FRANKLIN, Ky. (Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019) — Stormy Liberal, the two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, is scheduled to run in the $700,000, Grade 3 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint, one of five graded stakes to be held at the upcoming RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs.
Kentucky Downs runs Aug. 31 and Sept. 5, 7, 8 and 12, with post time each day moving up to 12:15 p.m. Central.
Stormy Liberal will fly from trainer Peter Miller’s main base in California for the Sept. 7 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint, then return for the $1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita. While $200,000 of the RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint purse is from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund for Kentucky-bred horses, the stakes’ $500,000 base purse alone makes it America’s most lucrative grass sprint outside the Breeders’ Cup. In addition, the RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint winner receives an automatic entry fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup race Nov. 2, saving the owners $30,000.
“Big purse and it fits into his schedule,” Miller said of the Kentucky-bred Stormy Liberal. “The ‘Win and You’re In’ is always a factor, sure. It’s going to save the owners lots of money if we can do it. And we think the distance is good for him. There are a lot of things to point to.”
Kentucky Downs also will pay the winner of the RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint a $1 million bonus if the horse goes on to sweep Keeneland's Grade 2 Woodford and the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
The 7-year-old Stormy Liberal prepped for the six-furlong Kentucky Downs stakes in last Saturday’s Grade 3 Green Flash at Del Mar, finishing third in his first start since he was third in Dubai’s $2 million Al Quoz Sprint on March 30.
“He ran about the way I expected, and about what we were looking for,” Miller said by phone. “We just looked at it as a prep, and I didn’t have him cranked up and tight. He had three easy half-miles. But he should have gotten enough out of it that hopefully going forward that we’re ready for Kentucky Downs and the Breeders’ Cup.
“He’s maybe a little bit mellower horse than in years past and not putting as much into his training. We’re keeping that in mind.”
Miller ran a horse for the first time at Kentucky Downs last year, when Multiplier finished sixth in the $1 million, Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup.
“But we liked it,” Miller said. “It was cool. It was a neat experience. My wife and I spent three nights in Nashville. So it was all good.”
Stormy Liberal, owned by Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen, goes down as one of the best claims in racing history, having been haltered out of a $40,000 claiming race almost three years ago by Miller. After a pair of seconds, the son of Stormy Atlantic reeled off four straight Santa Anita stakes victories before being drubbed in Belmont Park’s Grade 3 Jaipur on the 2017 Belmont Stakes undercard. He didn’t run again until the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, which he won at 30-1 odds and by a head over stablemate Richard’s Boy at Del Mar.
Stormy Liberal brought a three-race win streak into last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs, a neck victory over current East Coast star World of Trouble. Overall, Stormy Liberal has won eight stakes and the lion’s share of $2.16 million in purses for his current connections.
While Miller has frequently run in stakes in Kentucky, this is his first year keeping a string of horses in the commonwealth, currently based at Churchill Downs. He expects considerable participation at Kentucky Downs.
“We’ve got quite a few horses nominated to stakes and quite a few looking at maiden races and the undercard,” he said. “So I think we’re going to be quite active over at Kentucky Downs this year. I’m hoping to be, and hopefully we can break through with a few winners.”
2019 RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs at a glance
Location: 5629 Nashville Road, Franklin, Ky., just off Interstate 65 exit 2 on the Kentucky-Tennessee border .
What: America’s most unique race meet over a 1 5/16-mile European-style turf course. Simulcasting is available seven days a week, as well as pari-mutuel wagering on Historical Horse Racing, dining and other events, including charitable Bingo six nights a week.
Live racing dates: Aug. 31 and Sept. 5, 7, 8 and 12.
First post: 12:15 p.m. Central. Ten races a day.
Admission: Free. Reserved seating available in Finish Line Pavilion, Turf Club Tent and Director’s Room, including buffet and access to private cash bar and mutuel windows. Note: Finish Line Pavilion and Turf Club Tent are sold out on Sept. 7.
Parking: Free (valet available for $5 in front of main building; complimentary for Players Club Platinum and Diamond Club members). Free tailgating lot at the top of the stretch.
What’s new: The first race has been moved up an hour and 10 minutes to 12:15 p.m. CT. Michael Wrona, regarded among the world’s premier race-callers, joins Kentucky Downs as announcer. The RUNHAPPY meet is the first under the ownership partnership headed by Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone. Highly respected racing official Rick Hammerle comes aboard as director of horsemen's relations and racing operations. Scott Jordan, the race starter at Churchill Downs and Ellis Park, takes over at Kentucky Downs, with Coady Photography the new track photographer.
