The 2020 stakes purses were reduced to keep overnight purses at their 2019 level. The purse cut to the Indiana Derby (G3) would drop from $500,000 to $300,000 is among the changes to an amended stakes schedule and revised condition book released by Indiana Grand on May 19.
The Indian Grand, which was scheduled to open April 14 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, revised 2020 schedule is to run a 94-day meet beginning June 15 and finishing Nov. 18, featuring 34 stakes worth $3.2 million in purses. The 2020 racing program was originally scheduled for 120 days of racing with 37 Thoroughbred stakes totaling record purses of $4.65 million.
The reduction to stakes purses allowed the track to maintain overnight purses at their 2019 level, the track said in a release. Both the stakes schedule and condition book are contingent on the approval of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission.
Both the Indiana Derby and Indiana Oaks (G3) will be moved up a few days to July 8 as part of a six-stakes card, spotted on a Wednesday to gain exposure in the wagering marketplace. The Indiana Oaks will retain its original $200,000 purse, and the Indiana Derby will be extended to 1 1/8 miles from 1 1/16 miles.
The Indiana Derby is a part of an updated Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the qualifying system used by Churchill Downs, though its points are relatively low, offered on a 20-8-4-2 scale to its top four finishers. Compared with other Grade 3 or ungraded races that are a part of the series this summer, that is in line with the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park and Los Alamitos Derby (G3) at Los Alamitos Race Course, but less than Churchill’s Matt Winn Stakes (G3), the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar, and the ungraded Ellis Park Derby, all of which are qualifiers on a 50-20-10-5 basis for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). Those five stakes all have smaller purses than the Indiana Derby based on announced 2020 schedules or their 2019 levels.
The Indiana Oaks also provides points on a 20-8-4-2 scale toward the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs Sept. 4. Included on the stakes schedule is the newly named Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial Stakes. The race, named in honor of the longtime and very popular general manager of Indiana Grand, will be a turf event on the stakes rich July 8 card. In addition, the Indiana-bred and -sired horses will have plenty of chances to run for stakes quality purses as 28 of the stakes will be designated for their program.
“These unprecedented times have given us many challenges yet some opportunities as well.” said Eric Halstrom, vice president and general manager of racing at Indiana Grand. “We’re grateful to Churchill Downs for including our signature stakes in the Kentucky Derby qualifying points system in this unique year. And while it will be a different on-track experience when holding the race on a Wednesday afternoon we think it’s the best spot to avoid conflict with other important 3-year old races and maximize handle opportunities on the national racing scene.”
“We had to make some tweaks to the previously released stakes calendar in order to account for the condensed meet and interruption in our business,” said Kevin Greely, director of racing. “But we’re happy to bring back our overnight races at 2019 levels and only needed slight modifications to the stakes program to do so. We’ll see how some of these changes fare in 2020 and use that as a basis for our overnight and stakes program in 2021.”