The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2019 will be the richest in history as the purse for the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown has been elevated to a guaranteed $3 million.

Churchill Downs announced this past week that the winner of the winner will now receive $1.86 million. The runner-up will earn $600,000, with third place worth $300,000, fourth place $150,000 and fifth place $90,000.

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Kentucky Derby guaranteed purse, since 1982

Years             Purse
2019              $3 million
2005-2018     $2 million
1996-2004     $1 million
1991-1995     $500,000
1986-1990     $350,000
1982-1985     $250,000

top 10 horses vying for the kentucky derby - racehorse meds

Last year, second and third legs of the Triple Crown – the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes – each offered guaranteed purses of $1.5 million.

To earn a spot in the Derby starting gate, horses must qualify through a series of races at tracks across the globe, called the “Road to the Kentucky Derby.”

Qualifying points are awarded to the top-four finishers in each race. The 20 horses with the most points will earn a starting position. The next big race for Derby qualifiers is Smarty Jones, held on Jan. 25 at Oaklawn Park.

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In addition to the Kentucky Derby purse being increased, 15 of the Churchill Downs’ 2019 Spring Meet races also received significant purse hikes, including the Old Forester Turf Classic (GI), Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) and Humana Distaff (GI).

The purse for the Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on May 3 was raised by $250,000 to $1.25 million. It had been worth $1 million since 2011 and was worth $500,000 from 1996 to 2010, according to ESPN.

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