Churchill Downs

RIT "Big Shot" Community Photo Project Headed To Churchill Downs Oct. 3

The next RIT Big Shot promises to be a beautiful photo finish when Rochester Institute of Technology’s longtime community photography project captures a spectacular nighttime image of a national icon –Churchill Downs Racetrack, home of the Kentucky Derby, in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.

The Big Shot relies on the participation of hundreds of volunteers to provide the primary light source for the image while RIT photographers shoot an extended exposure. It’s a signature event for RIT and is led by the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, which is nationally recognized for its degree programs.

Often described as “painting with light,” the Big Shot asks volunteers to “paint” or shine their light source onto a particular area of the landmark while the photograph is taken. The light sources are usually either handheld flashlights or camera flash units. RIT organizers are hoping to engage hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers to come out to participate and illuminate Churchill Downs, one of the most famous Thoroughbred racetracks in the world.

This year’s 141st Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands – the oldest continuously held sports event in the United States – drew more than 16 million television viewers on NBC and on-track attendance of a record 170,513.

“This is an amazing opportunity for RIT and we couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Michael Peres, associate chair of the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences and one of the Big Shot organizers. “We are excited to capture the beauty and the architectural nuances of Churchill Downs – from the historic Twin Spires atop the clubhouse to the famous Kentucky Derby winner’s circle.”

“We invite all of Kentucky and Southern Indiana to come out with their flashlights on Saturday, Oct. 3, and be part of something they will never forget,” Peres added.

Residents will join RIT students, faculty, staff and alumni for the photo, which will be taken after sunset on Oct. 3 – around 9 p.m. (all times Eastern) – regardless of weather conditions. Gates at Churchill Downs will open at 7:30 p.m. Volunteers are asked to arrive no later than 8 p.m., bring either a flashlight or a camera flash unit, and wear dark clothing. Volunteers will be broken into lighting teams and placed around the racetrack’s interior and in the grandstand by RIT organizers before test photos are taken and the final photo is captured.

“All of us at Churchill Downs are looking forward to being a part of this unique photo experience with RIT that will enable all to view our historic track in a completely new way,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “Our track and the Kentucky Derby have long been important parts of life in our hometown and we’re confident that residents throughout our region will want to participate and enjoy this opportunity to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime event like the Big Shot.”

Since RIT started its Big Shot project in 1987, the event has traveled to several national landmarks and twice crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Through their viewfinders, Big Shot photographers have captured such landmarks as AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium) in Arlington, Texas; The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas; the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York City; Pile Gate in Dubrovnik, Croatia; the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden; and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Nikon Inc., a longtime sponsor of the Big Shot, will be the event’s premier sponsor. Nikon is loaning high-end photographic equipment to capture the Big Shot photograph, which will be produced using three Nikon D810 bodies.

“It’s a privilege to partner with RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences and its efforts each year with the Big Shot photo,” said Kristine Bosworth, assistant training manager for Nikon Professional Services. “Our support of the Big Shot and the photography programs at RIT gives Nikon Professional Services a chance to show off our latest technology—all while giving back to photo communities around the country. Personally, the RIT Big Shot is one of the events I look forward to year after year.”

To learn more about the project and view photographs of past Big Shot images, go to https://www.facebook.com/RITBigShot or http://bigshot.cias.rit.edu/. The project also can be followed on Twitter at @RITBigShot.

 

Churchill Downs Distributes More Than $220,000 in Kentucky Derby, Oaks-Related Donations To Charity Partners

Charity partners who worked with Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”) during this spring’s 141st annual celebrations of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Longines Kentucky Oaks were presented with donation checks for their Derby and Oaks Week activities that totaled $222,705.

Kentucky Oaks women’s health partners Bright Pink and Horses and Hope and two participants in the Derby and Oaks Week “Taste of Derby” celebration – Louisville food bank Dare to Care and Sullivan University’s Center for Hospitality Studies Culinary Arts Program – received their donation checks during ceremonies in the G.H. MUMM Winner’s Circle during the June 27 “Downs After Dark” night racing program that concluded the track’s 38-day Spring Meet.

A donation of $117,705 was presented to Chicago-based Bright Pink, which is now in its second year as the Kentucky Oaks’ primary health care partner. Bright Pink is the only national non-profit organization focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women, along with support for high-risk individuals. With the 2015 donation, Bright Pink has received $174,705 from Churchill Downs through its Kentucky Oaks partnership.

Local ambassadors Leigh Anne Autullo and Maureen Osak accepted the donation on behalf of Bright Pink.

The Kentucky Oaks engaged its first women’s health partner in 2009 when Churchill Downs adopted its “Ladies First” theme for America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies and created the day’s “Pink Out” fashion theme. Churchill Downs has donated $706,705 to its primary Kentucky Oaks women’s health partners since 2009.

A donation of $30,000 was presented to Horses and Hope, the cancer outreach initiative in Kentucky’s horse industry launched by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear. The donation represents $1 from each on-track sale of the “Oaks Lily,” the signature drink of the Kentucky Oaks, and supports Horses and Hope’s programs and outreach at racetracks and farms in Kentucky’s horse industry. With its 2015 donation, Churchill Downs has donated a total of $210,000 to Horses and Hope during its seven-year Kentucky Oaks partnership.

The Horses and Hope donation was accepted by two key members of the First Lady’s “Pink Team”: retired jockey and breast cancer survivor Patricia “P.J.” Cooksey and Connie Sorrell, the director of the Kentucky Cancer Program’s West Office.

The donations to the Kentucky Oaks women’s health partners were presented by Lauren DePaso, Director of Community Relations for Churchill Downs Incorporated (“CDI”), and Elizabeth Wester, CDI’s Vice President for Corporate Relations and Government Affairs.

Two donations grew from the fifth annual “Taste of Derby Presented by Stella Artois” celebration in the North Wing Lobby of Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center on Thursday, April 30. “Taste of Derby” highlights racing cuisine, celebrity and style and the event attracted more than 1,500 patrons.

Louisville-based food bank Dare to Care received a donation of $50,000 as a partner charity in “Taste of Derby” since 2010.  During that period Dare to Care’s proceeds from the partnership will generate more than 200,000 meals in Louisville Metro and the region. Since the inaugural “Taste of Derby” in 2010, Churchill Downs has donated a total of $138,760 to Dare to Care.

The donation was accepted by Remy Kenney, Dare to Care’s corporate relations manager.

Also receiving a “Taste of Derby” donation was the Sullivan University National Center for Hospitality Studies Culinary Arts Program, which was presented a check for $25,000. The award for the program on Louisville’s Sullivan campus recognized “Taste of Derby” support by the Culinary Arts Program, which opens its kitchens to visiting chefs who participate in the annual Derby and Oaks Week event, and the program’s students gain significant experience while assisting in the event.

The donation to Sullivan University’s Culinary Arts Program was accepted by Chef Allen Akmon, the program’s chair, and program students. This year’s donation will be used for scholarships for students in the program.

Donations to the “Taste of Derby” charity partners were presented by Mark Stone, Director of Events in Churchill Downs’ Group Sales, and Christie-Leigh Mueller, Churchill Downs event manager.

$175,000 Lukas Classic and Road to Kentucky Derby, Oaks Iroquois, Pocahontas Top $1.025 Million September Stakes

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time winner of both the Kentucky Derby (Grade I) and Kentucky Oaks (GI), will be honored by Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”) with the naming of a stakes race to be run during its upcoming September Meet that will feature eight stakes events with total purses of $1.025 million.

The $175,000 Lukas Classic, a Listed race for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, was known as the Homecoming Classic during the first two years of September racing at Churchill Downs. The Lukas Classic, introduced in 2013 and designed to be an autumn prep for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), shares the September Meet stakes spotlight with events for juveniles that that respectively launch the 2016 Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks: the $150,000 Iroquois (GIII) for 2-year-olds and the $200,000 Pocahontas (GII) for 2-year-old fillies. Both races will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track and each is included on the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Series schedule. Their respective winners will be guaranteed automatic starting spots in Breeders’ Cup events on Oct. 31 at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.

The 11-date September Meet operates on a four-day, Thursday-through-Sunday weekly racing schedule with the exception of its first week. Opening day is Friday, Sept. 11 and the meet will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 27. Regular post time for the meet will be 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern), with exceptions being 5 p.m. “Twilight Thursday” racing on September 17 and 24 and the meet’s lone “Downs After Dark” night racing celebration on Saturday, Sept. 19 with a post time of 6 p.m.

The former Homecoming Classic is being renamed to salute Lukas’ accomplishments, contributions and influence on Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, and the horse industry. The native of Antigo, Wis. – a four-time Eclipse Award honoree as America’s top trainer – will celebrate his 80th birthday on Sept. 2. The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up that now carries his name will be run for the third time on Saturday, Sept. 26. Reigning Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned won its first running in 2013 and subsequently finished fourth at Santa Anita in his bid for a repeat Classic victory. The race was won last year by Cigar Street, who would finish seventh to Bayern in the 2014 Classic at Santa Anita.

