The 140th runnings of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and $1 million-guaranteed Longines Kentucky Oaks and the 33rd running of the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap are the highlights of a record six Grade I events that headline Churchill Downs Racetrack’s schedule of 24 stakes races cumulatively worth $7.675 million during its April 26-June 29 Spring Meet.
Total purses for the 2014 Spring Meet stakes events reflect an increase of 2.7 percent from 2013.
The spring stakes schedule continues Churchill Downs’ emphasis on big days highlighted by multiple stakes races and the Kentucky Derby Day card on Saturday, May 3 will be the richest in track history. The Derby program offers six stakes events with record total purses of $3.75 million. Half of those races are Grade I events – the Derby, the $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf and the $300,000-added Humana Distaff for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up at seven furlongs – and the rest are Grade II contests.
Along with the trio of Grade I races, the Kentucky Derby Day card features the 80th running of the $400,000-added Churchill Downs (GII) for 4-year-olds and up at seven furlongs; the $300,000-added Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Presented by Longines (GII) for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up on the Matt Winn Turf Course; and the $250,000 American Turf Presented by Ram Trucks (GII), for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on grass. The latter will be run on Derby Day for the first time after being part of the Kentucky Oaks Day program since its inception in 1998.
The decision by the American Graded Stakes Committee to grant Grade I status for the $300,000-added La Troienne, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares ages 4 and up on Kentucky Oaks Day, Friday, May 2, increased the number of Spring Meet Grade Is to six. The track will offer seven Grade I races in 2014 with the inclusion of 140th running of the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare, a Fall Meet fixture.
The Longines Kentucky Oaks, America’s premier and most lucrative race for 3-year-old fillies, and the 39th running of the La Troienne are the marquee races on an Oaks Day stakes schedule that also features a total of six stakes events, five of them graded contests, with total purses of $2.075 million.
Another highlight on the Oaks Day program will be the 11th running of the $300,000-added Alysheba Presented by Besilu Stables (GII). This increasingly popular 1 1/16-mile race for 4-year-olds and up has been won over the past three years by stars that include Take Charge Indy (2013), Successful Dan (2012) and First Dude (2011) against fields that have included the likes of future two-time Horse of the Year (2012-2013) Wise Dan, who finished eighth in 2011, and future Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winners Fort Larned (2012) and Mucho Macho Man (2013), who finished second and third, respectively, in the Alysheba’s 2012 running.
Completing the Kentucky Oaks Day schedule are the $175,000-added Eight Belles (GIII), a seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies; the $150,000-added Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GIII), a five-furlong turf event for 4-year-olds and up, and the $150,000 Edgewood Presented by Forcht Bank, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies on turf.
The Stephen Foster Handicap, the racing centerpiece of a “Downs After Dark” night racing program on Satursday, June 14, is one of the major American races for older horses and heads a schedule of four races beneath the Churchill Downs lights that offer total stakes purses of $900,000. Sharing the nighttime spotlight with the Foster are the 39th running of the $200,000-added Fleur De Lis Handicap (GII), a 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares ages 3 and up; the $100,000-added Matt Winn (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16-miles; and the $100,000-added Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
One other multi-stakes program is set the for Saturday, June 28 program that will spotlight the 24th running $200,000-added Firecracker (GII) for 3-year-olds at up at a mile on turf and the 113th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII), for 2-year-olds at six furlongs, as its co-features. The Firecracker has been won in two of the last three years by 2012-13 Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
The 2014 Spring Stakes schedule will be launched by the 90th running of the $150,000-added Derby Trial (GIII), a one-mile race for 3-year-olds that is the racing highlight of the “Opening Night” celebration under the lights on Saturday, April 26 that kicks off the Spring Meet and Kentucky Derby Week. Other events include the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (GIII) at 1 ½ miles on turf for 3-year-olds and up on Saturday, May 24; the $100,000-added Winning Colors (GIII) for fillies and mares age 3 and up at six furlongs on the Memorial Day card on Monday, May 26; the $100,000-added Aristides (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs on Saturday, May 31; the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) for fillies and mares age 3 and up at 1 1/16 miles on turf on Saturday, June 7; and the 114th running of the $100,000-added Debutante for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs on Saturday, June 21.
Changes to purses and other race conditions in the 2014 stakes schedule compared to the prior year: