02/25/2010 1:00AM

Ohio Derby distance, date, purse changed


Ohio's only graded stakes, the Ohio Derby, has been repositioned on the calendar this year and will be run at a new distance for a reduced purse.

The Ohio Derby will be run on July 31, with a $100,000 purse at 1 1/16 miles. As recently as 2008, the Ohio Derby offered a $300,000 purse and was held in either late June or early July. The Ohio Derby has been run at 1 1/8 miles since 1965.

Last year, the Ohio Derby came close to not being run at all. It was dropped from the Thistledown stakes schedule but was later reinstated at the insistence of the Ohio Racing Commission. The race was run Oct. 3 with a $150,000 purse and was won by the Shug McGaughey-trained Gone Astray.

The Ohio Derby was downgraded from a Grade 2 to a Grade 3 last fall by the American Graded Stakes Committee.

"By shortening the race we might be able to recruit more horses," said Bill Couch, Thistledown's director of racing. "While the distance change doesn't seem like a major change, it will be to some horsmen. Positioning the race in late July allows us to steer clear of derbys in other states."

This year's Thistledown stakes schedule will also include 16 Ohio-bred stakes, including the Best of Ohio Series on Oct. 2. Including the Ohio Derby, more than $1 million in stakes purses are scheduled.

Thistledown will race 122 days this season from April 23 through Nov. 6. The stable area will be open to horsemen on March 19 and, weather permitting, training will begin on March 22.