LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015) – Racing returns to Churchill Downs on Friday, Sept. 11 with a 10-race program at 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern) as the famed Louisville racetrack opens its third September Meet for an action-packed 11-date run through Sunday, Sept. 27.
Inaugurated by Churchill Downs in 2013, the three-week September Meet provides Kentucky horsemen with an opportunity to compete for ample prize money mainly on dirt in advance of the popular Keeneland and Churchill Downs fall meets. Some events on this year’s eight-race, $1.025 million stakes schedule could serve as steppingstones to the Oct. 30-31 Breeders’ Cup World Championships in Lexington, including the $175,000 Lukas Classic on Sept. 26 which was recently renamed to honor 80-year-old Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Ninety-four horses and seven also-eligible entries were entered Tuesday for Friday’s opener, which includes two allowances and three maiden special weights. Entries were up 22% compared to the 77 on last year’s 10-race opening day program.
Friday’s featured ninth race at 4:49 p.m. (all times Eastern) is a $42,200 second-level allowance/optional claiming event at six furlongs that attracted eight fillies and mares led by Scarlet Stable’s House of Sole, a 4-year-old daughter of Limehouse who finished second at short odds last time out at Indiana Downs after impressively winning a first-level allowance at Churchill Downs in June for trainer Roger Brueggemann.
Two of the three maiden allowance races are for 2-year-olds at one mile. Trainer Mark Casse appears to hold a strong hand in both $38,200 races with Conquest Stables’ Conquest Big E, a first-time starter in Race 5 (2:45 p.m.), and John C. Oxley’s Gametown, a runner-up on grass at Saratoga in Race 8 (4:18 p.m.).
Horsemen can compete for $3,958,300 in prize money offered in Director of Racing Ben Huffman’s 109-race condition book, which averages to $359,845 per day. Last year, $3,864,487 was paid to horsemen over 12 dates and 122 races for a daily average of $322,041.
The September Meet’s eight-race stakes schedule cumulatively worth $1,025,000 kicks off Saturday, Sept. 12 with a stakes quartet, including two important 1 1/16-mile fixtures for juveniles that could produce starters in next spring’s $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). The $150,000 Iroquois Presented by U.S. Bank (GIII) kicks off the 35-race “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series (Top 4 Points: 10-4-2-1), while the $200,000 Pocahontas (GII) starts the 31-race “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” (Top 4 Points: 10-4-2-1). Also, both races are Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge events, which means the winners will receive automatic berths in the starting gate for their respective Breeders’ Cup races on Oct. 31.
Saturday’s stakes foursome is completed by a pair of stakes for fillies and mares, the $100,000 Locust Grove (Listed) over 1 1/16 miles and $100,000 Open Mind at six furlongs.
The $100,000 Dogwood (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs will be the featured event on Saturday, Sept. 19 – the lone Downs After Dark night racing event of the September Meet.
A stakes tripleheader topped by the Lukas Classic – a 1 1/8-mile race designed as a prep for the 1 ¼-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic and November’s Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) – will be showcased on Saturday, Sept. 26. Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned won the inaugural 2013 running when it was known as the Homecoming Classic. The race was won last year by Cigar Street, who would finish seventh to Bayern in the 2014 Classic at Santa Anita.
The Lukas Classic will share the Sept. 26 spotlight with top milers in the $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) and 3-year-olds in the $100,000 Jefferson Cup (GIII) at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course – the only stakes race on grass during the meet.
The Lukas Classic and Iroquois received $50,000 purse hikes for 2015.
POCAHONTAS – Possible entrants for Saturday’s 47th running of the $200,000 Pocahontas (Grade II) for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles (with trainer): Adirondack (GII) winner Just Wicked (Steve Asmussen), Astoria runner-up and Schuylerville (GIII) third Decked Out (Keith Desormeaux), 8 ¾-length Barbara Shinpoch winner Princess Kennedy (Gary Hartlage), Vivid Storm (Buff Bradley), Dream Dance (Neil Howard), Put Da Blame On Me (Dale Romans) and Dothraki Queen (Kenny McPeek). Entries will be taken Wednesday.
