Ellis Park to offer average $330K/day in purses; Nine of 11 stakes worth at least $100K
Horsemen: Ellis Park’s Condition Book 1 will be available on Equibase.com (click on link below and then click on Ellis Park) later today or first thing in the morning.
HENDERSON, Ky. (Thursday, May 23, 2019) — Ellis Park will offer the highest purses in the track’s 97-year history at its 2019 summer race meet, including a record nine stakes that could be worth at least $100,000 each.
Purse money and supplements for Kentucky-bred horses are projected to average $330,000 a day at the 29-date meet that runs June 30 through Labor Day. That’s more than double the $155,000 average-daily purses offered only four years ago.
Included are five turf stakes Aug. 4 on the second annual Kentucky Downs Preview Day, largely funded with purse money transferred from Kentucky Downs to Ellis Park in an agreement with the Kentucky division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents racehorse owners and trainers at the commonwealth’s five thoroughbred tracks. Also included in the stakes from funds generated at Kentucky Downs are purse enhancements from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund, a transfer that required approval of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission upon recommendation of its KTDF advisory committee.
Ellis Park’s Kentucky Downs Preview Day made a rousing debut last year with a stakes quartet and this year adds the $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Sprint.
Every stakes at the upcoming meet will include a $25,000 boost from the KTDF — money earmarked for horses born and sired by stallions in the commonwealth — with the exception of the Kentucky Downs Preview races, which already had the KTDF factored in.
With the KTDF bump, the meet’s signature Groupie Doll Stakes for fillies and mares on Aug. 11 will be worth $125,000, the Ellis Park Derby on the Aug. 11 undercard goes to $100,000 and the Aug. 18 Ellis Park Debutante and Juvenile will be $100,000 apiece. In addition to the nine stakes worth six figures, the July 7 Ellis Park Turf for fillies and mares and the July 21 Good Lord Stakes for sprinters jump up to $75,000.
“We have made purse increases across the board, including our maiden races going up from $42,000 to $50,000 for Kentucky-breds, which are the vast majority of our horses,” said racing secretary Dan Bork. “We understand that to keep horse owners in the game, they have to have at least a shot to make money or break even, whether they have stakes horses or those racing at the bottom level.
“Kentucky horse racing is back on an upward trajectory, and Ellis Park is an important cog. We are not Saratoga or Del Mar. But given how much cheaper it is to live, train and race in Kentucky, our horsemen are increasingly staying home and enjoying Ellis’ tranquil environment and nice, safe surface for training, racing and developing young horses. The results speak for themselves with horses such as Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress and Preakness runner-up Everfast coming out of our 2-year-old program last summer.”
More than $5 million will be transferred to Ellis Park’s purse account from Kentucky Downs, including $2.264 million in KTDF supplements.
“Thanks to our relationship with Kentucky Downs and the Kentucky HBPA and working with the racing commission and its KTDF advisory committee, Ellis Park is in even stronger position to keep racehorses — and their accompanying jobs — in the commonwealth throughout the summer and into the fall,” said Ellis Park general manager Jeff Hall. “The secret is out that Ellis Park is the cost-effective place to race in the summer, whether you are stabled at Ellis or shipping in from Churchill Downs or one of the region’s training centers.
“It shows how much we can accomplish working together. Ellis Park appreciates how our sister tracks have helped boost us to unprecedented quality of racing with purse money from Kentucky Downs and Churchill providing summer stabling for many of the horses who run with us.”
In addition to Serengeti Empress winning the 2018 Ellis Park Debutante and Everfast making his racing debut at Ellis last summer, the track’s 2-year-old program helped launch the winners of Keeneland’s Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (Knicks Go) and Grade 3 Stonestreet Lexington (Owendale), $2.5 million UAE Derby (Plus Que Parfait), Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks (Champagne Anyone) and Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks (Street Band). Owendale finished third in last Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, a nose behind Everfast.
“We are so proud of the strides Ellis Park has made and how the horsemen have stepped up to the plate to support summer racing in Kentucky,” said Kentucky HBPA executive director Marty Maline. “People forget the downward slope Kentucky racing was on just a few years ago. What Kentucky Downs does for Ellis Park, in conjunction with the horsemen, is unparalleled in horse racing. Churchill also plays a key role by being open for stabling. Ellis’ increased strength in turn helps the fall meets in Kentucky. Truly the results for Kentucky racing with the spirit of cooperation are greater than the sum of the parts.”
Kentucky Downs Preview Day offers the summer’s biggest day of turf racing in the Midwest outside Chicago’s Arlington Million Day. The Ellis event is designed to provide launching pads to the corresponding stakes at Kentucky Downs’ all-grass meet held Aug. 31 and Sept. 5, 7, 8 and 12. The event was created last year with the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Downs Preview Calumet Farm Turf Cup, Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf at a mile, Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile and Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint at 5 1/2 furlongs.
“We have changed ownership, but our new managing partners Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone embrace Kentucky Downs’ commitment to lending a hand to Ellis Park to help the entire circuit prosper,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager.
“The first Kentucky Downs Preview Day at Ellis Park was a huge hit and filled a void in the Midwest stakes schedule. We loved seeing Arklow win the Kentucky Downs Preview stakes at Ellis Park and then our Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Downs Turf Cup on his way to finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. We look for this year’s Preview Day to further blossom while providing important stakes opportunities for our horsemen.”
All the stakes will be held on Sundays to provide the most exposure in the simulcast market and to minimize conflicts with Ellis Park’s leading jockeys having out-of-town riding engagements.
Ellis Park’s 2019 stakes schedule
(Includes $25,000 KTDF supplements)
July 7 — $75,000 Ellis Park Turf, fillies & mares 3yo & up, 1 1/16 miles (grass). July 21 — $75,000 Good Lord, 3yo & up, 6 1/2 furlongs. Aug. 4 — $100,00 Kentucky Downs Preview Calumet Farm Turf Cup, 3yo & up, 1 1/4 miles (grass); $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf, fillies & mares 3yo & up, mile (grass); $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile, 3yo & up, mile (grass); $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint, 3yo & up, 5 1/2 furlongs (grass); $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Sprint, fillies & mares 3yo & up, 5 1/2 furlongs (grass). Aug. 11 — $100,000 Ellis Park Derby, 3yos, mile; $125,000 Groupie Doll, fillies & mares, 3yo & up, mile. Aug. 18 — $100,000 Ellis Park Debutante, 2yo fillies, 7 furlongs; $100,000 Ellis Park Juvenile, 2yos, 7 furlong