01/22/2013 11:46AM

Churchill Downs: Stephen Foster Handicap gets bump back to $500,000 on 2013 spring stakes schedule


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap has had its purse restored to the $500,000 level in the most notable change on a spring stakes schedule that otherwise has received a basic status-quo treatment from Churchill Downs racing officials.

The schedule for the 2013 spring meet that begins April 27 was released Tuesday with a handful of minor changes, virtually all of them either to purses or scheduling, with the 139th Kentucky Derby on May 4 being the obvious high point. There is a net increase of $200,000 in stakes purses, with the Foster, the traditional highlight of the post-Derby segment of the meet, going from $400,000 to $500,000.

In all, nearly $7.5 million in stakes purses is to be paid this spring, led by the $2 million Derby and the $1 million Kentucky Oaks on May 3. As always, those historic events anchor a Derby week replete with major races, including two more Grade 1 races, the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and Humana Distaff on the Derby undercard. There are 24 stakes on the spring schedule, all but two of them graded.

The Foster purse was lowered for the 2012 running after having been worth a total of $561,300 in 2011. The purse had been $750,000-added for most of the period from 1998 to 2011 and never lower than $500,000-added.

Other tweaks to the purses include a raise of $25,000 for the Fleur de Lis Handicap, now $175,000; a $50,000 raise to the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile, now $250,000; a hike of $50,000 for the Eight Belles, now $150,000; and a decrease of $25,000 for the $175,000 Derby Trial, which no longer is a sponsored event, having dropped “The Cliff’s Edge” from its name.

Three “Downs After Dark” programs will be run, all of them with stakes events: April 27, opening night (Derby Trial); June 15 (Foster and three others); and June 29 (Firecracker and Bashford Manor).

A few stakes underwent minor dates switches because of how Downs After Dark cards were arranged last spring in comparison to the coming meet.

The 38-day spring meet will run mostly on a four-day (Thursday-Sunday) schedule through June 30.