Grade I Stephen Foster gets purse boost for Churchill Spring Meet

The 139th annual runnings of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby,  the opening leg of racing’s elusive Triple Crown, and the $1 million Kentucky Oaks, the nation’s premiere race for 3-year-old fillies, top a schedule of 24 stakes races carrying total purses of $7.475 million that will be featured during Churchill Downs’ 2013 Spring Meet that opens April 28 and runs through June 30.

 

The purses are up slightly compared to the 24 races totaling $7.275 million during the 2012 Spring Meet schedule. The Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap, captured last year by recent Sunshine Millions Classic winner Ron the Greek, had its purse bolstered to $500,000-added, up from $400,000-added last season.

 

In addition to the 1 1/8-miles Stephen Foster, other Grade I races on the Spring Meet roster include the $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, a Kentucky Derby Day event for 4-year-olds & up at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course; and the $300,000-added Humana Distaff, for fillies and mares ages 4 & up at seven furlongs that is also a Derby Day fixture.

 

Churchill Downs will continue its emphasis on “big event” days that feature several stakes events. Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, May 4 will offer six stakes races and total purses of $3.575 million. Six stakes races also are set for Kentucky Oaks Day on Friday, May 5.  The purse total for the half-dozen Oaks Day races is $2.1 million.

 

Three additional stakes races will support the Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday, June 15 when that multi-race program will be run under the Churchill Downs lights as a “Downs After Dark” night racing spectacular for the second consecutive year.  And two stakes events will highlight the final Saturday of Spring Meet racing on June 29, also a “Downs After Dark” night racing celebration, on the eve of the meet’s closing day.

 

The 2013 Spring Meet stakes had purses for five races adjusted. In addition to upping the Stephen Foster, those changes include:

 

  • The purse for the Grade II Fleur De Lis  for fillies and mares ages 3 & up was raised by $25,000 to $175,000-added;
  • A $50,000 boost to the purse of the Grade II Churchill Distaff Turf Mile  raised the value of that one-mile Kentucky Derby Day turf race to $250,000-added;
  • The Grade III Eight Belles, a Kentucky Oaks Day event for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, now has a purse of $150,000-added following a purse hike of $50,000;
  • The purse for the meet-opening Grade III Derby Trial, the final event on the new “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points system that will determine eligibility to compete in Kentucky Derby 139, will be $175,000-added, a decrease of $25,000 from 2012.  The name of the race has reverted to the traditional Derby Trial following the conclusion of a sponsorship agreement.

“Our Spring Meet stakes races at Churchill Downs in 2012 were memorable in terms of the high quality of their fields, the impressive success throughout the year for horses that participated in those races and the drama that played out on the track when those races were run,” said Ben Huffman, Churchill Downs Racing Secretary.  “Particularly pleasing was the response by horsemen and our fans to our first nighttime Stephen Foster Handicap multi-stakes event, and we’ll be back under the lights with that terrific program this year.

 

“We’re happy to have been able to boost some purses for 2013, including restoration of $100,000 to the Stephen Foster purse, and are excited to offer some wonderful opportunities to owners and trainers to bring their horses to Churchill Downs to compete in a diverse schedule of high-quality, tradition-rich races set for our 2013 Spring Meet.”

Twenty-two of the 24 Spring Meet stakes races are graded stakes events.  The two listed stakes races are the $100,000-added Debutante, a six-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies set for Saturday, June 22.  The Debutante was a Grade III race in 2012, but was downgraded by the American Graded Stakes Committee to listed status for 2013.  The $150,000-added Edgewood, a Kentucky Oaks Day race for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on turf, is also a listed stakes race.

There will be no surface, distance or basic name changes for races on the 2013 Spring Meet schedule.

The 2012 renewals of each of the Grade I races set for Churchill Downs’ 2013 Spring Meet had a significant impact on the Eclipse Awards presented over the weekend to last year’s top American racing stars.  All three finalists for “Horse of the Year” competed in major events beneath the historic Twin Spires in 2012.  The victorious Wise Dan suffered his only 2012 defeat in a narrow loss in the Stephen Foster Handicap.  The other finalists were 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another and Fort Larned, who was eighth in the Foster and runner-up in Churchill Downs’ Grade II Alysheba.

Wise Dan also earned Eclipse Award honors as top older male and male turf horse.  Fort Larned and Little Mike, winner of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, were finalists in the older male division, and Little Mike was a turf male finalist.

I’ll Have Another was honored as the top- 3-year-old of 2012 while Groupie Doll, winner of the 2012 Humana Distaff, was honored with the Eclipse Award for female sprinter.  She also was a finalist for the award for top older female won by Royal Delta, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner who scored a victory in Churchill Downs’ Fleur De Lis during her championship campaign.