Lukas, who bases his stable at Churchill Downs Barn 44 through much of the year, has won a record 14 victories in Triple Crown races, and trained a record 20 winners of Breeders’ Cup Championship races. He earned four Eclipse Awards that honored him as the nation’s top trainer. At Churchill Downs, Lukas ranks second in career stakes victories (73) and fourth in total wins (510).

“Along with the enormity of the numbers of his total victories, the stakes races he has won and earnings by his stable’s horses throughout his Hall of Fame career, D. Wayne Lukas forever changed both the Kentucky Derby and North America’s horse industry,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “It is Churchill Downs’ honor to salute Wayne Lukas by placing his name on this race. We are enthusiastic about the potential of the Lukas Classic and believe it will very soon be an important annual stop for older horses who are working to prepare for and earn starting spots in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“We think the presence of Wayne Lukas’ name on this race will enhance its attractiveness and its status. And we would love to see Mr. Lukas do one of the few things he has yet to do during his legendary career. Our team at Churchill Downs is confident that Wayne is a long way from entertaining any thoughts of retirement, and we hope that he will soon saddle a winner of this race, which would allow him – for the first time – to present a winner’s trophy to himself.”

The first races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks headline four stakes events on Saturday, Sept. 12, the first of three Saturdays of racing during the September Meet. Along with the Pocahontas and Iroquois, that program will feature the $100,000 Locust Grove, a Listed race for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up on the main track and the $100,000 Open Mind, which matches fillies and mares ages 3 and up at six furlongs on the dirt.

Along with the opportunity to collect the first points in the systems that will determine the starters in the 2016 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the Longines Kentucky Oaks, the Iroquois and Pocahontas provide their winners with a guaranteed starting spot in Breeders’ Cup races in their divisions. The Iroquois is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Challenge Juvenile Division” and its winner will earn a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI). The filly that wins the Pocahontas, part of the “Juvenile Fillies Division”, will gain a spot in the field for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI). Both Breeders’ Cup races will be run on Saturday, Oct. 31 at Keeneland Race Course.

The racing program on Saturday, Sept. 19 features the $100,000 Dogwood, a Grade III event for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.

The final Saturday of September Meet racing on Sept. 26 will offer three stakes events in the Lukas Classic, the $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at one mile, and the $100,000 Jefferson Cup (GIII) for 3-year-olds at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course – the only stakes race on grass during the meet.

Only two of the eight stakes races in September have changed from last year’s schedule. Along with the new name for the Lukas Classic, the purse for the race was boosted by $50,000 to $175,000. The purse for the Iroquois also was increased by $50,000.

After the September racing session, Churchill Downs will have one remaining race meet in 2015. The track’s traditional Fall Meet is scheduled for Nov. 1-29 Fall Meet, which will offer 21 racing dates on a weekly Thursday-through-Sunday schedule.

CHURCHILL DOWNS SEPTEMBER MEET STAKES SCHEDULE

September 11-September 27

Date

Race (with purse & grade)

Division

Distance

Surface

Sat., Sept. 12

$200,000 Pocahontas (GII)

2YO Fillies

1 1/16 Miles

Dirt


$150,000 Iroquois (GIII)

2YO

1 1/16 Miles

Dirt


$100,000 Locust Grove (Listed)

3YO & Up Fillies & Mares

1 1/16 Miles

Dirt


$100,000 Open Mind

3YO & Up Fillies & Mares

6 Furlongs

Dirt

Sat., Sept. 19

$100,000 Dogwood (GIII)

3YO Fillies

7 Furlongs

Dirt

Sat., Sept. 26

$100,000 Ack Ack Handicap (GIII)

3YO & Up

1 Mile

Dirt


$175,000 Lukas Classic (Listed)

3YO & Up

1 1/8 Miles

Dirt


$100,000 Jefferson Cup (GIII)

3YO

1 Mile

Turf

Cosmic Evolution Turns Back Powerful Asmussen Trio in Debutante

Stephen Fidel’s Cosmic Evolution turned back a powerful trio of fillies trained by Steve Asmussen to score her first career victory in a 1 ½-length triumph the $100,000 Debutante Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on Saturday, June 27 at Churchill Downs.

Calvin Borel was aboard the chestnut daughter of Proud Citizen rallied from just off the pace in the six-furlong race and stubbornly held off runner-up Adhara, the Asmussen-trained even-money favorite, for the win.  Trained by Lon Wiggins, Cosmic Evolution covered six furlongs in 1:11.89 over a fast track

Cosmic Evolution, the 5-1 fourth choice in the Debutante, paid #$12.60, $3.20 and $2.80.  Adhara, ridden by Corey Lanerie, returned $2.80 and $2.20.  Areolite, who had beaten Cosmic Evolution in her prior start in the career debut for both fillies, finished third as the 2-1 second choice under Julien Leparoux and paid $2.20 to show.  The third Asmussen-trained filly and third wagering choice Thievery finished fifth.

“We got beat the first time but she needed (the race),” Borel said.  “I came back and told Lon that those horses would never beat her again. She stood up to the plate.”

Cosmic Evolution’s Debutante win improved her record to 1-1-0 in two races and the $60,760 winner’s share of the $100,000 purse improved her bankroll to $69,560.

Tia Chuy finished fourth,12 lengths ahead of fifth-place Thievery.  Sheza Fine Justice and Langstars Charmer rounded out the field of seven.  Don’t Boss Me was a late scratch.

DEBUTANTE QUOTES

LON WIGGINS, trainer of COSMIC EVOLUTION (winner): “She broke sharp; that really helped. And Calvin (Borel) got her to relax good. When he called on her she came running.

               “I’ll have to watch the replay a couple of times because it looked like she was trying to drift out a little bit, pulling on that left rein. But she ran good. She ran real good.”

CALVIN BOREL, jockey on COSMIC EVOLUTION (winner): “I’ve been working her. You know, we got beat the first time but she needed it. I came back and told Lon (Wiggins) that those horses would never beat her again. She stood up to the plate.

“She was trying to drift a little bit with me today. Maybe she was a little bit anxious because, boy, she wanted to run early and I didn’t want her in front today. She relaxed under me and where I wanted her. When I asked her she went on like a good horse. That’s the way you do it.

“Lon told me to do what I want. … We’re worried about the future and down the road where we know she can finish.

“I’m gonna take a little break over the summer to rest up, vacation and heal but I’ll be there (for Cosmic Evolution), don’t you worry about that!”

STEVE ASMUSSEN, trainer of ADHARA (runner-up), AREOLITE (third) and THIEVERY (fifth): “We were second, third and fifth. I was expecting better.”

COREY LANERIE, jockey on ADHARA (runner-up): “She had a good trip on the rail, but I don’t think she was really too enthusiastic about being down there. I think if maybe I could have gotten her outside she would have given me a little more effort down the  lane and we could have given the winner a run for it and maybe got by her. But it’s hard to say. At the time that I chose to stay on the rail, the leader was so far off of it in front of me that I couldn’t’ give it up.”

JULIEN LEPAROUX, jockey on AREOLITE (third): “I was in a good a spot early. She was traveling good and made a run outside, but she was kind of grinding at the end. She just wasn’t good enough today.”

 

He's Comin In Hot Sizzles in Bashford Manor Win

Douglas Scharbauer’s He’s Comin In Hot preserved his reputation as one of the fastest young horses in North America when he rolled to a 3 ¾-length victory in Saturday’s 114th running of the $100,000 Bashford Manor Stakes (Grade III) at Churchill Downs.

The Texas-bred son of Early Flyer jumped to a quick early advantage from his inside post and turned back a challenge by runner-up Show Bound in the stretch to win the six-furlong race by two lengths under jockey Jamie Theriot.  A 4-5 favorite trained by Bret Calhoun, He’s Comin In Hot covered six furlongs in 1:10.90 over a fast track as he scored his second victory in as many races at Churchill Downs and his second win in four career races.

“He got his feet out under him very well in the first few jumps and was able to clear and not take early pressure,” Calhoun said.  “That was my main concern with the one-hole. But I thought he was the kind of horse that could overcome it but you’ve got to have gate speed. He got a comfortable lead.”

He's Comin In Hot returned $3.60, $2.40 and $2.20 as the odds-on favorite in the Bashford Manor.  Show Boss, the 5-2 second choice ridden by Julien Leparoux, easily held second and paid $3.20 and $3.20.  Patrick Rocks finished third under Corey Lanerie and paid $4.40 to show.

 

The impressive victory improved I’m Comin In Hot’s career record to 2-1-1 in four races with earnings of $96,510.

