The 2016 Ohio Derby will once again offer a purse of $500,000, but will increase the distance it is run to 1 1/8th. For the past six seasons, the major race of Thistledown Racecourse in North Randall has run the derby at a distance of 1 1/16.
Patrick Ellsworth, racing secretary for ThistleDown endorsed the change. “While many racetracks have shortened their stakes races to attract a higher number of horses, a longer race tends to attract the best of the best. The longer distance will raise the quality of horses in the 2016 running, many of which will go on to compete in other signature races.”
In 2014, the Ohio Derby was demoted from a graded stakes race to a listed stakes race. Ellsworth and his team are doing everything they can to reinvigorate the value of the race, and elevate its status. Luring high caliber competition is the very first step.
That began to happen just last year when 54 nominations were submitted for the 8-post race. Amongst those entries were horses such as Mr. Z, who won the race by a nose at the wire over second place Tecendar.
“Last year’s enhanced purse attracted an extraordinary stable of horses, and we expect the Ohio Derby to be even better this year as word has spread throughout the industry that this race is back on the map.”
Increasing the distance of the 2016 Ohio Derby is a bold move but it’s a necessary step if the race’s management team has sincere desires to improve the stature of the race back to the GR3 level it had maintained from 1993 thru 2013, with an exception in 2008 when it was listed as a GR2 stakes race.
The Ohio Derby has also served as a logical race for Kentucky Derby entrants who do not end up following through with the rest of the Triple Crown races. The 1 1/4 mile Kentucky Derby precedes the Ohio Derby by over six weeks, giving plenty of time for rest, travel and breezing for some well-known horses. Undoubtedly, this is part of the strategy that the Ohio Derby is taking to lure some more well-known nominations to North Randall in 2016.