IROQUOIS – Possible entrants for Saturday’s 34th running of the $150,000 Iroquois Presented by U.S. Bank (Grade III) for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles (with trainer): Tremont winner Cocked and Loaded (Larry Rivelli), Tyro winner Expected Ruler (Liam Benson), Andrienne’s Warrior (Michelle Nihei), Twirling Cinnamon (Brad Cox), Unbridled Outlaw (Dale Romans), Meeteetse Fly (Kenny McPeek), One Mean Man (Bernie Flint), Conquest Windycity (Mark Casse) and Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII) third Missile Bomb (Darrin Miller). Entries will be taken Wednesday.
LOCUST GROVE – Possible entrants for Saturday’s 32nd running of the $100,000 Locust Grove (Listed) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles (with trainer): Bayakoa (GIII) and Iowa Distaff runner-up and 2013 Locust Grove winner Flashy American (Kenny McPeek), Iowa Distaff winner and Apple Blossom (GI) runner-up Diva’s Diamond (Karl Broberg), Groupie Doll (GIII) winner Call Pat (Brad Cox), 2014 Dogwood (GIII) runner-up Henny Jenney (Bill Connelly), 2014 Bayakoa (GII) runner-up Legacy (Steve Hobby), Mari Hulman George and Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap winner Cabana (Donnie Von Hemel), Unbridledexplosion (Ian Wilkes), Pearl Turn (Will VanMeter) and Ambusher (Wilkes). Entries will be taken Wednesday.
OPEN MIND – Possible entrants for Saturday’s seventh running of the $100,000 Open Mind for fillies and mares at six furlongs (with trainer): Winning Colors (GIII) runner-up Heykittykittykitty (Ron Moquett), Spring Fever and Carousel winner and Winning Colors (GIII) third Spring Included (Steve Hobby), 2013 Dogwood (GIII) third Elusive Fate (Rusty Arnold), 2014 Spring Fever runner-up Chrotle (Bernie Flint), 2013 Golden Rod (GII) runner-up Bird Maker (Ian Wilkes), West Virginia Secretary of State runner-up Brown Eyed Mary (Murat Sancal), Brandywine runner-up Anusara (Greg Foley), Spelling Again (Brad Cox) and V C F Proud Mary (Eddie Kennelly). Entries will be taken Wednesday.
SEPTEMBER MEET AT A GLANCE – Churchill Downs Racetrack opens the 2015 September Meet on Friday, Sept. 11 with a 10-race program that begins at 12:45 p.m. ET. This will mark the third consecutive year that the home of the Kentucky Derby has hosted a race meet in the month September. The boutique 11-day meet will be staged over three weekends through Sunday, Sept. 27 with racing on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Travis Stone will describe the racing action with Joe Kristufek serving as a paddock analysis. General admission is $3 ($1 for seniors age 60 and up) and $10 for Downs After Dark on Saturday, Sept. 19. Reserved box seats are $10 ($25 for Downs After Dark); a seat in the Matt Winn Dining Room is $17; indoor dining options are $37 ($70 for Downs After Dark). Children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult (Downs After Dark policy: no one under the age of 18 will be admitted to the track unless they are accompanied by a parent or responsible adult). Free seating is available over a first-come, first-serve basis in Sections 113-117. Parking is free in the Longfield Avenue lot (Gates 10 & 12) and $3 in all other lots. Valet parking is $5.
SEPTEMBER MEET POST TIMES
Day 1 of 11 – Friday, Sept. 11: 10 races from 12:45-5:18 p.m. Day 2 of 11 – Saturday, Sept. 12: 11 races from 12:45-5:48 p.m.
WINNINGEST JOCKEYS AT 2014 SEPTEMBER MEET – Corey Lanerie (13-for-64), Ricardo Santana Jr. (13-for-53), Brian Hernandez Jr. (12-for-53), Shaun Bridgmohan (9-for-46) and Julien Leparoux (8-for-36).
WINNINGEST TRAINERS AT 2014 SEPTEMBER MEET – Steve Asmussen (7-for-25), Wayne Catalano (7-for-27), Eddie Kenneally (6-for-13), Dale Romans (6-for-25), Rusty Arnold (5-for-7) and Chris Richard (5-for-9).
WINNINGEST OWNERS AT 2014 SEPTEMBER MEET – Ken and Sarah Ramsey (7-for-18), Maggi Moss (6-for-12), Gary and Mary West (6-for-20), Jerry Durant (3-for-4) and G. Watts Humphrey Jr. (3-for-7).