06/10/2003 11:00PM

Churchill raises purses

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Purses for overnight races during the final 15-day stretch of the Churchill Downs spring meet are being raised 10 percent, a hike that will average an additional $31,773 per program.

Track officials attributed the raise primarily to a substantial increase in wagering on Churchill's exported simulcasts.

Through last week, ontrack wagering (including imported simulcasts) had averaged just over $2.2 million, an increase of less than 1 percent over corresponding dates at the 2002 spring meet. Meanwhile, wagering from outside sources on Churchill racing has averaged over $12.2 million per day, an increase of 20 percent. Wagering on the 12-race Derby Day card surpassed $140 million, an all-time high and an increase of nearly 14 percent from last year.

The purse increase, which is only the third at the track since 1998, goes into effect Wednesday and runs through July 6, the end of the 52-day meet. All races except stakes are affected.