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Get the lowdown on what's up at Kentucky Downs in our February newsletter. We catch up with co-managing partner Ron Winchell, give an update on our #KyDownsGrads, including huge day Saturday at the Fair Grounds, and keep you apprised how you can cash in on our promotions. Click here for February newsletter
Joe Minor's 2-year-old Peace Achieved, winner of Kentucky Downs' $500,000 Gainesway Farm Juvenile, won his third straight race Sunday at Keeneland, holding off the late-running Vitalogy by a neck in the $250,000, Grade 3 Dixiana Bourbon. With the victory in the 1 1/16-mile grass stakes, Peace Achieved earned an entry-fees paid berth in the $1 million Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.
It took Gentle Ruler 12 starts and more than a year and a half of competition to win her first race, but relatively little time to rise to the level of becoming a stakes winner at the $500,000 purse level. Thursday on closing day of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs, the filly did just that, winning the most lucrative race of her career, the $500,000 Ramsey Farm Stakes by a half-length over longshot Lantiz. The victory, her fifth of 2019, marked her third stakes triumph of the year, following earlier victories in the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park and the Keertana Stakes at Churchill Downs.
After a quiet first four days of the Kentucky Downs meet, two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill waited until closing day and the meet’s final stakes race, to announce his stable’s presence. And did he ever. O’Neill-trained runners Legends of War and Stubbins finished one-two in the Thursday’s Grade 3, $500,000 Nevada State Bank Franklin-Simpson Stakes, generating a handsome reward for his stable and those that backed his runners at the mutuel windows. 23-1 longshot Legends of War paid $49.40 to a $2 win ticket, and a $1 exacta with 10-1 Stubbins delivered a $218 return.
Jack Sisterson, the former University of Louisville soccer player turned horseman, could have his biggest day as a trainer on Thursday’s closing card of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs. As private trainer for Calumet Farm, Sisterson is running Coachwhip in the $500,000 Ramsey Farm Stakes, followed by Lexitonian in the $500,000, Grade 3 Nevada State Bank Franklin-Simpson Stakes.
It’s already been a banner meet for 26-year-old jockey Adam Beschizza, who also has a second and four thirds in 31 starts. “We were ultra unlucky last year,” Beschizza said. “We’ve probably had as many wins so far as we had seconds last year. We’ve sort of made amends this year.”
The one time underachieving Totally Boss is now a graded stakes winner and Breeders’ Cup contender after running off to a 1 ¼-length victory over Smart Remark in the Grade 3, $700,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs on Saturday. The six-furlong Turf Sprint was a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) and one of five stakes races – four of which were graded – on the Kentucky Downs lineup.
Mike Maker, the winningest trainer in Kentucky Downs history, experienced a frustrating first two days of the current Kentucky Downs meet, going winless with his first 19 starters and feeling unlucky with seven of his horses running second. Saturday during the highlight day of racing during the RUNHAPPY meet at Kentucky Downs, that frustration was put aside when Zulu Alpha rolled to an authoritative 3 1/4-length victory for the trainer in the Grade 3, $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup. The score gave Maker his fourth victory in the race after Da Big Hoss won it twice for him in 2015-’16, followed by Oscar Nominated in 2017.
Arklow on Saturday tries to become only the third horse to win the Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup twice. Happily for owner Donegal Racing, trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux, the most lucrative race of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs this year now carries a $1 million purse. That and more in today's barn notes.
Check out the opening day picks by our analysts Caton Bredar and Dick Downey.
Co-owner and trainer Conor Murphy has learned that 2018 Tourist Mile runner-up Great Wide Open does not do well in the summer. Hence the 7-year-old gelding comes into this year’s $750,000 edition of the stakes on Saturday’s opening card at the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs off of a five-month layoff since finishing sixth in Keeneland’s Grade Maker’s 46 Mile.
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's April fan newsletter is out and online. Catch up with all the news, events, promotions and how our #KyDownsGrads are doing. Read here
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.
Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone officially are the new owners and managing partners in Kentucky Downs, finalizing the purchase of the racetrack and year-round entertainment center from the investment group that purchased the facility in 2007. “Kentucky Downs is one of horse racing’s brightest success stories of this era,” said new co-owner Ron Winchell, a prominent horseman and entrepreneur. “We are committed to increasing that trajectory and are looking at options for expanding and improving the overall guest experience."
