May 20, 2022

Kentucky Derby purse increased to $3 million; 34 stakes scheduled for spring meet

The purse for the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4 has been increased to $3 million. Churchill Downs announced the $1 million boost on Thursday and released a 34-race stakes schedule worth a record $12.03 million.

Contested on the first Saturday every May, the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby will be worth $1.86 million to the winner. The runner-up receives $600,000 and third gets $300,000. The purse had been $2 million since 2005 and $1 million from 1996-2004.

Two other prominent races, the May 3 Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on the Kentucky Derby undercard, were also elevated. The Oaks increased by $250,000 to $1.25 million and the Turf Classic purse doubled to $1 million.

A record 18 stakes totaling $9.58 will be offered over Kentucky Derby Week, with seven stakes on Derby Day and six on Oaks Day.

Last year, the spring meet had 32 stakes worth $8.84 million. More than $30 million in total prize money is expected to be offered this year and officials attributed the significant increase in prize money to revenue from the historical racing machines at Derby City Gaming.

“Our recent investment into historical racing machines is paying immediate dividends to Kentucky horsemen,” Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said. “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.”

Four stakes received a $100,000 increase: the $600,000 Stephen Foster (G2) on June 15; and the $400,000 Distaff Turf Mile (G2), $400,000 American Turf (G2) and $400,000 Pat Day Mile (G3) on the Derby undercard.

The $500,000 Churchill Downs on Derby Day was raised to Grade 1 status and the Stephen Foster downgraded to a Grade 2 by the American Graded Stakes Committee.

The Stephen Foster highlights a June 15 “Downs After Dark” program that features five stakes. The Foster will no longer be run under handicap conditions as well as the $250,000 Fleur de Lis (G2) on June 15, $100,000 Mint Julep (G3) on June 8 and $100,000 Louisville (G3) on May 18.

A pair of $90,000 overnight stakes, the Champions Day Marathon on April 30 and Mamzelle on May 11, were added to the spring meet schedule.