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Tuesday, January 4
Winner's share at least $1.24M



LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Churchill Downs doubled the size of the Kentucky Derby's purse Tuesday, increasing the total prize for the first leg of horse racing's Triple Crown to $2 million.

The winner's share of the May 7 race will account for 62 percent of the guaranteed purse, or at least $1.24 million. The purse for the Derby has been $1 million guaranteed since 1996.

"We just felt it was time to increase it to $2 million and show our commitment to what the Derby really is -- not only tradition but the purse level," track president Steve Sexton said.

Aristides, who won the first Derby in 1875, took home $2,850.

Churchill Downs will provide a minimum of $1.1 million of the $2 million purse. To help pay for the higher purse, the track reallocated $375,000 from purses for other stakes races -- including scratching one race, the Kentucky Breeders' Cup for 2-year-olds -- and raised entry and start fees for the Derby to $25,000 from $15,000.

Sexton said the $2 million guaranteed purse makes the Derby the country's richest race for 3-year-olds -- and ranks it among the nation's most lucrative races.

The Breeders' Cup Classic, with a $4 million guaranteed purse, is the nation's richest race, followed by three races offering $2 million guaranteed each -- the Derby, the Breeders' Cup Turf and Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Churchill Downs also changed its distribution of Derby purse money to include the race's top five finishers. Purse money previously was paid only to the top four finishers.

Under the new purse, the second-place finisher will receive a 20 percent share, or at least $400,000; third place will receive 10 percent, or least $200,000; fourth place will get 5 percent, or at least $100,000; and fifth place will get 3 percent, or at least $60,000.

Sexton said the higher Derby purse won't affect purses for races in the spring and fall meets. The track said that its daily purses averaged $471,283 in 2004 and that it expects those purses to average around $480,000 per day this year.



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