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.
Three Diamonds Farm’s Hembree rallied from far back in the stretch to capture Saturday’s $100,000 El Prado Stakes at Gulfstream Park, setting a track record for 7 ½ furlongs on turf in the process. Hembree won an allowance race at Kentucky Downs' 2018 meet.
Next Shares heads into Saturday’s $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf off of a 3-for-4 win streak that started in Kentucky Downs’ Old Friends Stakes, America's richest grass race. We'll be simulcasting it at Kentucky Downs!
Kentucky Racing Acquisition, LLC (“KRA”), a new company co-founded by Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone, announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase all the assets of Kentucky Downs from parent company Kentucky Downs Partners, LLC, the investment group that has owned the race track since 2007.
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.
Old Friends winner Next Shares and Tourist Mile runner-up Great Wide Open made it a lucrative Kentucky Downs exacta ($984 for $1) in Saturday’s $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Next Shares went off at 23-1 odds when he defeated 81-1 shot Great Wide Open by 3 1/4 lengths.
We look back at Kentucky Downs' best race meet ever in our September newsletter.
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.
Until running four horses this meet, trainer Todd Pletcher hadn’t run a horse at Kentucky Downs since 2014 and hadn’t won a race since 2010. “Is that all it’s been?” Pletcher joked when told he won his first race at the track in eight years. Not to be outdone by a former assistant trainer, Pletcher picked a fortuitous time to get a horse back in the winner's circle, sending out Channel Cat to victory in the 1 5/16-mile, $400,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs on Wednesday.
Jonathan Thomas made his training debut at Kentucky Downs a memorable one on Wednesday, taking the 1 5/16-mile, $300,000 Fifth Third Insurance Dueling Grounds Oaks with front-running Osare easily holding off the late-running Princess Warrior by 2 3/4 lengths. The triumph gave Eclipse Award-winning jockey Jose Ortiz his third win on the card to pull him into what became a three-way tie for the lead of the jockey standings with defending meet titlist Julien Leparoux and Tyler Gaffalione at six wins each heading into Thursday’s closing card.
With the track’s first $10 million day in history Saturday, Kentucky Downs is on pace to topple last year’s record all-sources handle of more than $30 million, which in turn smashed the 2016 mark. A total of $22,060,345 was wagered on Kentucky Downs through the first three days of the five-date 2018 meet.
(Photo: Kendrick Carmouche on Chattel going onto the track for Saturday's Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint. Grace Clark/Kentucky Downs photo)
Jockey Kendrick Carmouche, who went down in a spill when his mount clipped heels in Saturday’s $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint, will be out a projected four to six months with a fractured right femur that was more severe than initially thought. Carmouche underwent surgery for more than four hours late Sunday afternoon at Nashville's TriStar Skyline Medical Center, according to Mindy Coleman, the Jockeys’ Guild attorney who was at Kentucky Downs Saturday and spent Saturday evening and Sunday at the hospital.
Kendrick Carmouche sustained a hairline fracture of his right femur when he went down in a spill after his mount Chattel clipped heels in the stretch during Saturday’s $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint, according to Daily Racing Form writer Marty McGee and confirmed by the jockey’s agent.
(Photo: Insta Erma gave jockey Drayden Van Dyke and trainer Richard Baltas their second stakes victory of the Kentucky Downs meet. Reed Palmer Photography)
Insta Erma, under a patient ride by Drayden Van Dyke, earned her first graded stakes victory in taking the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Stakes from off the pace to beat Valadorna by a neck. The winner is trained by Richard Baltas, who teamed with Van Dyke to win the Old Friends Stakes at the track on Thursday with Next Shares. “I’m riding good horses, that’s key,” said Van Dyke, fresh off his first riding title at a major California track when he won the Del Mar crown.
In the fourth of five stakes races worth $2.7 million on Saturday's card, Proforma pulled the upset in the $500,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint Stakes Presented by Coca-Cola. Bet down to 7-1 off a 20-1 morning line, Proforma got by 5-2 favorite White Flag late in the stretch to get the win by a head. "All I can say that both horses laid it on the line," said winning jockey Joe Bravo.
