Highest Purse Levels in 5-Year History of Churchill Downs September Racing
Churchill Downs 11-day September meet concluded Oct. 1, and its 5th September meet was another success. Fueled by Strong and competitive race fields, the meet had its highest purse levels in the five-year history of September racing. Total purses paid during the meet rose to $4,692,000, an increase of 12 percent from the total of $4,189,000 in September of 2016. Both meets consisted of 109 races conducted over 11 days.
Ideal racing conditions in the comfortable autumn weather contributed to solid attendance throughout the meet that included a gathering of 15,317 for the lone “Downs After Dark” night racing session on Saturday, Sept. 23 and brisk business at the meet’s two “Twilight Thursday” celebrations of food, music and racing. The “Twilight Thursday” program on Sept. 28 attracted 5,367 patrons – the largest gathering thus far for one of the popular 5 p.m. racing programs during a September Meet.
Daily average purses and individual race purses in the just-concluded meet rose by 12 percent when compared with averages from a year earlier. Total daily purses for September 2017 averaged $427,000, while the 2016 daily average was $381,000. The average race purse climbed to $43,000, up from the 2016 average purse of $38,000.
A total of 967 horses competed in the meet’s 109 races compared to the 931 that participated in the same number of races a year earlier. The average field for a 2017 September Meet race consisted of 8.9 horses, which was up from the 2016 average of 8.5. Both averages reflected a 3.9 percent increase from the previous year’s September session.
“Our September Meet has been a joy for racing fans, handicappers and members of our Churchill Downs team since its introduction in 2013, and the meet’s continued growth in its fifth year made the 11 days of racing and entertainment very exciting and satisfying,” said Kevin Flanery, President of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “Our team and horsemen were optimistic when the meet was introduced. Over its five years, the September session has provided both a strong racing product and an entertainment option that is now a highlight of the local and regional calendar at a time of year packed with attractive entertainment and sports options.”
The results of two major stakes races for 2-year-olds carried implications for next spring’s $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), as well as the upcoming Breeders’ Cup World Championships set for Nov. 3-4 at California’s Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
The Tabulator won the $150,000 Iroquois (G3), the opening race of the 2018 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” point system. The Iroquois Stakes is also part of the Breeders’ Cup World Championship’s “Win and You’re In Juvenile Division” Challenge and the victory earned The Tabulator a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Del Mar on Nov. 4.
The $200,000 Pocahontas (G2) for 2-year-old fillies, which kicked off the 2018 “Road to the Kentucky Oaks,” saw a surprise result when Texas-bred Patrona Margarita scored a 3 ¾-length victory at odds of 23-1 for jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. and trainer Bret Calhoun. Patrona Margarita earned 10 points on the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” in her second victory in three career races at Churchill Downs.