He’s Comin In Hot led the Bashford Manor field through sharp fractional times of :22.12, :46.21 and and :58.18.  The Steve Asmussen-trained Show Bound was the only rival to offer a challenge to the winner and his runner-up finish left him without a victory after two starts in his young career.

“He ran a good race. The winner had run the fastest races and he continued to so.”

Patrick Rocks finished 3 ¾ lengths back of Show Bound in third, and was followed past the finish by Dothat Dance, Sapphire Storm, Roman’s Chance and Shoot Craps.

BASHFORD MANOR QUOTES

BRET CALHOUN, trainer of HE’S COMIN IN HOT (winner): “He broke very sharp just like he did last time. He got his feet out under him very well in the first few jumps and was able to clear and not take early pressure. That was my main concern with the one-hole. But I thought he was the kind of horse that could overcome it but you’ve got to have gate speed. He got a comfortable lead.

“We’ll take a look at the Sanford next or race at Prairie Meadows on the 18th of July.”

JAMIE THERIOT, jockey on HE’S COMIN IN HOT (winner): “He broke sharp and you know Robby (Albarado on Sapphire Storm) was there and then all of a sudden he disappeared. He was just in a high cruising speed. Down the backside he had his ears pricked. It was easy and I said, ‘It’s over with.’

               Q: How concerned were you about drawing the rail? “In his first two starts, he got beat because he didn’t leave (the starting gate). We did a little work with him and he broke really sharp when he broke his maiden. When we drew the one hole I thought if I could get him to leave like he did when he broke his maiden, I wasn’t worried. And he did. He’s getting better. I think he’s going to be a nice horse.”

STEVE ASMUSSEN, trainer of SHOW BOUND (runner-up): “He ran a good race. The winner had run the fastest races and he continued to so.”

Q: But a promising effort for Show Bound? “Absolutely.  It was just his second out and he ran solid.”

JULIEN LEPAROUX, jockey on SHOW BOUND (runner-up): “He ran a good race. He was just second-best today. He put me in the race fine and he sat second there. I came to (He’s Comin In Hot) at the quarter and I thought maybe we were going to keep going, but he came again. We were just second-best.”

American Pharoah's Kentucky Derby Victory, Triple Crown Celebration Top Memorable 38-Day Spring Meet

A nearly meet-long racetrack celebration of the victory by Zayat StablesAmerican Pharoah in the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and the colt’s subsequent sweep of racing’s elusive Triple Crown will be among its most delightful and lingering images, but there were ample reasons to smile for racing fans, horsemen and racetrack officials during Churchill Downs Racetrack’s (“CDRT”) Spring Meet that ended its 38-day run on Saturday, June 27 under the lights in a “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois & Finlandia Vodka” racing program.

The meet soared from the starting gate with a spectacular Kentucky Derby and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) week which generated record attendance and wagering for both of Churchill Downs’ signature events, and record business levels for the six-day racing week. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert brought American Pharoah back to Churchill Downs following his Triple Crown sweep – which ended a 37-year stretch during which no 3-year-old Thoroughbred had won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes (GI) and Belmont Stakes (GI) – and paraded the sport’s newest superstar before nearly 29,000 adoring fans during the June 13 “Downs After Dark” celebration headed by the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI). Baffert and his staff shared their Triple Crown winner with countless fans and visitors at Barn 33 until the colt returned to California on June 18.

Other highlights of the track’s 141st Spring Meet included a very promising start for its new “Twilight Thursday” racing programs that featured a compact schedule of eight live races and a first-race post time of 5 p.m. (all times EDT); favorable business levels that combined with Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Week’s record results to allow a 10% increase in overnight purses during the meet’s last 11 days of competition; a positive reception for the new $4.2 million Winner’s Circle Suites and Courtyard seating and hospitality from the owners of Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses, and from fans who enjoyed races in those new venues throughout the Spring Meet; and a dramatic race for “Leading Jockey” that saw a contest between seven-time leading rider Corey Lanerie and nine-time Churchill Downs riding champion Julien Leparoux come down to final yards of the 38-day meet’s last race.

The meet provided good news for racing fans, horsemen and the track as the size of both the average field and average purse for races during the Spring Meet races rose above the levels from the previous year.

A total of 2,867 horses competed in 368 Spring Meet races, and the average number of horses-per-race was 7.79, an increase of 6.9% from the 2014 Spring Meet average of 7.29 horses-per-race. The Spring Meet of 2014, which also was a 38-day racing session, included 372 races that attracted 2,712 horses. The total number of horses that competed during the meet rose 5.7% although the 2015 meet featured four fewer races.

A race during the 2015 Spring Meet offered an average purse of $55,982, an increase of 0.5% from 2014. Total purses paid during the just-completed 38-day meet totaled $20,601,382, a decrease of 0.6% from the total of $20,728,293 in the spring of 2014, which featured four more races. Daily purses offered during a 2015 meet averaged $542,142, a slight decrease of 0.5% from average daily purses of $535,481 in the 2014 Spring Meet.

“While American Pharoah’s Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown heroics provided an emotional lift to all Churchill Downs racing fans, our team and the entire horse industry, the Spring Meet got off to a strong start with a record Kentucky Derby and Oaks Week schedule and continued with good news and solid business levels throughout the meet’s 38 days,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “Field size and purse levels remain major concerns for our daily racing product, but we offer our gratitude to our horsemen and racing fans in our region, those at simulcast outlets across North American and those who supported our racing through TwinSpires.com and other online wagering platforms. All helped Churchill Downs racing take small steps forward on a challenging competitive landscape during the just-completed meet and we appreciate that support.

“A special thank you goes out to our entire team at Churchill Downs. Tireless efforts from team members in each department and at every level of our operation were major contributors to a satisfying meet. We are encouraged by the positive response to our new ‘Twilight Thursdays’ and the ongoing success of ‘Downs After Dark’ night racing. And we offer a special thanks to Zayat Stables and trainer Bob Baffert and his team for sharing American Pharoah with our community for six unforgettable weeks. The Derby and Triple Crown winner intensified the spotlight on our sport and we pledge our best efforts to provide a wonderful experience at our track for fans who have been inspired to visit us by this magical spring for a new American sports hero.”

Both the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Longines Kentucky Oaks programs attracted record crowds and all-sources wagering. The Derby’s attendance reached a new high of 170,513 and the attendance record for the Kentucky Oaks improved to 123,763. All-sources wagering on the six racing days during Kentucky Derby and Oaks Week – from Opening Night, Saturday, April 25, through Derby Day, Saturday, May 2 – rose to a record $263.3 million, up 4% from 2014’s $253.8 million, and 2% over the record set in 2013.

While support for Churchill Downs’ “Downs After Dark” programs, which debuted in 2009, continued to be strong, it was the second of three night racing programs that provided the meet’s brightest post-Derby and Oaks Week highlights. The June 13 “Downs After Dark” headlined by the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) featured the added attraction of a public appearance by Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah just one week after he had completed the first sweep of racing’s Triple Crown since 1978 with his dominant victory in the Belmont Stakes on June 6 at New York’s Belmont Park.

Along with that evening’s popular on-track parade of American Pharoah, the members of his team continued recent Stephen Foster tradition when they accepted their engraved Kentucky Derby winner’s trophies in a ceremony in the new G.H. Mumm Winner’s Circle. Owner-breeder Ahmed Zayat and family were presented with the solid gold Kentucky Derby Winner’s Trophy and a smaller sterling silver replica presented to the winning breeder. Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza were presented with their sterling silver trophies for winning trainer and jockey. The trophies were the first for Zayat, the fourth for Baffert and the third for Espinoza.

Three of the evening’s races were featured in a two-hour live broadcast on NBCSN that kicked off the network’s coverage of the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.” The Stephen Foster Handicap and the Grade II Fleur De Lis Handicap are included on “Breeders’ Cup Win & You’re In Challenge Series” race schedule and their respective winners earned automatic starting berths in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) and the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) on Oct. 30-31 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.

The combination of the on-track appearance of American Pharoah, the night’s strong roster of four stakes races and “Downs After Dark” entertainment attracted 28,968 on June 13 - the largest attendance figure of the meet outside of Kentucky Derby and Oaks Week. On either side of the Stephen Foster attendance number was the on-track crowd of 30,647 for Kentucky Derby and Oaks Week’s “Thurby” celebration on Thursday, April 30, and the closing night “Downs After Dark” program on Saturday, June 27 that drew 24,192 patrons through the admission gates.

The strong 2015 Derby and Oaks Week results combined with favorable business levels after that successful week enabled Churchill Downs Racetrack to raise purses levels for its overnight races for the first time since the Spring Meet of 2012. The higher purse levels started with racing on Thursday, June 11 and continued through the meet’s final 11 racing days. Races that benefited from the increase included allowance races, maiden special weight events, starter allowance and claiming and maiden claiming races. Purses for stakes races were not affected by the increase.

