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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Illinois Derby Date Moved, Purse Hiked

1/30/2013

By Dick Downey
@DowneyProfile


Responding to a request from Hawthorne Race Course, the Illinois Racing Board approved a purse hike of the Grade III Illinois Derby from $500,000 to $750,000.

The race, which is not a part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series newly implemented for the 2013 Derby, was moved from the first to third Saturday in April. Under the previous schedule, it would have been run the same day as the Grade I Santa Anita Derby and Grade I Wood Memorial. Now it will coincide with the Grade III Coolmore Lexington Stakes.

"We feel that is the perfect time-frame," Hawthorne President Tim Carey said. "It's after the Wood Memorial, the Santa Anita Derby and the Florida Derby. We think it will draw horses who have not made the cut for the Kentucky Derby and those looking toward the Preakness and Belmont."

Carey said he wants to turn the race into a stand-alone event.

"We're going to brand it as Chicago's race, and we're looking to get sponsorship so we can increase the purse even more," he said.

Churchill Downs had been using graded stakes earnings as the measuring stick for entry into the Kentucky Derby for several decades. In modern times, the winner of the Illinois Derby earned $300,000 and was a shoo-in for a starting spot in Louisville. War Emblem, winner of the 2003 Illinois Derby, won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Last year, the home of the Kentucky Derby announced a new points system that excludes this year's Illinois Derby.

"We felt it was imperative that we do something," said Carey.

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