(Photos: Arklow won the 2018 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup. Reed Palmer Photography)
FRANKLIN, Ky. (Tuesday, March 26, 2019) — Kentucky Downs will stage its first $1 million race in track history with the Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup getting a $250,000 purse increase.
The 28th running of the Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, one of five stakes on Sept. 7, will offer a $550,000 base purse available to any horse running and an additional $450,000 from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund for horses born and sired in the Commonwealth, which typically encompasses the vast majority of entrants. The 1 1/2-mile stakes was worth $750,000 last year, with a $450,000 base purse.
“Oh wow,” trainer Brad Cox, who won last year’s Kentucky Turf Cup with Donegal Racing’s Arklow, said of the enhanced purse. “Probably makes it tougher to win, but that’s tremendous. They’ve done a great job there in Franklin, Ky., setting up a boutique meet that people respond to with huge fields. There’s always a great crowd there, and something we look forward to and we plan for now.”
The all-grass track’s 14 stakes will offer a record total of $7.4 million in purses and KTDF supplements. Opening on the last day of August because of the way the calendar breaks, Kentucky Downs runs Aug. 31 and Sept. 5, 7, 8 and 12. Kentucky Downs’ average daily purses topping $2 million a race card are the highest in North America and Europe. That’s thanks to Kentucky Downs’ trend-setting success with historical horse racing, the innovative technology that marries the results of previously-run horse races with parimutuel wagering to provide an additional betting product to live horse racing.
“Having our first $1 million race is just the next logical step in Kentucky Downs’ ascent as a national leader,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager. “The Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup is our oldest stakes, having a different name but starting back in 1990 when the track opened. So it’s fitting this is our race that first reaches the seven-digit landmark, especially teaming with one of the most iconic names in horse racing in Calumet Farm.”
Only four turf stakes in the Midwest offer $1 million purses, with the Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup the region’s first at 1 1/2 miles, joining Arlington Park’s 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million, Churchill Downs’ 1 1/8-mile Old Forester Turf Classic and Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile.
“Even without the Kentucky-bred money, our $550,000 base purse makes the Kentucky Turf Cup one of America’s richest races for older horses at 1 1/2 miles,” said Kentucky Downs racing secretary Tyler Picklesimer. “Turf racing has become increasingly popular in America, and we’re proud that Kentucky Downs has been at the forefront of this positive trend for the industry.”
Eight stakes received purse hikes for the 2019 meet, including the Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint from $500,000 to $700,000. The six-furlong stakes is the track’s first to be selected for the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, meaning its winner will receive an automatic spot in the $1 million, Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita, with entry fees waived and a travel stipend offered for horses based outside California.
Also getting a $200,000 increase was the 1 5/16-mile Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby, now worth $600,000.
Five of the 12 eligible stakes carry Grade 3 status, including the 6 1/2-furlong Franklin-Simpson for 3-year-olds that achieved grading for the first time. Graded stakes, classified as Grade 1, 2 and 3, are those races adjudged by the American Graded Stakes Committee as the country’s best based on previous runnings. Only non-restricted stakes (not counting those limited to horses’ sex or age) can be graded.
The co-feature on the Sept. 12 closing-day card, the Franklin-Simpson purse is going from $300,000 to $500,000. Also raised to $500,000 from $400,000 are the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies, Kentucky Downs Juvenile and the Ramsey Farm for fillies and mares. The $500,000 Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf and the $350,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks were both bumped up $50,000.
Anchoring the Aug. 31 opening card is the Tourist Mile, which was raised to $750,000 last year.
The free nominations for all 14 of Kentucky Downs stakes close Wednesday, Aug. 21.
Kentucky Downs 2019 stakes schedule
(Purses include KTDF supplements)
Saturday, Aug. 31 — $750,000 Tourist Mile 3yos & up, mile; $500,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile, 2yos, mile; $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile, 2yo fillies, mile; $250,000 One Dreamer, fillies & mares 3yo & up (non-winners of a stakes in 2019), mile and 70 yards. Thursday, Sept. 5 — $250,000 Old Friends, 3yo & up (non-winners of a stakes in 2019, mile and 70 yards). Saturday, Sept. 7 — $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup (G3), 3yo & up, 1 1/2 miles; $700,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint “Win and You’re In” (G3), 3yo & up, 6 furlongs; $500,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3), fillies & mares 3yo & up, mile; $500,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint (G3), fillies & mares 3yo & up, 6 1/2 furlongs; $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf, 2yos, 6 1/2 furlongs. Sunday, Sept. 8 — $600,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby, 1 5/16 miles; $350,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks, 1 5/16 miles. Thursday, Sept. 12 — $500,000 Franklin-Simpson (G3), 3yos, 6.5 furlongs; $500,000 Ramsey Farm, fillies & mares 3yo & up, 1 5/16 miles.