The Spring Meet’s new “Twilight Thursdays”, which debuted after Kentucky Derby Week, contributed to the favorable business results. “Twilight Thursdays” offered eight-race programs and a 5 p.m. first post and featured activities on the Plaza that included $1 12-ounce beers, food trucks, live music and a “Handicapping 101” fan education tent. Sales of general admission tickets, box seating and dining increased on Twilight Thursdays over sales for both Thursday and Friday programs in the 2014 Spring Meet to get the new concept off to a promising start.

While the triumph by wagering favorite and future Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby will reign as the most memorable equine performance and memory of the 2015 Spring Meet for many observers, there were many other outstanding efforts that merit being a part of “Best of the Spring Meet” conversations.

Foremost among those was the victory by Brereton Jones’ homebred Lovely Maria in the 141st running of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) on Friday, May 1. The daughter of Majesticperfection provided a third Kentucky Oaks victory to both Brereton Jones, the former governor of Kentucky, and trainer and Hopkinsville, Ky. native Larry Jones. The Joneses had earlier won the 2008 Kentucky Oaks with Proud Spell and its 2012 running with Believe You Can. The Oaks triumph was the first for 56-year-old jockey Kerwin Clark, whose victory in America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies capped what the Louisiana-born veteran called “the best day of my life.”

The Spring Meet’s strong schedule of stakes events include Grade I victories by Bill Cubbedge’s Molly Morgan, who took the $300,000 La Troienne Presented by TwinSpires.com for fillies and mares ages 4 & up for trainer Dale Romans in the final race of her career; Donegal Racing’s Finnegans Wake, who got up in the final strides to take the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby Day for trainer Peter Miller and jockey Victor Espinoza; and celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s Dame Dorothy, who edged 2014 Eclipse Award Filly & Mare Sprint champion Judy the Beauty and Moonlit Stroll in a dramatic finish to win the $300,000 Humana Distaff for fillies and mares ages 4 & up for trainer Todd Pletcher and rider Javier Castelleno.

John C. Oxley’s Noble Bird earned both his first Grade I victory and a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) on Oct. 31 at Keeneland when he held off Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Grade I-winner Lea to win the June 13 Stephen Foster Handicap. Noble Bird won the “Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In Classic Division” race by a head under jockey Joel Rosario for trainer Mark Casse, who earned his second Foster triumph.

Earning a Breeders’ Cup starting berth on the same evening was G. Watts Humphrey’s homered Frivolous, who took the $200,000 Fleur De Lis Handicap (GII) at odds of 32-1 under veteran jockey Jon Court. Trained by Vicki Oliver, the owner’s daughter, Frivolous earned a spot in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) on Oct. 30 at Keeneland with her surprise in the Fleur De Lis, which made its debut on the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Distaff Division” race schedule. Frivolous had scored a 19-1 upset in winning Churchill Downs’s Falls City Handicap (GII) in November.

Departing provided Claiborne Farm with a milestone victory when the 6-year-old gelding won the the $200,000 Firecracker (GII) on the meet’s closing night. The victory in the one-mile grass race was the 33rd stakes victory by the Paris, Ky.-based breeding and racing icon and pulled the farm into a tie with Calumet Farm for the all-time lead in stakes wins by an owner at Churchill Downs.

Other notable stakes wins during a stellar Kentucky Derby and Oaks Week included a narrow triumph by Protonico over future Stephen Foster winner Noble Bird in the $400,000 Alysheba Presented by Big Fish Games (GII); a victory by Private Zone in the $500,000 Churchill Downs Presented by TwinSpires.com (GII); a front-running win by the Casse-trained Tepin in the $300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Presented by Longines (GII); a late-running victory by Divisidero in the $250,000 American Turf Presented by Ram Trucks (GII); a romp by unbeaten Competitive Edge in the $200,000 Pat Day Mile Presented by LG&E and KU (GIII), a race formerly known as the Derby Trial; unbeaten Promise Me Silver’s easy victory in the $200,000 Eight Belles Presented by TwinSpires.com (GIII); a gritty win by Power Alert (AUS) over the late-charging Undrafted in the $150,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint Presented by TwinSpires.com; Feathered’s win in the $150,000 Edgewood Presented by Forcht Bank (GIII); and a victory by the Steve Asmussen-trained Cinco Charlie in the inaugural running of the $100,000 William Walker for 3-year-olds on the meet’s soggy “Opening Night” celebration on Saturday, April 26. The William Walker was named in honor of the African-American riding hero who guided Baden-Baden to victory in the 1877 Kentucky Derby.

Other Spring Meet stakes highlights included a narrow win by Carl Pollard’s homebred Kiss Moon in the $100,000 Old Forester Mint Julep (GIII) on turf; an upset of reigning Breeders’ Cup Sprint and Eclipse Award Sprint champion Work All Week by trainer Chris Hartman’s Alsvid in the $100,000 Aristides (GIII); Street Story’s win in the $100,000 Winning Colors (GIII); Xtra Luck’s victory for veteran trainer Neil Howard in the $100,000 Louisville Handicap (GIII) at 1 ½ miles on turf; an easy win by the Bret Calhoun-trained He’s Comin In Hot in the 114th running of the Bashford Manor (GIII) for 2-year-olds; Cosmic Evolution’s upset under popular jockey Calvin Borel in the 115th running of the $100,000 Debutante Presented by GE Appliances for 2-year-old fillies; Island Town’s hard-fought win over favored Fame and Power in the $100,000 Matt Winn; and overnight stakes wins by Katie’s Eyes in the Unbridled Sidney; Courtesan and Ceisteach in divisions of the Keertana; Viva Majorca in the Kelly’s Landing; and Fioretti’s 25-1 surprise in the Roxelana that gave jockey Sophie Doyle and trainer Anthony Hamilton Jr. their first North American stakes wins.

The battle for “Leading Jockey” provided drama through the final seconds of the Spring Meet as Corey Lanerie won the meet’s final race aboard Love Your Humor to earn his eighth Churchill Downs title in the track’s last nine meets. Lanerie edged nine-time Churchill Downs leading jockey Julien Leparoux 40-39 for the 2015 crown. Lanerie, who also won Spring Meet titles in 2012 and 2014, started Saturday’s final day of racing in a 38-38 tie and each had 10 mounts on the 11-race card.

Robby Albarado finished third in the Spring Meet standings with 29 victories, and Shaun Bridgmohan and Brian Hernandez Jr. tied for fourth with 24 wins.

Mike Maker saddled 23 winners during the meet to earn his fifth “Leading Trainer” title and his second Spring Meet crown.  Steve Asmussen was the runner-up with 17 victories and was followed by Ian Wilkes (16), Dale Romans (13) and Mark Casse (12).

Ken and Sarah Ramsey earned another “Leading Owner” title during the Spring Meet to extend their record string of meet honors at Churchill Downs to 24. The Nicholasville, Ky. couple had 17 winners during the meet and cruised to their latest title over Gary and Mary West, the runner-up with seven Spring Meet winners, and Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. of Richard and Karen Papiese and Maggi Moss, who tied for third with six wins apiece.

Festivities surrounding the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks continued to generate important funds for Churchill Downs’ partner charities. Checks totaling $222,705 in donations were presented on Saturday, June 27 to four of the track’s charitable partners:

A donation of $117,705 was presented to Chicago-based Bright Pink, the only national non-profit organization focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women along with support for high-risk individuals. This was Bright Pink’s second year as a Kentucky Oaks’ women’s health partner, a focus that dates to 2009 when the event’s “Ladies First” theme was introduced. With the 2015 donation to Bright Pink, Churchill Downs has donated $174,705 to Bright Pink and a total of $706,705 to its Kentucky Oaks women’s health partners since 2009.

  • $30,000 was presented to Horses and Hope, the cancer outreach initiative in Kentucky’s horse industry launched by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear. The donation represents $1 from each on-track sale of the “Oaks Lily,” the signature drink of the Kentucky Oaks, and will support Horses and Hope’s programs at racetracks and farms in Kentucky’s horse industry. With its 201 donation, Churchill Downs has donated $210,000 to Horses and Hope during its seven-year Kentucky Oaks partnership.
  • Louisville-based food bank Dare to Care received a donation of $50,000 from the from the fifth annual “Taste of Derby Presented by Stella Artois” celebration in the North Wing Lobby of Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center on Thursday, April 30. The celebration of racing cuisine, celebrity and style attracted more than 1,500 patrons. Since the inaugural “Taste of Derby” in 2010, Churchill Downs has donated $138,760 to Dare to Care. 
  • The Sullivan University Center for Hospitality Studies Culinary Arts Program was awarded a $25,000 donation for the program’s ongoing support and participation in “Taste of Derby.” Faculty and students in the Sullivan Culinary Arts Program play a major role in the important Derby Week charitable event as the program opens its kitchens to visiting chefs and Sullivan students gain valuable experience while they assist in the event. 

