The busy spring racing season is just around the corner. On Thursday, we received yet another reason to look forward to the turn of the calendar. Churchill Downs has announced a record-setting stakes schedule for its upcoming Spring Meet.
The 38-day meet kicks off on April 25 and runs through June 27. Churchill has revealed that seven new stakes races will debut over the nine-week event. That pushes the total to a whopping 41 stakes races over the course of the meet.
The host has also kicked things up a notch for 13 of the stakes races already on the docket. Purses have been raised in the range of $25,000 to $100,000 for each of them.
In a release, Kevin Flannery, Churchill Downs Racetrack President, shared some thoughts on the plans and what inspired the changes.
“We’ve meaningfully raised purses in the last year and the results were an extremely competitive racing product with more entries and high-quality horses that appealed to bettors nationwide,” Flannery said. “We believe this exciting new ‘big event’ series created by our racing team will help keep the momentum moving forward and be embraced around the country by both horsemen and horseplayers alike.”
Let’s take a look at what that means for three of the biggest days of the Churchill Spring Meet.
Kentucky Derby Day, Saturday, May 2
Seven stakes races are on tap for the most anticipated racing day of the year, highlighted by the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) which is run over 1 1/4 miles. Here are the other stakes races on the card.
$1 million Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1)
$500,000 Derby City Distaff (G1)
$500,000 Churchill Downs (G1)
$500,000 Pat Day Mile presented by LG&E and KU (G2)
$500,000 Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2)
$500,000 American Turf (G2)
The day before the derby, Churchill plays host to the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks, a G1 stakes race that’s run over 1 1/8 miles for three-year-old filles. There will be six stakes races in total on Friday, May 1 with a total purse of $3 million.
For Derby Week as a whole, which runs from April 25 through May 2, there will be a total of 18 stakes races with a cumulative purse of $10.18 million.
Stephen Foster Preview Night, Saturday, May 30
This is a new event for Churchill that will be contested under the lights. The first race is slated for 6 PM ET. There will be a total of seven stakes races with a combined purse of $975,000.
$150,000 Matt Winn
$100,000 Douglas Park Overnight Stakes
This event is part of the Downs after Dark series presented by Budweiser. Other events in the series will take place on Saturday, June 13 and during the fall meet on Saturday, September 19.
Closing Day, Saturday, June 27
The last day of the spring meet will be highlighted by the Stephen Foster (G2), which features a prize pool of $700,000 and is contested over 1 1/8 miles. Six other stakes races will fill out what looks like an exciting card.
$300,000 Wise Dan
$300,000 Fleur de Lis
$150,000 War Chant
$125,000 Bashford Manor
Post time for the first race of closing day is set for 12:45 PM ET. Add it all up, and it looks like this year’s Churchill Downs Spring Meet will be even more action-packed than usual.