Kentucky Downs has been awarded its second Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series stakes for the 2021 race meet in early September. For the first time, the $1 million Calumet Turf Cup (G2) will be a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), joining the $1 million Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3) that two years ago became an automatic qualifier for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). “There already were a million reasons for owners and trainers to send their turf sprinter or distance grass horse to Kentucky Downs," said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs' Vice President for Racing. "Now there’s even more incentive."
Our The Mint Gaming Hall/Kentucky Downs Year in Review is out! Click here to read all about our star-crossed year that was 2020
Kentucky Downs recently completed the first major renovation of its turf course since the track was laid out in a field as a steeplechase course in 1990. The project involved nearly half of the 1 5/16-mile kidney-shaped course, with a swath five-eighths of a mile long and 63-feet wide around the spacious far turn and into the stretch replaced with sod featuring a blend of 90 percent Kentucky 31 fescue and 10 percent Kentucky bluegrass.
Kentucky Downs can’t guarantee those betting its races will pick winners at the upcoming meet, but the all-grass track does help horseplayers make more money when they do cash tickets. With the number of starters per race averaging about an America-leading 11 horses combined with low takeout rates, Kentucky Downs offers one of the best betting products in the country. Though Kentucky Downs qualifies for a higher takeout rate under state regulations, which set a cap that is based on average daily on-track wagering on live racing, the track chooses to stay at a significantly lower rate for all its betting pools.
Averaging $2 million a day in purses, Kentucky Downs is luring the most accomplished riders from New York and California along with the already deep Kentucky colony. Nine of America’s top 10 riders by 2020 purse earnings will be at the meet. “We already had one of the most talented riding colonies in the world, but this year it’s going to be absolutely incredible,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager.
Kentucky Downs will reopen its Historical Horse Racing gaming on Wednesday, June 10 at 9 a.m. Central. The facility will open at 33-percent capacity and guests will undergo temperature screenings before entering the facility in accordance with COVID-19 protocols. About 513 gaming terminals will be available for play, spread over the first and second floors to allow proper social distancing. Wagering on racetracks across the country will begin on Thursday, June 11.
Kentucky Downs’ six-date live race meet in September will feature two of the world’s most prominent announcers in Michael Wrona and new addition Larry Collmus, the voice of NBC’s Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup broadcasts. “This is a great coup for Kentucky Downs to get two of the best announcers in the world to call our six days of racing,” says Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs senior vice president and general manager.
Raymond “Butch” Lehr is Kentucky Downs’ new track superintendent, enlisted to oversee the care of America’s most unique turf course following the retirement of Ron Moore. Lehr became one of the industry’s most-respected and best-known track superintendents during his 30 years in that post at Churchill Downs, where he worked for 46 1/2 years overall before retiring after the 2012 spring meet. That fall, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters honored Lehr with its Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service to racing, the only track superintendent so honored in the organization’s 60-year history.
Jockey Jose Ortiz missed opening day of the five-date RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs, but the track’s 2018 riding champion has made the most of the three days he has ridden, including sweeping Sunday’s $600,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby under Social Paranoia and the $348,250 Fifth Third Insurance Dueling Grounds Oaks with Princesa Carolina.
Ortiz won three races Sunday, seven over the weekend and a meet-leading eighth overall while scheduled to ride all 10 races on Thursday’s closing card of America’s most unique race meet. Last year, Ortiz won nine races, the most in a single meet since Florent Geroux won 12 in 2016.
Kentucky Downs’ four opening-day stakes attracted a total of 236 nominations, ranging from 53 for the $750,000 Tourist Mile to 70 for the $500,000 Gainesway Farm Juvenile. “While nominations aren’t the same as entries, the enthusiasm with which horsemen across the country made their horses eligible for our stakes foreshadows very strong races and full fields,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager.
Kentucky Downs’ #LiveAtKyDowns Post Time Contest is coming back for the second year in advance of the 2019 live race meet, with Twitter submissions accepted throughout July. Tweet why Kentucky Downs is on your bucket list or why you want to come back and you could win a trip to America’s most unique race meet in this free contest.
A retired school teacher turned a $3 play into a record $780,307 jackpot Tuesday evening at Kentucky Downs. That topped the prior record of $709,983 hit on July 14, 2018 on one of the entertainment facility’s parimutuel gaming terminals. "In a million years I would not have dreamed that this would happen to me," she said.
The Largest Derby Party South of Louisville will be back bigger than ever at Kentucky Downs on May 4, offering a convenient and economical way to enjoy the Kentucky Derby. “The Largest Derby Party South of Louisville provides the excitement, the wagering opportunities and even the fancy-hat environment of the Derby with free admission and parking — hoopla without hassle,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday approved noted horseman and entrepreneur Ron Winchell and prominent gaming executive Marc Falcone as Kentucky Downs owners, with the sale expected to close around March 1.
Michael Wrona, one of the world’s preeminent race-callers and the voice of Santa Anita Park, has been named track announcer for Kentucky Downs' live race meet. The 52-year-old Australian-born Wrona has earned a reputation as one of the sport’s most colorful and entertaining announcers, weaving humor into precise calls.
Wagering from all sources on Kentucky Downs totaled $7,329,490 on Wednesday's 10-race card rescheduled from Sunday because of torrential rain. That's the highest for a weekday and third-highest all-time at the track.
It’s post time for the Fastest Five Days in Racing as Kentucky Downs kicks off America’s most unique race meet Saturday with a 10-race card featuring four stakes worth $1.8 million, including purse supplements for Kentucky-born and -sired horses. “The enthusiasm and buzz going into this meet is unprecedented in Kentucky Downs’ 26 seasons of conducting live racing,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs senior vice president and general manager.
Kentucky Downs will offer a record $10 million in purses and Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund supplements at its five-date meet Sept. 1-13, with all 13 existing stakes getting increases and the creation of the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint. The Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup and Tourist Mile had their purses raised to $750,000.
FRANKLIN, Ky. — When Steve Thurmond helps Kentucky Downs celebrate its Grand Reopening this Friday, March 23, his motivation isn’t the t-shirt given out to the first 100 arrivals. He’ll be on hand to commemorate the 170 jobs that Kentucky Downs has created.
The Grand Reopening will feature other giveaways of merchandise, free play and cash spread throughout the festivities, which begin at 10 a.m. CT Friday and run until the facility closes for the night in Saturday’s wee hours. Nashville radio personalities do live remotes and two bands will perform. But for Thurmond, as executive director of the Franklin-Simpson County Chamber of Commerce, the special attractions afford a chance to publicly rejoice in what Kentucky Downs provides the community on a daily basis. Thurmond sees the most extensive renovation since the track opened in 1990 as a grand step in Kentucky Downs’ evolution as a destination attraction.
'This is the latest step in our evolution into an industry leader,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager. “Kentucky Downs will be well-positioned as a launching pad to the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs next fall.'
"We are proud to be the Kentucky trailblazer in using historical horse racing to become a national leader and to help improve the commonwealth’s entire racing circuit," -- Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs senior vice president and general manager
“I think the mile and a quarter was just a little too far for him,” trainer Ian Wilkes says of Franklin-Simpson favorite Sonic Boom. “I think he’s going to be a really good miler next year. He’s going to be a nice horse.”
"They gave it to us, his ears went up and that basically was the whole trip. I kind of coaxed him along, let him breathe.... Once I got over that hill and started going down, I got to ask him and he really kicked in," -- Drayden Van Dyke