A Kentucky Horse Racing Commission committee on Tuesday approved transferring $300,000 in state-bred purse supplements from Kentucky Downs to Ellis Park for the Henderson track's 2017 summer meet.
The action of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund advisory committee, which must get final approval from the KHRC, paves the way for a total package of $1.65 million in purses and KTDF funding to go from Kentucky Downs to Ellis this year. That would allow Kentucky-bred horses competing in Ellis' maiden races to run for a record $40,000, of which $16,000 will be derived from the KTDF. The KTDF program supplements purses for registered Kentucky-breds, those horses foaled in the commonwealth and sired by a Kentucky stallion.
The other $1.35 million that makes up the $1.65 million total package will go from Kentucky Downs to Ellis Park under an agreement with the two tracks and with the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association.
Kentucky Downs provided Ellis with $1.35 million last year, a move that allowed Ellis to beef up its purses and keep horses in the state that otherwise might have run during the summer in New York, Indiana, New Jersey or Illinois. The funding comes from Kentucky Downs' astronomically successful historical horse racing terminals, which utilize parimutuel technology to provide patrons another gambling option. Ellis Park also has historical horse racing, this year switching to the same Exacta Systems operator used by Kentucky Downs.
“The plan is to keep more horses here in the region and to keep the Kentucky circuit growing,” said Ellis Park racing secretary Dan Bork. “We made a step forward last year. Now we want to build on that, keep the momentum going.”
“This historic transfer of KTDF and purse monies from Kentucky Downs to Ellis Park represents a cooperative effort which will greatly benefit the Kentucky racing and breeding industries,” said Corey Johnsen, Kentucky Downs' president and part-owner. “Last year's transfer was very successful, and it should reap greater dividends this summer. With the continuing growth of historical horse racing and the sharing of purse money, we are able to keep more race horses in the state and create more value for Kentucky-breds. Kentucky Downs is proud to be part of that effort.”
Ten years ago, the purse for an Ellis maiden race was $20,500, including KTDF.
“Kentucky is really on the upswing, and Kentucky Downs, historical horse racing and the excellent working relationship we have are a key catalyst,” said Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky HBPA. “Ellis' purses will be among the best in the country that time of the year outside of Saratoga and Del Mar. Owners and trainers increasingly are seeing the benefits of staying home during the summer to develop their young horses and race over a good, safe track. That creates and keeps jobs in the state.”
Bork said the extra KTDF funds will boost first-level allowance races to $41,000 and second-level allowance races $42,000 for Kentucky-breds. Overall, Ellis Park will offer an average of $210,000 a day in purses after paying out just under $200,000 a day in 2016.
The track on the Ohio River between Henderson, Ky., and Evansville also is bringing back the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante for 2-year-old fillies the first time since 2008.
With a five-date meet in September, Kentucky Downs offers the most lucrative purses for maiden and allowance races in North America. Kentucky Downs and Ellis have a strategic partnership, including Kentucky Downs overseeing the distribution and marketing of Ellis' simulcast signal. As part of the purse arrangement, Ellis for the second year has given the Saturday of Labor Day weekend to Kentucky Downs for its opening card. Ellis runs July 1 through Sept. 4, racing Fridays through Sundays, plus July 3, July 4 and Labor Day. Kentucky Downs' all-grass meet runs Sept. 2, 7, 9, 10 and 14.
Correction: A previous version of this press release suggested the advisory committee recommended the entire $1.65 million transfer. The advisory committee's only authority and action was to recommend $300,000 in KTDF money.
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