02/03/2009 12:00AM

Two stakes eliminated, 10 get trimmed


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A week after Keeneland Race Course cut stakes purses for its spring meet, Churchill Downs announced stakes purse reductions to its spring meet, which begins April 25 and continues through July 5.

Two stakes - the $100,000 Opening Verse Handicap and the $100,000 Mamzelle Stakes - were not scheduled for 2009, and 10 other stakes purses were cut, resulting in stakes purses dropping from $8.1 million in 2008 to $7.575 million for 2009.

The track's five Grade 1 races, including the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, were unaffected by the cuts.

Seven stakes - the Kentucky Stakes, Edgewood, Eight Belles (formerly the La Troienne), Louisville Handicap, Regret, Bashford Manor and Locust Grove - were dropped $50,000 apiece and will be $100,000 races. Three other stakes - the Aristides, Northern Dancer, and Firecracker - received $25,000 cuts.

"Declines in wagering caused by economic conditions and unexpected limits on distribution of our simulcast signal in 2008 provided challenges as we put this schedule together," said Churchill Downs racing secretary Ben Huffman in a statement.

This year may provide one fewer challenge after Churchill Downs and Kentucky horsemen reached a spring-meet agreement that allows the track to offer its live racing signal for distribution with national account-wagering platforms, including the Churchill Downs-owned TwinSpires.com. It was unavailable to such platforms in 2008, except for a few designated races.

Three spring stakes races have new names, most notably the Grade 3 Eight Belles, formerly known as the La Troienne, which honors the ill-fated 2008 Kentucky Derby runner-up.

Two races, the Louisville Distaff (formerly the Louisville Breeders' Cup) and Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile, received purse increases of $50,000 apiece.

Another race, the Matt Winn, will be run at a new distance, going from six furlongs to seven furlongs.