With the elimination format, a horse must win two heats before they will be declared the winner of the Kentucky Futurity. This means heats will continue to be held until one of the horses is able to win two. In the early years of the race, it was not uncommon for the horses to race as many as four heats before the winner of the Kentucky Futurity would be determined. There have also been several occasions in which the Kentucky Futurity was only decided after the horses raced in five heats. The most heats that have been needed to determine the winner of the Kentucky Futurity was six.
Even though the Kentucky Futurity is one of the races of the harness racing Triple Crown for trotters, the purse money has not always been very substantial. In the early years of the race, the horses would often race for a total purse of less than $60,000, compared to the Hambletonian that had a purse of over $70,000 for its first running. The Red Mile has tried to improve the total purse of the Kentucky Futurity over the past few years and has begun to add money to the total purse. In the last few years, the Kentucky Futurity has been able to offer a purse of between $400,000 and a half a million dollars to the horses that are entered.
The great thing about the Kentucky Futurity is that the race has never been about winning large sums of money. The horsemen and women that are associated with the sport of harness racing are more concerned about having a champion harness racer that will be able to get their name in the history books, along with the past harness racing champions, by simply winning this prestigious and historical race.