Next Shares, a horse that loves Santa Anita, proved on Thursday that he also loves Kentucky Downs, winning the $250,000 Old Friends Stakes under Drayden Van Dyke by 1 3/4-lengths over Siem Riep. A total of $5,815,464.58 was wagered on the 10-race card, fourth-highest all time and the highest for a weekday. There was $5,402,255 bet on the first Thursday last year.
Mike Maker, Kentucky Downs’ all-time winningest trainer and the three-time defending meet titlist, is seeking to become the first trainer to win the Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup four times, let alone in consecutive years. And he’s not messing around. Maker entered five horses just in Saturday’s $750,000, Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup that is the track’s signature race. Five horses might be the entire field in some stakes at some tracks. But in the case of the 1 1/2-mile Calumet Farm, 18 horses were entered with only 12 able to start.
You've no doubt heard, sensing an unmistakable pride in the pronouncement, that Kentucky Downs is unique, owing largely to its 1 5/16-mile turf course, which from the air must look like a giant pear. As uniqueness goes, that's impressive enough and guaranteed to send a flutter through the pastoral heart. But for horseplayers, here's another and perhaps more significant reason Kentucky Downs has become something unique in America's racing experience: If you had bet $2 to win on every favorite over the last four years, you would have made a 5.3-percent profit on your investment. And that's — well, that's simply extraordinary, unprecedented in recent memory, or any memory, for that matter.
Thursday’s featured $250,000 Old Friends Stakes at Kentucky Downs is for horses who haven’t won a stakes race in 2018. That doesn’t mean the horses in the overflow field of 15 don’t possess talent. The Old Friends, conducted at a mile and 70 yards, attracted an excellent field whose entries include a Grade 1 winner (Undrafted), a Grade 1-placed horse (Next Share), Grade 2 winners (Conquest Panthera, Dimension), Grade 3 winner (Cowboy Culture) and multiple stakes-winners (Master Merion).
Kentucky Downs had its second-highest betting day in track history on Saturday’s opening card of the five-day meet offering among the highest average daily purses in the world, with a total of $6,205,873 bet on the 10-race card that featured four stakes
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.
The Jockey7 — the innovative wager that allows horseplayers to bet on individual jockeys and their mounts over each card’s last seven races — returns to Kentucky Downs after last year’s debut. The Jockey7 wager will be conducted over Races 4 through 10, with results based on a points system for top-four finishes. The bet will be a special wagering event listed as the Kentucky Downs Jockey7 with mutuel tellers and at self-service machines.
To show how Kentucky Downs has evolved, a Grade 3 stakes at world-famous Saratoga was the back-up plan for Henley’s Joy, one of 11 two-year-olds entered Tuesday for Saturday’s $400,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile on opening day of America’s most unique race meet.
Jazzy Times is the kind of break-through horse that Ty Kennedy has worked for throughout his young riding career. The gelding, claimed for $25,000 four races earlier by owner-trainer Wes Hawley, gave Kennedy the biggest victory to date in capturing Ellis Park’s $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint. Now the 24-year-old jockey is hoping that Jazzy Times tops that in the $500,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint on Sept. 8 at Kentucky Downs.
TVG, the popular cable racing network, will be broadcasting onsite for the first time from Kentucky Downs, with Scott Hazelton reporting from America’s most unique race meet on Sept. 6 and 8. The five-date all-grass meet that offers some of the largest purses in the world opens Sept. 1 and also runs Sept. 9 and 13. Hazelton will conduct pre- and post-race interviews and provide analysis, betting selections, featured wagering plays and segments designed to give viewers the feel and flavor of Kentucky Downs, which has been the top-ranked track the past three years by the Horseplayers Association of North America.
Santa Anita’s Megan Devine is joining Kentucky Downs’ team of racing analysts for America’s most unique race meet, which runs Sept. 1, 6, 8, 9 and 13. Devine, an on-air analyst for Santa Anita who also works for TVG as a studio host and is Sky Racing World’s social-media manager, will join Kentucky Downs stalwarts Caton Bredar and Gary West in providing pre-race handicapping, analysis and paddock picks for the all-turf meet.
Just under the gun to making it the July newsletter, here is your latest update for What's Up at Kentucky Downs!