On the air: TVG will be have a major presence, with Caleb Keller broadcasting on site Sept. 5 and 7, and Kentucky Downs analyst Caton Bredar filing reports on other days. Bredar will be joined by Churchill Downs and TwinSpires.com analyst Joe Kristufek on opening day, popular New England sportscaster and former NBC handicapper and racing expert Bob Neumeier on Sept. 7 and jockey Aaron Gryder on Sept. 5, 8 and 12. Bredar also will be discussing Kentucky Downs Aug. 31 and Sept. 7 on Sirius/XM’s Down the Stretch satellite-radio show with Dave Johnson and Bill Finley on Fight Nation Channel 156 (show airs Saturdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET, with Bredar usually on about 12:30). Sports broadcast production expert David Loignan, well-known in horse racing for his work with Churchill Downs Inc. and TVG, will oversee the broadcasting of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs.
More analysis: The Downey Profile’s Dick Downey, who has closely followed Kentucky Downs racing for most of the track’s existence, will pen the program comments, with his selections on kentuckydowns.com/racing. Well-known handicapper and turf writer Byron King takes over making the morning line and also will have his selections and stakes analysis on the website.
Purses: $11.5 million offered for the five days, exceeding $2.3 million in daily average that is the highest in the world outside of Japan. Fourteen stakes ranging from $250,000 to $1 million and including five graded stakes. Four starter-allowance races carrying $100,000 pots whose winners get an automatic berth in the Claiming Crown. Purse money does not include the $750 paid to every starter who finishes sixth through last in non-stakes races.
Wagering menu (bet, with minimum wager and takeout rate): Exacta ($1, 18.25%), Trifecta ($.50, 19%), Superfecta ($0.10, 19%) every race; rolling Double ($1, 19%) races 1-9; rolling Pick 3 ($0.50, 19%) races 1-8; Pick 4 ($0.50, 14%), starts with races 2 and 7; Pick 5 ($0.50, 14%) starts with races 1 and 6; Super Hi-5 ($0.50, 19%) race 10.
Grayson-Jockey Club Foundation Day: Saturday, Aug. 31, with race sponsorships benefiting the foundation that raises money to fund equine research.
Old Friends Day: Thursday, Sept. 5, with race sponsorships benefiting Old Friends equine retirement farm. Louisville’s ESPN 680 will broadcast Bob Valvano’s ESPN V Show live from Kentucky Downs.
HBPA College Day: Sunday, Sept. 8, college students with valid I.D. may sign up to win one of 10 Samsung Chromebook Plus computers or one of two $1,500 scholarships. Laptops are courtesy the Kentucky HBPA, which represents owners and trainers at the state’s five thoroughbred tracks, with Kentucky Downs providing the scholarships. Recipients must be currently enrolled as full-time students at a recognized two- or four-year college or university, graduate school, vocational or technical education program.
Family Fun Day: Sunday Sept. 8 featuring petting zoo, face painting, airbrush tattoos and balloon art.
Social media: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat @KyDownsRacing. Facebook.com/KyDownsRacing.
RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs stakes
(All on turf)
Saturday, Aug. 31 — $750,000 Tourist Mile, 3yo & up, mile; $500,000 Gainesway Farm Juvenile, 2yos, mile; $500,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies, 2yo fillies, mile; $250,000 One Dreamer (non-winners of a stakes in 2019), fillies & mares 3yo & up, mile and 70 yards. Thursday, Sept. 5 — $250,000 Old Friends (non-winners of a stakes in 2019), 3yo & up, mile and 70 yards. Saturday, Sept. 7 — $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup (G3), 3yo & up, 1 1/2 miles; $700,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint “Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In Turf Sprint Division” (G3), 3yo &up, six furlongs; $500,000 Three Chimneys Ladies Turf (G3), 3yo & up, mile; $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint, 2yos, 6 1/2 furlongs; $500,000 Spendthrift Farm Ladies Sprint (G3), fillies and mares 3yo & up, 6 1/2 furlongs. Sunday, Sept. 8 — $600,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby, 3yos, 1 5/16 miles; $350,000 Fifth Third Insurance Dueling Grounds Oaks, 3yo fillies, 1 5/16 miles. Thursday, Sept. 12 — $500,000 Ramsey Farm, fillies and mares 3yo &up, 1 5/16 miles; $500,000 Franklin-Simpson (G3), 3yo, 6 1/2 furlongs.