky Derby, offering up a $3 million purse for its signature event, $1 million more than last year’s total and double the prize offered in the other two legs of the Triple Crown.
The move makes the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4 the richest in the classic contest’s history.
Churchill credited the significant increases in stakes prize money to early returns from the historical racing machines at Derby City Gaming, its $65 million facility that opened on the site of its training center, the former Louisville Downs track. It has helped Churchill pump more than $10 million more into its spring purses in its initial year of operation.
“Our recent investment into historical racing machines is paying immediate dividends to Kentucky horsemen,” said Churchill Downs racetrack president Kevin Flanery in a press release. “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.”
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The Derby winner will receive $1.86 million with $600,000 awarded to the runner-up, $300,000 to third, $150,000 to fourth and $90,000 to fifth. The Derby purse had been worth $2 million since 2005, and was $1 million from 1996-2004. Purses for the 2018 Preakness and Belmont Stakes were each $1.5 million.
Churchill also announced purse increases across its record 34-race stakes schedule cumulatively worth $12.03 million for the Spring Meet. The meet runs over 38 dates from April 27 to June 29.
The Kentucky Oaks — the Derby’s sister race staged one day prior on May 3 — received a $250,000 boost to $1.25 million and remains the nation’s most lucrative race for 3-year-old fillies. It had been worth $1 million since 2011, and was worth $500,000 from 1996-2010.