Keeneland's First Million Dollar Stake: Shadwell Turf Mile

Molly Jo Rosen

August 7th, 2014

by Molly Jo Rosen

It was recently announced that Keeneland has increased the purse of the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile will now be one million dollars. Sponsored by Shadwell Farm since 1999, the already-prestigious event becomes the Lexington, Kentucky track's first stake worth $1 million and will rank as one of North America’s richest races held at a mile on the turf.

I had a chance to catch up with longtime Keeneland track announcer Kurt Becker to talk about what this means for racing and for him...
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MJR: How cool is it that the Shadwell is now a $1mil purse?

KB: It is a significant milestone to see Keeneland host a million-dollar event, even though we have all seen seven- and even eight-digit prices light up the bid board in the auction arena at Keeneland through the years. Thus, while the figure isn't new to Keeneland, it is new to this particular aspect of Keeneland and therefore a noteworthy happening.

MJR:  You've called plenty of NASCAR for the Motor Racing Network, but have you ever called a million dollar Thoroughbred race?

KB: I called two editions of the Arlington Million and two editions of the Kentucky Derby, with each boasting a million-dollar purse. That said, I haven't called such a race in 16 years.


MJR: Does it change how you prep/call when you know the purse is bigger?

KB: My prep changes on the basis of Grade I status more so than the purse for a given event. No matter how much people want to debate it, the fact remains that G1 status is what fuels the top level of the industry. Anyone who doesn't understand that either doesn't understand the game or has never attended an auction. Thus, for any G1 event I call, my prep work will be considerably more detailed, as those race calls have far more potential to be scrutinized than a 10-claimer on a Wednesday afternoon. One always makes the same level of effort in calling the race itself, but the prep time for a G1 is much more extensive.

MJR: Do you think the purse upgrade will attract a different caliber of horse, Euros even?

KB: I'm uncertain how much the purse offering has to do with recruiting entries for the Shadwell Turf Mile as the perception in recent years that one has to face the reigning Horse of the Year on what is literally his home turf. Shadwell has given us a great example, though, of the commitment Keeneland's family of sponsors brings to the table, and whenever that is the case, the other details will take care of themselves.

Recent Shadwell Turf Mile Wins

Wise Dan in 2012

Gio Ponti in 2010

Silver Max wins the 2013 edition in the pouring rain

Court Vision in 2009

Thorn Song in 2008

Purim in 2007