Churchill Downs released its Spring Meet stakes schedule on Monday, led of course, by the May 1 Kentucky Derby. But, along with America’s most famous horse race, come 39 other stakes races worth a track-record $13.44 million.

Churchill Downs 2021 Meet
Everything’s coming up roses for Churchill Downs and its 2021 Spring Meet. The track is offering 40 stakes races worth a record $13.44 million in purses. (Image: Downs)

Churchill Downs opens its nine-week spring season on April 24. The 38-day meet will end on June 26.

Naturally, most of the attention at the Louisville track focuses on April 24-May 1: opening week, doubling as Derby Week. That week also features 18 stakes races worth $10.14 million.

Half of Derby Day’s 14 races are stakes events, including four Grade 1s with the $3 million Derby, the $1 million Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic, the $500,000 Churchill Downs, and the $500,000 Derby City Distaff. The Turf Classic is a 1 1/8-mile jaunt for 4-year-olds and up. The Churchill Downs is a seven-furlong sprint for 4-year-olds and up, and the Derby City Distaff sends 4-year-old and up fillies and mares seven furlongs.

Churchill Downs Key 2021 Spring/Summer Stakes Races

Race Grade Distance Eligible Horses
April 30 Kentucky Oaks 1 1 1/18 miles 3-year old fillies
April 30 La Troienne 1 1 1/16 miles 4-year olds and up fillies & mares
April 30 Alysheba 2 1 1/16 miles 4-year olds and up
May 1 Kentucky Derby 1 1 1/4 miles 3-year olds
May 1 Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic 1 1 1/8 miles (turf) 4-year olds and up
May 1 Churchill Downs 1 7 furlongs 4-year olds and up
May 1 Derby City Distaff 1 7 furlongs 4-year olds and up fillies & mares
May 1 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile 2 1 mile (turf) 4-year olds and up fillies & mares
May 1 Pat Day Mile 2 1 mile 3-year olds
May 1 American Turf 2 1 1/16 miles (turf) 3-year olds
June 26 Stephen Foster 2 1/18 miles 4-year olds and up
June 26 Fleur de Lis 2 1 /18 miles 4-year olds and up fillies & mares
June 26  Wise Dan 2 1 1/16 miles (turf) 4-year olds and up

Derby Day puts more at stake than just the Derby

Along with those four Grade 1s, Derby Day offers up three Grade 2s, including the $500,000 Pat Day Mile.

The Kentucky Oaks takes the spotlight on April 30. The $1.25 million Oaks is the year’s marquee event for 3-year-old fillies. That headlines a six-stakes day offering the Grade 1 La Troienne for older fillies and mares, along with two Grade 2s and two Grade 3s.

The Oaks is the first of Churchill Downs’ six Grade 1s on its spring slate. While all of those come during Derby Week, the meet presents 22 more stakes after Derby Day offering another $3.3 million in purses.

HHR machines make their lucrative presence felt

Headlining those is a late card with three strong Grade 2s on closing day, June 26. Those races include the $600,000 Stephen Foster, the $250,000 Fleur de Lis, and the $250,000 Wise Dan. All three are for older horses, with the Stephen Foster for males and the Fleur de Lis for fillies and mares. Both go 1 1/8 miles.

The Wise Dan sends its older males 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Those are three of seven stakes races that day. Churchill Downs officials credit historic horse racing (HHR) machines for their record purses, primarily the ones at its Derby City Gaming facility near Churchill Downs. Purses for maiden races during Derby Week are upwards of $106,000. For the rest of the meet, track officials said they will write $91,000 in maiden races.

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