Kentucky Downs enhances its record purses
$7.8 million for 5 days reflects $600,000 boost to overnight, stakes races
Total purses for all races are scheduled to average $1.56 million a day, or $7.8 million overall, up from $7.152 million paid out in 2015. Maiden special-weight races increase by $10,000 to $130,000 (including Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund supplements) and allowance races will go for as much as $145,000, easily the highest in the country. Maidens born outside Kentucky still will compete for $58,000, highest in the commonwealth, while the top allowance purse for non-Kentucky-breds is a very healthy $67,000. The minimum purse is $24,000.
New for 2016 is a pair of $75,000 starter-allowance races serving as launching pads to the Claiming Crown at Gulfstream Park in December. The Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes Prep and Claiming Crown Tiara Stakes Prep for fillies and mares will be held Sunday, Sept. 11 at a mile and 70 yards for horses that have raced for a claiming price of $25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2015.
2016 condition book: http://bit.ly/1NP2pEr
Kentucky Downs also is contributing $1.35 million for purses at Ellis Park's summer meet.
Track president Corey Johnsen said the motivation is to help boost racing overall in the commonwealth and that Kentucky Downs is in position to take a leadership role because of the success of the track's Historical Horse Racing games.
"The overall health of the Kentucky circuit is very important to Kentucky Downs," Johnsen said. "That means keeping Kentucky-breds at home, running for big purses."
"Frankly, it's just amazing they've found a way to generate that kind of money down there," said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, whose five Kentucky Downs stakes victories include last year's More Than Ready Mile with Tourist and Dueling Grounds Derby with Closing Bell. "It's great. Big purses are what makes good racing. They had good fields down there last year, and I'm sure it will continue to improve with the addition of more money."
The top-ranked track by Horseplayers Association of North America, Kentucky Downs will race Sept. 3, 8, 10, 11 and 15 over the only European-style course in America. There is at least one stakes every day worth at least $150,000, including Kentucky-bred purse supplements.
"It keeps better horses in Kentucky," said trainer Mark Casse, whose five wins at the 2015 meet include first-time starter Airoforce, who went on to capture Keeneland's Grade III Bourbon and Churchill Downs' Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club and finish second by a neck in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. "Those stakes are just going to get better and better."
Ken Ramsey, the meet's leading owner the past three years, vows to have "an overnight migration" to Kentucky Downs from Saratoga, predicting, "And I won't be the only one on the bandwagon. There will be a lot of 'van-wagons' to Kentucky Downs.'"
While many of Ramsey's horses go to Saratoga in the summer, Kentucky's all-time winningest owner regularly races at Ellis Park. He applauded Kentucky Downs helping a sister track.
"I am a big fan of Kentucky Downs," he said. "I am 100 percent behind what they are doing."
The 1 1/2-mile Kentucky Turf Cup gained the sponsorship of iconic Calumet Farm, whose stallion roster includes 2007 champion turf horse English Channel, 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow, 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given, 2006 Breeders' Cup Turf winner Red Rocks and 2014 Arlington Million winner Real Solution. Calumet last year sponsored Kentucky Downs' $300,000 Calumet Farm Juvenile.
Last year's Turf Cup winner, Skychai Racing's Da Big Hoss, captured Keeneland's Grade II Elkhorn this past Saturday under Florent Geroux, Kentucky Downs' 2015 champion jockey.
The More Than Ready is on the cusp of getting graded-stakes status. Last year, Tourist — second or third in three Grade I stakes — bested a field that included Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Regally Ready, Royal Ascot Group 1 winner Undrafted and multiple graded-stakes victors Departing and Skyring.
"The next step in the development of Kentucky Downs racing program is to get more graded races," Johnsen said. "We are very aware of the situation. Whenever we have a race like the More Than Ready, which had several horses that went on to run in the Breeders' Cup, we are going to emphasize the purses in those races. We think it's important, especially in Kentucky, to have more graded races in which our breeders can run."
Seven stakes rise from $300,000 to $350,000 apiece. The increases all come from association money, making the base purse before Kentucky-bred supplements $150,000. The additional $200,000 is from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund for registered Kentucky-born and sired horses — typically the majority of horses running.
"Kentucky Downs is becoming a fixture in the fall as they continue to boost their purses," said trainer Graham Motion, whose main base is the East Coast. "For a trainer like myself who has a large amount of turf horses, their stakes program has to be on our schedule, especially at a time of year when most turf courses are winding down."
Kentucky Downs 2016 stakes schedule
Saturday, Sept. 3
$350,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile ($200,000 KTDF), 2-year-olds, 7 furlongs
$350,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint ($200,000 KTDF), 3-years-old & up, 6 1/2 furlongs
$350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf ($200,000 KTDF), fillies & mares 3 years old & up.
Thursday, Sept. 8
$150,000 Old Friends Stakes ($75,000 KTDF), 3-year-olds & up.
Saturday, Sept. 10
$150,000 One Dreamer ($75,000 KTDF), fillies & mares 3 years old & up which have not one a sweepstakes in 2016, mile and 70 yards
$350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint ($200,000 KTDF), fillies & mares 3 years old & up, 6 1/2 furlongs
$400,000 More Than Ready Mile ($200,000 KTDF), 3-year-olds & up, mile
$600,000, Grade III Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, 3-year-olds & up, 1 1/2 miles.
Sunday, Sept. 11
$200,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks ($100,000 KTDF), 3-year-old fillies, 1 5/16 miles
$350,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby ($175,000 KTDF), 3-year-olds, 1 5/16 miles
Thursday, Sept. 15
$350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon ($200,000 KTDF), fillies & mares 3 years old & up, 1 5/16 miles
- KTDF: Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund
About Kentucky Downs: Located near the Kentucky-Tennessee border off Interstate 65, the year-round entertainment center offers live racing on its unique mile and five-sixteenth European-style turf course in September. Simulcasting is available seven days a week, as well as pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse races, charitable gaming, dining and other events. Horse racing has been conducted at the facility since 1990, when it was called Dueling Grounds Race Course.
2016 race dates: Sept. 3, 8, 10, 11 and 15.
Live Racing Publicity director: Jennie Rees: TracksideJennie@gmail.com
Twitter: @KyDownsRacing. Check us out on Facebook/KYDownsRacing