Business was brisk at the Churchill Downs claims box during the Spring Meet as a total of 243 horses were claimed during its 38 racing days, a 34% increase from the 181 claims registered during last year’s spring racing session. Those claims totaled $4,779,500 and generated $286,770 in sales tax revenue for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Churchill Downs racing resumes during its September Meet, which features 11 racing days (Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) from Sept. 11-27. The track’s Nov. 1-29 Fall Meet will offer 21 racing dates on a weekly Thursday-through-Sunday schedule.

Departing Ends Stakes Drought, Earns First Turf Win; Provides Claiborne With Churchill Stakes Milestone

Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing won his first stakes race since 2013 and scored his first triumph on grass when slipped through along the hedge under jockey Miguel Mena to grab a clear lead in the stretch and held off longshot Knights Nation to win Saturday’s 26th running of the $200,000 Grade II Firecracker Stakes on the closing night of the 38-day Spring Meet at Churchill Downs.

A 6-year-old gelded son of War Front bred by his owners, Departing’s Firecracker victory was his first stakes victory since a win in the Grade II Super Derby at Louisiana Downs in September 2013. In snapping a string of seven consecutive losses in stakes events, the Al Stall Jr.-trained Departing earned his first victory on grass in his second start over that racing surface. He improved his career record to 17-8-2-3 and the winner’s prize of $120,280 pushed his lifetime earnings to $1,720,559.

The victory by Departing provided Claiborne Farm, a legendary Thoroughbred racing and breeding operation located in Paris, Ky., with its 33rd stakes victory at Churchill Downs. The win lifted Claiborne Farm into a tie with Calumet Farm, another Kentucky racing and breeding icon, for total stakes victories at the historic home of the Kentucky Derby. Other Churchill Downs wins through the years by Claiborne include the 1984 Kentucky Derby with Swale, Grade I wins in 2010 by Blame in Breeders’ Cup Classic and Stephen Foster Handicap, and a win in the 1993 Early Times Turf Classic by Lure.

Departing overcame tight traffic in the stretch, opened a clear one-length advantage in mid-stretch and won by a final margin of a half-length to pay $10.40, $6.20 and $3.80 as the third wagering choice in a field of eight 3-year-olds and up. Knights Nation rallied late for second under Brian Hernandez Jr. and returned $8 and $3.60. Favored Sky Flight was three-quarters of a length farther back in third under Julien Leparoux and paid $2.40 to show.

"We went for the hole and they tried to make it tight but he’s a good horse,” Mena said. “This kind of horse has that big heart. He was full of run. I have the horse to go in there. The trip was great. It set up perfect for us with some pretty good speed. He was just the best horse today.”

The milestone achieved in the victory by Departing is important to Claiborne Farm, said the farm’s 25-year-old President Walker Hancock. The fourth-generation president succeeded his father, Seth Hancock, in the farm’s top position in early 2014.

“It means a lot to all the farm employees and everyone that’s put in so much work over the years,” the younger Hancock said. “It’s definitely a special accomplishment. …I’ve only been around for a few of these but hopefully I’m around for many more to come.”

Departing covered the one-mile Firecracker distance on good turf in 1:38.16.  He had collected six stakes victories as a 3-year-old in 2013, but his only win in seven races over the past two years was an allowance victory at Churchill Downs in late April of 2014.

Frac Daddy was the morning line favorite in the Firecracker and left the starting gate as the second wagering choice. He set the early pace, but faded to finish last under jockey Corey Lanerie.

Slip By finished fourth and was followed past the finish by Skyring, R. Great Adventure, Medal Count and Frac Daddy.

FIRECRACKER QUOTES

WALKER HANCOCK, 25-year-old president of owner/breeder CLAIBORNE FARM, DEPARTING, winner): “Miguel (Mena) did a great job riding him right up the hedge. He might have even brushed it, I don’t know. It was very exciting though. I’m just glad he finally put it together and could get back in the winner’s circle.

“We were (talking about running in the $70,000-added Kelly’s Landing at seven furlongs on dirt) but I guess maybe he just needed (his last) race. Being by War Front they seem to run so well on the turf we figured we better give him another shot. I’m glad we did. It was a last minute audible, too, at about 10 a.m. on Wednesday when we decided to change course.”

               On the record-tying 33rd Churchill Downs stakes win for Claiborne Farm: “It means a lot to all the farm employees and everyone that’s put in so much work over the years. It’s definitely a special accomplishment. …I’ve only been around for a few of these but hopefully I’m around for many more to come.”

               Q: What’s next? “I’ll talk to (trainer) Al (Stall Jr.). Maybe the Forestardave or Bernard Baruch … something like that. This opens up a whole other set of races for him. Maybe we can even target the Breeders’ Cup Turf or something at Keeneland. We’ll have to figure it out but it opens a whole new avenue for us, which is very exciting.”

MIGUEL MENA, jockey on DEPARTING (winner): “We went for the hole and they tried to make it tight but he’s a good horse. This kind of horse has that big heart. He was full of run. I have the horse to go in there. The trip was great. It set up perfect for us with some pretty good speed. He was just the best horse today.”

               On the last minute pickup mount at entry time: “Yes, it was nice. I was very fortunate. It’s been a little slow meet for me but it picked up at the end and we finished good.”

NOTE: This was Claiborne Farm’s 33rd career stakes wins at Churchill Downs which ties Calumet Farm for the all-time record by an owner at the historic Louisville racetrack.

DALLAS STEWART, trainer of KNIGHTS NATION (runner-up): “I thought he ran great. Brian (Hernandez) said that he kind of struggled with the soft turf just a little bit, but he just found a way to pick himself up in that last eighth of a mile and finished-up good. I was proud of him and I was proud of Brian.”

BRIAN HERNANDEZ JR., jockey on KNIGHTS NATION (runner-up): “He ran hard. I was proud of the horse. All the way around there he was struggling and struggling and I thought, oh man, we’re going to be in trouble. But he picked himself up late and he carried himself home. We had a little traffic, but he pushed his way through. I wish he had handled the turf a little better early, because I think he’d have won.”

NORMAN CASSE, assistant to MARK CASSE, trainer of SKY FLIGHT (third): “I was a little unsure whether or not we were going to have him ready (off the layoff) and I think he probably just got tired inside the sixteenth-pole. But I’m really excited about the way that he ran. We were just hoping that he’d hit the board and that he’d pay back what we put in. Now he has a race and we’ll take him up to Saratoga and have him ready for a big meet up there.”

JULIEN LEPAROUX, jockey on SKY FLIGHT (third): “He was a little fresh on the backside in the first part of the race and he got a little bit tired at the end. He ran good, though.”

KENNY McPEEK, trainer of FRAC DADDY (last of eight): “Corey (Lanerie) seems to think he didn’t like the one-hole or the soft turf. He rates better when he’s outside of horses.”

Asmussen Hopes Show Bound Moves Forward In Move To Dirt In Bashford Manor

Four-time Bashford Manor-winning trainer Steve Asmussen relishes the opportunity to try Jerry Durant’s maiden Show Bound on dirt in Saturday night’s 114th renewal of the six-furlong sprint for juveniles.

Show Bound, a Kentucky-bred son of Warrior’s Reward out of the Hennessy mare Spanish Cat, weakened to third in his career debut on June 7 at Belmont Park, a five-furlong sprint on grass. Sent to post as the $1.55-1 favorite in a field of seven, Show Bound was hooked in a speed duel from the inside with eventual winner and Bashford Manor rival Shoot Craps, who shook free with an eighth of a mile to run. Show Bound finished 2 ½ lengths back in third.

So does Asmussen, a 14-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs, expect Show Bound to move forward on Saturday?

“Yes, more than anything because of the move to the dirt,” Asmussen said. “We went through a weird little lull here right in the middle of the meet where we couldn’t get a (2-year-old) maiden race to go for about three weeks and that’s why he ran in New York on the grass. I wanted to get a race into him before the Bashford Manor. I wasn’t trying to get a Warrior’s Reward a win on the turf; I wanted a race in him because he’s a big, heavy colt that I thought would need one.”

On Saturday night, Shoot Craps will break from post five as the 2-1 second choice on the morning line with Show Bound on the outside in the field of eight 2-year-olds as the 5-2 third choice. Churchill Downs maiden winner He’s Comin in Hot is the 9-5 favorite and breaks from the rail.

“(An) inside (draw) versus outside is all dependent on the individual and I don’t think that bothers our horse at all,” said Asmussen, who also entered Erv Woolsey and Keith Asmussen’s Sapphire Storm. “Show Bound doesn’t show a preference either way in the mornings. He’s a very mature horse, mentally and physically.”

A Bashford Manor win by Asmussen on Saturday would equal Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ record for the race. Asmussen won previous runnings of the storied race with Lunarpal (2004), Kodiak Kowboy (2007), Kantharos (2010) and Cinco Charlie (2014).

SKY FLIGHT GETS NEEDED RACE IN FIRECRACKERJohn C. Oxley’s Sky Flight is one of the more intriguing entrants in Saturday’s 26th running of the $200,000 Firecracker (Grade II) at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course. The lightly-raced 4-year-old will break from post 2 and is the 7-2 third choice on Mike Battaglia’s morning line. Not at original nominee, Sky Flight was supplemented to the race for $6,000.

The Firecracker will be Sky Flight’s first race in 154 days. He hasn’t raced since a third-place finish behind Lochte and Old Time Hockey in the $150,000 Tampa Bay (GIII) on Jan. 24. In his previous start on Dec. 20, the Kentucky-bred son of Sky Mesa beat 12 rivals to win the $75,000 Tropical Park Derby. Overall, Sky Flight has won three of five starts and $120,455.

“Really, we want to give him a race before heading up to Saratoga,” said Norman Casse, who runs the Kentucky string for his father Mark. “He was in last week but the race came off the grass (and was scratched). You know, if he runs his best race he can win the race. More or less, we just want to give him a race before we head up north.”       

  BASHFORD MANOR – The field (from the rail out with jockeys and morning line odds) for Saturday’s 114th running of the $100,000 Bashford Manor (GIII) for 2-year-olds at six furlongs (Race 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET): He’s Comin in Hot (Jamie Theriot, 9-5); Patrick Rocks (Victor Carrasco, 10-1); Roman’s Chance (Miguel Mena, 20-1); Dothat Dance (James Graham, 20-1); Shoot Craps (Deshawn Parker, 2-1); Justanothermorgan (Aaron Court, 20-1); Sapphire Storm (Robby Albarado, 10-1); and Show Bound (Julien Leparoux, 5-2).

DEBUTANTE – The field (from the rail out with jockeys and morning line odds) for Saturday’s 115th running of the $100,000 Debutante (Listed) for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs (Race 7 at 9:05 p.m. ET): Langstars Charmer (Jareth Loveberry, 10-1); Adhara (Corey Lanerie, 2-1); Tia Chuy (Deshawn Parker, 20-1); Sheza Fine Justice (Cory Orm, 20-1); Cosmic Evolution (Calvin Borel, 5-1); Areolite (Julien Leparoux, 5-2); Thievery (Robby Albarado, 9-2); and Don’t Boss Me (Didiel Osorio, 6-1).

FIRECRACKER – The field (from the rail out with jockeys and morning line odds) for Saturday’s 26th running of the $200,000 Firecracker (GII) for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course (Race 8 at 9:39 p.m. ET): Frac Daddy (Corey Lanerie, 5-2); Sky Flight (Julien Leparoux, 7-2); Skip By (Rafael Hernandez, 20-1); R. Great Adventure (Jamie Theriot, 15-1); Hammers Terror (Robby Albarado, 5-1); Knights Nation (Brian Hernandez Jr., 6-1); Departing (Miguel Mena, 3-1); Medal Count (James Graham, 15-1); and Skyring (Joe Rocco Jr., 15-1).

KELLY’S LANDING – The field (from the rail out with jockeys and morning line odds) for Saturday’s sixth running of the $70,000-added Kelly’s Landing overnight stakes for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs (Race 9 at 10:11 p.m. ET): Good Lord (Miguel Mena, 15-1); Schivarelli (Corey Lanerie, 4-1); Souper Knight (Robby Albarado, 8-1); Stealcase (Rafael Hernandez, 8-1); Guns Loaded (Jon Court, 8-1); Ruble (Julien Leparoux, 5-1); Agent Di Nozzo (Joe Rocco Jr., 6-1); Russellin (Francisco Torres, 8-1); Brewing (James Graham, 12-1); Viva Majorca (Brian Hernandez Jr., 9-2); and Championofjustice (Jack Gilligan, 30-1).

ALL-STAKES 50-CENT PICK 4 ON SATURDAY NIGHT – Churchill Downs Racetrack will offer a special all-stakes 50-cent Pick 4 on Races 6-9 Saturday, comprising the Grade III, $100,000 Bashford Manor (Race 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET); $100,000 Debutante (Race 7 at 9:05 p.m. ET); Grade II, $200,000 Firecracker (Race 8 at 9:39 p.m. ET); and $70,000-added Kelly’s Landing overnight stakes (Race 9 at 10:11 p.m. ET). The ultra-competitive sequence, which asks bettors to pick the winners in each race, features 36 runners.

SATURDAY NIGHT’S ‘DOWNS AFTER DARK’ THEME IS ‘BOOTS, BREW & BBQ’ – The theme for Saturday night’s “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka.” is “Boots, Brew & BBQ” in which guests are encouraged to break out their best cowboy and cowgirl duds to enjoy draft beer, specialty cocktails, BBQ food trucks, mechanical bull rides, “Bet or No Bet Presented by Thorntons” (Races 6-9) and live music by Nashville artist Justin Adams. Admission gates open Saturday at 5 p.m. ET and the first of 11 races is 6 p.m. ET with the season finale set for 11:10 p.m. ET. General admission for Saturday night’s Spring Meet finale under the lights is $10. Reserved seats can be purchased in advance online at www.ChurchillDowns.com.

SATURDAY IS CLOSING NIGHT – Saturday is the final day of a memorable 38-day Spring Meet at Churchill Downs. Racing on the Kentucky circuit shifts to Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. for a 31-day meet that begins Friday, July 3. Racing will be staged there every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 1:50 p.m. ET through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7.

Simulcast wagering at Churchill Downs will be offered on the second floor of the Clubhouse in the ITW area this Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. ET and will move to The Parlay (located just inside the Gate 1 entrance) on Wednesday, July 1. Simulcast wagering will remain there through Labor Day. Free admission for simulcasting will be offered every Wednesday as well as Thursday, July 2; Thursday, July 9; and Monday, July 27. Popular summer signals Del Mar and Saratoga begin Thursday, July 16 and Friday, July 24, respectively.

Live racing returns to Churchill Downs on Thursday, Sept. 10 for a 12-day September Meet every Thursday-Sunday for three weeks through Sunday, Sept. 27.

Stall Calls Audible With Firecracker Duo Of Departing, Medal Count

The willingness to improvise is a trait of most good horsemen. Additionally, many successful operations run their horses in races where they can succeed, but are keen to roll the dice when an opportunity is presented. After all, as the saying goes: you can’t win it if you’re not in it.

Such may be the case with veteran 53-year-old trainer Al Stall Jr., a winner of more than 1,300 races and 28 graded stakes since 1991 who’ll start Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider’s Departing and Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Medal Count in the 26th running of the $200,000 Firecracker (Grade II) on Saturday night at Churchill Downs.

The Firecracker for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course is one of four stakes events on a deep 11-race nighttime card billed as “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” – closing night of Churchill Downs’ 38-day Spring Meet.

“I drove through the stable gate for work (Wednesday) morning and wasn’t planning on putting any horse in the Firecracker and the next thing you know I’ve got two in there that look like they have chances,” said Stall, who is best known for up-ending previously unbeaten Zenyatta with eventual champion older male Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

Departing is the 3-1 second choice on Mike Battaglia’s morning line odds (behind 5-2 favorite Frac Daddy) while Medal Count is 15-1.

Departing (16-7-2-3—$1,600,279), the 2013 winner of the Illinois Derby (GIII), West Virginia Derby (GII) and Super Derby (GII), finished a head back of Frac Daddy and 2 ½ lengths back of rail-skimming winner The Pizza Man in the $57,672 Opening Verse overnight stakes, Churchill Downs’ traditional Firecracker prep over 1 1/16 miles on turf on May 30. That race marked the 5-year-old gelding’s turf debut and was his first race in 183 days.

Stall considered a return to dirt and cut-back in distance for Departing next start in Saturday’s $70,000-added Kelly’s Landing overnight stakes at seven furlongs, but called an audible Wednesday morning.

“Departing had a great 3-year-old year (in 2013),” Stall said. “Whether he did or did not take a step forward as an older horse, his form doesn’t show it. Maybe he just caught the right fields as a 3-year-old.

“Being by War Front, we always had grass in the back of our mind. He’s trained well. He ran about the same type of race on the grass that we’d seen on the dirt as a 4-year-old. So we didn’t learn a whole lot. (The Opening Verse) wasn’t a bad race, it wasn’t a great race. It was okay; he handled the course properly which is more important than anything else.

“You would think he’d move forward off that race. We had 183 days off. I just hope he’s fitter and little more mentally dialed in. He’ll have a chance if that happens.”

Medal Count (13-3-2-1—$478,671), meanwhile, also was entered one week after a head-scratching last place finish in a 1 1/16-mile off-the-turf allowance/optional claimer over a “wet fast” surface in his first start for Stall on June 20. It was his first race after a 266-day layoff.

The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Dynaformer won the Transylvania (GIII), was second in the Blue Grass (GI), eighth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and third in the Belmont Stakes (GI) at age 3 while under the care of Dale Romans. He also showed promise on turf with a narrow defeat in the $230,417 Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs before finishing last of seven in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (GI) at Belmont Park in late September.

“Entering Medal Count was an audible, too,” Stall said. “The race last week came off the turf and he didn’t try at all. This meet’s getting ready to end and you don’t want to take a horse to Saratoga – that’s a long haul – who might run in an allowance race and run up against the (Christophe) Clements and the Chad Browns. If he goes up there and tries it can be a wasted van ride, a lot of time and money.

“He’s given us an indication – the way he’s eating and his brightness – that he can turn right around and do it again. We’re just looking to see some effort out of him because a lot of times when you give those stud horses time away from the racetrack they don’t come back as true blue as they left. You can’t identify anything that’s bugging him so we’re just looking for a little effort out of him. He’s got the potential to fit right in there so it’s just a fact-finding mission.

“The race came up just like the Racing Office had advertised. That’s how this game works. We’ll take a win any way we can get it. But as far as the horses go, both of them look wonderful, they’re sound and happy. Now it’s up to them. Rain or shine, Departing will go. Medal Count will be turf only. But we’re going to go over there and see what happens.”

Saturday will be an action-packed day for the Stall barn. In addition to his Churchill Downs starters, the trainer has Claiborne Farm and Dilschneider’s 3-year-old filly Chide, a first-level allowance winner at Churchill Downs, entered in Belmont Park’s $300,000 Mother Goose (GI) at one mile.

Stall won’t be in Louisville on Saturday and he won’t be in New York. Instead, he’ll be at the Natchitoches Events Center in Natchitoches, La. as his mentor Frankie Brothers, the retired trainer and Louisville resident, is inducted into Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Stall said. “But don’t kid yourself. We’ll have the iPad with the video going so there’ll be plenty of hootin’ and hollerin’ come post time.”

BASHFORD MANOR – The field (from the rail out with jockeys and morning line odds) for Saturday’s 114th running of the $100,000 Bashford Manor (GIII) for 2-year-olds at six furlongs (Race 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET): He’s Comin in Hot (Jamie Theriot, 9-5); Patrick Rocks (Victor Carrasco, 10-1); Roman’s Chance (Miguel Mena, 20-1); Dothat Dance (James Graham, 20-1); Shoot Craps (Deshawn Parker, 2-1); Justanothermorgan (Aaron Court, 20-1); Sapphire Storm (Robby Albarado, 10-1); and Show Bound (Julien Leparoux, 5-2).

DEBUTANTE – The field (from the rail out with jockeys and morning line odds) for Saturday’s 115th running of the $100,000 Debutante (Listed) for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs (Race 7 at 9:05 p.m. ET): Langstars Charmer (Jareth Loveberry, 10-1); Adhara (Corey Lanerie, 2-1); Tia Chuy (Deshawn Parker, 20-1); Sheza Fine Justice (Cory Orm, 20-1); Cosmic Evolution (Calvin Borel, 5-1); Areolite (Julien Leparoux, 5-2); Thievery (Robby Albarado, 9-2); and Don’t Boss Me (Didiel Osorio, 6-1).

FIRECRACKER – The field (from the rail out with jockeys and morning line odds) for Saturday’s 26th running of the $200,000 Firecracker (GII) for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course (Race 8 at 9:39 p.m. ET): Frac Daddy (Corey Lanerie, 5-2); Sky Flight (Julien Leparoux, 7-2); Skip By (Rafael Hernandez, 20-1); R. Great Adventure (Jamie Theriot, 15-1); Hammers Terror (Robby Albarado, 5-1); Knights Nation (Brian Hernandez Jr., 6-1); Departing (Miguel Mena, 3-1); Medal Count (James Graham, 15-1); and Skyring (Joe Rocco Jr., 15-1).

KELLY’S LANDING – The field (from the rail out with jockeys and morning line odds) for Saturday’s sixth running of the $70,000-added Kelly’s Landing overnight stakes for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs (Race 9 at 10:11 p.m. ET): Good Lord (Miguel Mena, 15-1); Schivarelli (Corey Lanerie, 4-1); Souper Knight (Robby Albarado, 8-1); Stealcase (Rafael Hernandez, 8-1); Guns Loaded (Jon Court, 8-1); Ruble (Julien Leparoux, 5-1); Agent Di Nozzo (Joe Rocco Jr., 6-1); Russellin (Francisco Torres, 8-1); Brewing (James Graham, 12-1); Viva Majorca (Brian Hernandez Jr., 9-2); and Championofjustice (Jack Gilligan, 30-1).

ALL-STAKES 50-CENT PICK 4 ON SATURDAY NIGHT – Churchill Downs Racetrack will offer a special all-stakes 50-cent Pick 4 on Races 6-9 Saturday, comprising the Grade III, $100,000 Bashford Manor (Race 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET); $100,000 Debutante (Race 7 at 9:05 p.m. ET); Grade II, $200,000 Firecracker (Race 8 at 9:39 p.m. ET); and $70,000-added Kelly’s Landing overnight stakes (Race 9 at 10:11 p.m. ET). The ultra-competitive sequence, which asks bettors to pick the winners in each race, features 36 runners.

SATURDAY NIGHT’S ‘DOWNS AFTER DARK’ THEME IS ‘BOOTS, BREW & BBQ’ – The theme for Saturday night’s “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka.” is “Boots, Brew & BBQ” in which guests are encouraged to break out their best cowboy and cowgirl duds to enjoy draft beer, specialty cocktails, BBQ food trucks, mechanical bull rides, “Bet or No Bet Presented by Thorntons” (Races 6-9) and live music by Nashville artist Justin Adams. Admission gates open Saturday at 5 p.m. ET and the first of 11 races is 6 p.m. ET with the season finale set for 11:10 p.m. ET. General admission for Saturday night’s Spring Meet finale under the lights is $10. Reserved seats can be purchased in advance online at www.ChurchillDowns.com.

SATURDAY IS CLOSING NIGHT – Saturday is the final day of a memorable 38-day Spring Meet at Churchill Downs. Racing on the Kentucky circuit shifts to Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. for a 31-day meet that begins Friday, July 3. Racing will be staged there every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 1:50 p.m. ET through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7.

Simulcast wagering at Churchill Downs will be offered on the second floor of the Clubhouse in the ITW area this Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. ET and will move to The Parlay (located just inside the Gate 1 entrance) on Wednesday, July 1. Simulcast wagering will remain there through Labor Day. Free admission for simulcasting will be offered every Wednesday as well as Thursday, July 2; Thursday, July 9; and Monday, July 27. Popular summer signals Del Mar and Saratoga begin Thursday, July 16 and Friday, July 24, respectively.

Live racing returns to Churchill Downs on Thursday, Sept. 10 for a 12-day September Meet every Thursday-Sunday for three weeks through Sunday, Sept. 27.

TRENDINGCorey Lanerie, who has won seven of the last eight Churchill Downs riding titles, enters the final three days of the 38-day Spring Meet with a one-win lead, 37-to-36, over nine-time local champ Julien Leparoux. … Leparoux led all jockeys with six wins from 14 mounts last week (June 18-21). … Lanerie and Brian Hernandez Jr. lead all riders with 11 victories over the last 10 racing dates. … Four-time leading trainer Mike Maker entered closing week with a 21-16 lead in the trainer standings over 14-time Churchill Downs leader Steve Asmussen. Maker has eight horses entered over the final three days and Asmussen has 14 entries. … Maker led all trainers with five wins from 14 starters last week. He also has the most winners over the last 10 racing dates with seven trips to the G.H. MUMM Winner’s Circle. … Churchill Downs’ all-time leading owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey will collect their record-extending 23rd title as a leading owner at Churchill Downs. They enter closing week with a commanding 16-6 lead over Maggi Moss and Gary and Mary West after going 4-for-5 last week and 6-for-12 over the last 10 days.

COREY LANERIE’S REMAINING MOUNTS:

  • Thursday (seven mounts, including three morning line favorites): Mauve (Race 1, 8-1); Rastanora (Race 3, 3-1*); Miss Hunny (Race 4, 5-2*); Coverallyourbases (Race 5, 6-1); Katie the Cutie (Race 6, 7-2*); Compass Rose (Race 7, 15-1); and Mygalsal (Race 8, 10-1).
  • Friday (five mounts): Katy Lied (Race 2, 10-1); Latent Princess (Race 3, 5-1); Tiz Kismet (Race 6, 5-1); Yarmorka (Race 7, 15-1); and Bourbon Soul (Race 8, 5-1).
  • Saturday (nine mounts, including three morning line favorites): Urban Bourbon (Race 1, 9-2); Heart Love Kiss (Race 2, 9-2); Bear’s the Name (Race 4, 6-1); Maryanna Star (Race 5, 4-1*) or Tanzspiel-IRE (Race 5 AE MTO, 4-1*); Adhara (Race 7, 2-1*); Frac Daddy (Race 8, 5-2*); Schivarelli (Race 9, 4-1); Wings of Prayer (Race 10, 8-1) or Dave Hoeght (Race 10 AE, 12-1); and Love Your Humor (Race 11, 10-1).

JULIEN LEPAROUX’S REMAINING MOUNTS:

  • Thursday (four mounts): Elusive Checkers (Race 3, 4-1); Tizsational (Race 4, 3-1); Jubal (Race 5, 12-1); and Cozy Kitten (Race 8, 3-1).
  • Friday (five mounts): Seneca Destiny (Race 2, 5-2); Sahara Sunrise (Race 3, 8-1); Corinthian Wind (Race 6, 8-1); Titanium (Race 7, 9-2); and Hot Tin Roof (Race 8, 12-1).
  • Saturday (10 mounts, including two morning line favorites): Battle Tap (Race 1, 7-2*); Belpiana (Race 2, 8-1); Suwanee Son (Race 4, 7-2*); Academic Break (Race 5, 12-1) or Asperites-IRE (Race 5 AE, 5-1); Show Bound (Race 6, 5-2); Areolite (Race 7, 5-2); Sky Flight (Race 8, 7-2); Ruble (Race 9, 5-1); Generous Kitten (Race 10, 10-1) or Vigilante (Race 10 AE, 4-1) or Estiqaa (Race 10 AE MTO, 8-1); and Valdina Saint (Race 11, 5-1).  

MIKE MAKER’S REMAINING STARTERS:

  • Thursday (one starter): Cozy Kitten (Race 8, 3-1).
  • Friday (three starters): Seneca Destiny (Race 2, 5-2); Miss Mizzen Silver (Race 6, 8-1); and Kitten’s Angel (Race 6, 5-1).
  • Saturday (four starters): Suwanee Son (Race 4, 7-2*); Asperites-IRE (Race 5 AE, 5-1); Hammers Terror (Race 8, 5-1); and Generous Kitten (Race 10, 10-1).  

 

KEN & SARAH RAMSEY’S REMAINING STARTERS:

  • Thursday (one starter): Cozy Kitten (Race 8, 3-1).
  • Friday (one starter): Kitten’s Angel (Race 6, 5-1).
  • Saturday (three starters): Suwanee Son (Race 4, 7-2*); Asperites-IRE (Race 5 AE, 5-1); and Generous Kitten (Race 10, 10-1).  

 

COREY LANERIE’S PREVIOUS SEVEN CHURCHILL DOWNS LEADING JOCKEY TITLES – 2012 Spring Meet (71 wins); 2012 Fall Meet (29 wins); 2013 September Meet (19 wins); 2013 Fall Meet (36 wins); 2014 Spring Meet (57 wins); 2014 September Meet (13 wins); and 2014 Fall Meet (36 wins).

JULIEN LEPAROUX’S PREVIOUS NINE CHURCHILL DOWNS LEADING JOCKEY TITLES – 2006 Spring Meet (87 wins); 2007 Spring Meet (69 wins); 2007 Fall Meet (27 wins); 2008 Fall Meet (63 wins); 2009 Spring Meet (62 wins); 2009 Fall Meet (27 wins); 2010 Fall Meet (28 wins); 2011 Spring Meet (53 wins); and 2011 Fall Meet (34 wins).

MIKE MAKER’S PREVIOUS FOUR CHURCHILL DOWNS LEADING TRAINER TITLES – 2008 Fall Meet (31 wins); 2011 Fall Meet (15 wins); 2013 Spring Meet (35 wins); and 2013 Fall Meet (16 wins).

KEN & SARAH RAMSEY’S RECORD-EXTENDING 23 CHURCHILL DOWNS LEADING OWNERS TITLES – 2000 Spring Meet (19 wins); 2000 Fall Meet (six wins); 2001 Spring Meet (14 wins); 2001 Fall Meet (nine wins); 2002 Spring Meet (19 wins); 2002 Fall Meet (seven wins); 2003 Spring Meet (14 wins); 2003 Fall Meet (12 wins); 2004 Spring Meet (19 wins); 2005 Fall Meet (seven wins); 2006 Spring Meet (21 wins); 2007 Fall Meet (seven wins); 2008 Spring Meet (20 wins); 2008 Fall Meet (24 wins); 2009 Spring Meet (18 wins); 2009 Fall Meet (nine wins); 2010 Fall Meet (six wins); 2011 Fall Meet (12 wins); 2013 Spring Meet (32 wins); 2013 September Meet (six wins); 2013 Fall Meet (18 wins); 2014 September Meet (seven wins); 2014 Fall Meet (12 wins); and 2015 Spring Meet (began Thursday with 16 wins).

DOWN THE STRETCH – Today’s final Twilight Thursday of the Spring Meet will feature $1 12-ounce draft beer, food trucks and music by Billy Goat Strut Revue in the Plaza from 5-8 p.m. … Veteran jockey Deshawn Parker, a perennial leading rider at Mountaineer and winner of more than 4,800 races since 1988, will seek the first graded stakes win of his career Saturday night aboard the Dane Kobiskie-trained Shoot Craps in the $100,000 Bashford Manor (Grade III). He is 0-for-7 in graded stakes with his only runner-up effort coming aboard Bourbon Courage in the 2012 West Virginia Derby (GII). … Jockeys Chris Landeros, Jareth Loveberry, Luis Quinonez and Ricardo Santana Jr. have stakes engagements on Friday night at Iowa’s Prairie Meadows. Shaun Bridgmohan, Landeros, Quinonez and Santana have mounts there on Saturday night. … Wednesday was Bridgmohan’s 34th birthday. … Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher (Super Saver in 2010) will celebrate his 48th birthday on Friday. … Three-time Longines Kentucky Oaks-winning owner Brereton C. Jones (Proud Spell in 2008, Believe You Can in 2012 and Lovely Maria in 2015) will celebrate his 76th birthday Saturday. … Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Lynn Whiting (Lil E. Tee in 1992) celebrates his 76th birthday Sunday. … Jockey Joe Johnson celebrates his 48th birthday Monday. … Congratulations to Churchill Downs Racetrack General Manager Ryan Jordan, who was recognized this week by Louisville Business First as a 2015 “Forty Under 40” honoree.

 

 

Competitive Field Of 14 Sprinters To Battle For $70,000 Kelly's Landing

Churchill Downs’ Spring Meet winners Agent Di Nozzo, Guns Loaded, Ruble and Viva Majorca clash in a competitive sixth renewal of the $70,000-added Kelly’s Landing overnight stakes, one of four stakes events on the 11-race “Downs After Dark” closing night program.

The seven-furlong sprint, which goes as Race 9 at approximately 10:11 p.m. ET lured a field of 11 3-year-olds and up.

Marylou Whitney Stables’ Viva Majorca (11-3-1-1—$153,040) and Live Oak Plantation’s Souper Knight (15-4-4-3—$192,490) ran fourth in Grade III six-furlong sprints in their previous starts. Viva Majorca, trained by Ian Wilkes, was beaten 7 ½ lengths by Alsvid in the $100,000 Aristides on May 30 at Churchill Downs. Trainer Mike Trombetta’s Maryland invader Souper Knight finished 5 ½ lengths back of Sandbar in the $150,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap on the May 16 Preakness Stakes undercard at Pimlico.

The field from the rail out (with jockeys): Good Lord (Miguel Mena); Schivarelli (Corey Lanerie); Souper Knight (Robby Albarado); Stealcase (Rafael Hernandez); Guns Loaded (Jon Court); Ruble (Julien Leparoux); Agent Di Nozzo (Joe Rocco Jr.); Russellin (Francisco Torres); Brewing (James Graham); Viva Majorca (Brian Hernandez Jr.); and 3-year-old Championofjustice (Jack Gilligan).

The race is named in honor of Summerplace Farm’s Kelly’s Landing, who earned $1,853,831 from a record of 10-3-2 in 27 starts for trainer Eddie Kenneally between 2004-09. The gelding won the six-furlong Aristides Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs in 2005 by stopping the teletimer in a track record 1:07.55 (since eclipsed). His biggest victory came in the 2007 Dubai Golden Shaheen at Nad Al Sheba in the United Arab Emirates. Kely’s Landing also won the 2006 Phoenix (GIII) at Keeneland and 2007 Mr. Prospector Handicap (GIII) at Gulfstream Park.