Debbie Blair, known throughout the horse industry for her world-class event management experience, has joined the Kentucky Downs team as director of group sales. Blair will market Kentucky Downs’ reserved-seating areas to groups of at least 10 people, including the new Top of the Stretch Chalet, a casual, open-air venue devoted entirely to groups. The other reserved areas — the Turf Club Tent, Finish Line Pavilion and Director’s Room — also offer individual tickets, with groups receiving a discounted rate.
Kentucky Downs stepped in as sponsor of the City of Franklin's fireworks display when a funding shortfall threatened to force cancelation of the popular free event, which will be Sunday, July 1 at America's most unique racecourse. “We pride ourselves on being a good civic partner, and our facility and property are ideal for fireworks and a celebration of our nation’s birthday,” said Amber Norris, Kentucky Downs’ director of marketing.
Contest participants post on Twitter and/or Facebook about why they want to go to Kentucky Downs for the first time or why (if they’ve been) they want to go back. General posts describing Kentucky Downs will also be considered. Must include hashtag #LiveAtKyDowns. Free with no limit on entries, though an entry blank must be completed for each post.
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.
Michael Hui’s Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint winner Hogy, a durable 9-year-old millionaire gelding, surged away from seven younger rivals through the stretch to capture the $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Our renovation project is finally over . We're ready to celebrate and we want you to join us in the party! Read all about our Grand Reopening on Friday, March 23 in our February newsletter. Plus get updates on our #KyDownsgrads - horses that ran at our meet.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo that’s less and not been a dead-heat,” Jeff Bloom, who heads the partnership that campaigns Snapper Sinclair, said of the narrow defeat in the Fair Grounds' Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes. “What was so tough is he was in front, in front, in front — missed it — in front, in front. It was like the only time the other horse got the head bob.
Skychai's Special Ops pulls off Kentucky Downs-Claiming Crown Emerald parlay
'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.'
Morticia is the third Keeneland graded-stakes winner this meet who made her prior start at Kentucky Downs, joining Heavenly Love (Grade 1 Alcibiades) and Zipessa (Grade 1 First Lady).
"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
“If I had any doubts about her ability going forth, this dispelled all of them. She won with authority today, and that was very exciting to see.” -- Nancy Polk, owner/breeder of Daddys Lil Darling
Who does Joe like in Sunday's Dueling Grounds Oaks and Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby? Find out here!
Joe's picks in the $600,000 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup: #1 Postulation, #3 Muqtaser, #7 Enterprising, #4 Oscar Nominated
“I’m always nervous when I run her,” he said. “Obviously I’m very attached to her and just want to see her run well. You get much more nervous about these deals when you’re a favorite. There’s a lot more riding on it, and I’m just glad it worked out.”
"You can’t just see the baby born and just leave," jockey Chris Landeros said of missing racing when his first child, son Beckham, was born four weeks early. "This is a once a lifetime deal, and I took full advantage and got to enjoy it… That’s why they say it’s life-changing. Because your priorities change."
“He’s never had a bad day in his life,” said Maker, who now has won eight stakes here over the past two years, all but Sir Dudley Digges having been acquired through the claiming ranks. “Unfortunately it’s taken this long this year to get his first victory.”
Native Kentuckian Kiaran McLaughlin has run only three horses before at Kentucky Downs. But one of those was a victory in the 1999 running of the Kentucky Turf Cup with Shadwell Stables' Fahris.
"I think he knows he runs in big races. He’ll do everything he can. Fortunately and unfortunately, he’s running against some of the top long-distance runners in the United States," Tim Glyshaw, Bullard's Alley trainer
"We came to the home straight and he was finishing strong. At that moment I thought, ‘Man, I can win the whole thing.’ He was traveling good underneath me." -- Jose Valdivia
'The wager just might appeal to casual bettors, to the folks who follow the sport intermittently and maybe go out to the racetrack rarely, but have seen enough and bet enough to know which jockeys they like.'
Youngsters are in the spotlight Wednesday, and what’s arguably the day’s most compelling race, the $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Showcase Juvenile, has attracted a full field of 2-year-olds that bulges with potential.
Miss Temple City, who twice beat the boys to win Grade 1 races last year at Keeneland, is using the Kentucky Downs race as a means to get back to the Lexington track.
Hall of Famer Jack Van Berg is running Ellis Park Juvenile runner-up Northern Trail and Make Noise in Kentucky Downs' $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile.