02/04/2015 3:44PM

Ohio Derby, overnight purses get boosts for 2015


The Ohio Derby has received a $200,000 boost to a record $500,000 and moved a month earlier on the calendar at ThistleDown in suburban Cleveland.

The Ohio track, which launches its 100-day meet April 27, also intends to raise average daily overnight purses nearly 20 percent.

The 81st Ohio Derby will be contested at 1 1/16 miles on June 20. Last summer, the race for 3-year-olds was held on July 19. The Ohio Derby had long been a Grade 2 race, but was downgraded to a Grade 3 event in 2010 and lost its graded status in 2014.

Just two years ago, the Ohio Derby carried a purse of $100,000. At its peak between 2004 and 2006, it was worth $350,000.

“We are thrilled with the purse increase for the Ohio Derby. The added money will go a long way in attracting some of the best3-year-olds in the country,” said Patrick Ellsworth, racing secretary at ThistleDown.

The new date on the calendar positions the Ohio Derby between the last leg of the Triple Crown in early June and the series of late-summer stakes for 3-year-olds.

Daily purses at ThistleDown will reach a new average high of $130,000 for 2015, an 18 percent increase from last year’s level of $111,000. The new level is close to double what Ohio’s two other Thoroughbred tracks offer.

Belterra Park in Cincinnati, which began its 2014 meet averaging $80,000 in daily purses, cut purses to $64,000 in August. Mahoning Valley Race Course near Youngstown is averaging about $67,000 at its current meet.

“Since the addition of VLTs nearly two years ago, the quality of racing at ThistleDown has improved significantly,” Ellsworth said. “The horsemen continue to enhance their stables and their reward is higher purse payouts. It’s a sign of the upward trend in Thoroughbred racing in Ohio.”