Never ones to be outdone, the organizers of the Kentucky Derby are increasing the purse of America’s most famous thoroughbred race to $5 million, placing it just behind the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic as one of the richest races run in the country.

Last year’s Run for the Roses, the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, was contested for $3 million, the biggest prize of any race in the series.

Churchill Downs Inc., owners of the historic Louisville track where the race has been run since 1875, also increased the purse of the Kentucky Oaks, held the Friday before the Derby for 3-year-old fillies, to $1.5 million.

“These record purse increases are a symbol of the health of horse racing in Kentucky,” Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Inc., said in a statement. “Churchill Downs Incorporated’s over $1 billion investment into live and historical horse racing in Kentucky over the last five years has meaningfully strengthened the entire Kentucky Derby Week and year round racing program.”

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The Derby purse was $3 million from 2019-23, $2 million from 2005-18 and $1 million from 1996-2004, the company said.

Last month, the New York Racing Association announced the purse of the Belmont Stakes, the Triple Crown’s third and final leg, would increase from $1.5 million to $2 million.

As Belmont Park undergoes a multimillion-dollar renovation project, the race will be moved to Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York, for 2024 and, as a result, be contested at 1 1/4 miles instead of the usual 1 1/2 miles.

The Preakness Stakes, the middle leg of the Triple Crown run every third Saturday in May at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, was run for $1.65 million in 2019, 2022 and 2023. The amount was decreased in 2020 and 2021, when the race was held with no fans and capacity restrictions, respectively, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, the purse was bumped from $1 million to $1.5 million in December 2013.

Representatives of 1/ST Racing and Gaming, owners of Pimlico, did not answer a reporter’s question about whether they will follow suit and increase the Preakness purse.

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“The announcement from Churchill Downs that the Kentucky Derby will feature an increased purse is good news for the industry overall,” 1/ST CEO Aidan Butler said in a statement. “We look forward to another exciting 2024 Triple Crown Series.”

Churchill Downs’ announcement comes days after an “agreement in principle” was announced that would create significant changes for horse racing in Maryland, including Preakness.

Under that framework, 1/ST would donate Pimlico to the state and a newly created nonprofit entity would run day-to-day operations. The grandstand and clubhouse, which are badly in need of repairs, would be torn down, and a newly constructed Pimlico would serve as Maryland’s primary thoroughbred track.

One proposal would rotate the track and reorient the site so it’s more connected with the surrounding neighborhoods.

1/ST would retain ownership of Preakness and license it to the state.

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Laurel Park, meanwhile, would be available for redevelopment. A separate facility would need to be constructed to house hundreds of horses and provide a space for them to train.

This year’s Preakness is set for May 18.

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