The second September Meet in the 140-year history of Churchill Downs Racetrack will offer a eight stakes races with total purses of $925,000 during a 12-day run topped by a pair of important stakes events for 2-year-olds who have their eyes on the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and racing’s spring classics, and the return of the $125,000-added Homecoming Classic, a race for 3-year-olds and up designed as a prep for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I).
The first Saturday of the Sept. 5-28 meet will feature four of those stakes events in a program highlighted by the $200,000-added Pocahontas (GII) for 2-year-old fillies and the $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII) for colts, the 1 1/16-mile opening races of both the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points system for the 2015 Derby and Oaks, and the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” program for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) and $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI). The second running of the Homecoming Classic – a 1 1/8-mile race designed to be a prep for the 1 ¼-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic and November’s $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) at Churchill Downs – will share the stage on Saturday, Sept. 27 with the $100,000-added Jefferson Cup (GIII), a one-mile race for 3-year-olds on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Along with an automatic berth in the starting gate for their respective Breeders’ Cup races, the Breeders’ Cup-nominated horse that wins the Pocahontas or Iroquois also will have their pre-entry and entry fees paid, receive a $10,000 travel stipend (if based outside of California) and the person who nominated either the foal or the horse will receive an award of $10,000.
Racing during the September Meet will be conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule during each of its four weeks, with “Downs After Dark” night racing celebrations scheduled for Friday, Sept. 5 (Opening Night) and Friday, Sept. 19.
The races on the stakes schedule for this year’s meet are identical to the roster of events offered during last year’s inaugural September racing session, but total stakes purses have been reduced by $50,000 and individual purses have been changed for three races. The Pocahontas purse has been raised by $50,000 to $200,000-added. Purses for the Homecoming Classic and Iroquois were each reduced by $50,000. The value of the Homecoming Classic is now $125,000-added, while the Iroquois purse is $100,000-added.
The Pocahontas and Iroquois will be joined on that first Saturday program by the $100,000-added Ack Ack (GIII), a one-mile race for 3-year-olds and up, and the $100,000-added Locust Grove, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares.
The $100,000-added Open Mind, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares, will be the featured event on Saturday, Sept. 13, while the $100,000-added Dogwood (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 20.
The roster of winners of stakes events run during last year’s inaugural September Meet was impressive. It included:
- Mrs. Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned, the winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic that used a victory in the first Homecoming Classic as a final prep race for his defense of his Breeders’ Cup triumph. Fort Larned would finish fourth to Mucho Macho Man in the Classic at Santa Anita and end his career with 10 wins and nearly $4.5 million from 25 starts.
- Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable, whose victory in the Pocahontas earned the 2-year-old daughter of Tapit a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI). She finished eighth in that race, but is unbeaten in 2014 with four stakes victories that include the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) and the Mother Goose (GI) at Belmont Park. Another accomplished product of the 2013 Pocahontas is Landaluce Educe Stables’ Rosalind, who finished third to Untapable and went on to be the runner-up in Keeneland’s Darley Alcibiades (GI) on synthetic Polytrack and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies before winning this spring’s Central Bank Ashland (GI) at Keeneland and finishing fourth to Untapable in the Oaks.
- Donegal Racing’s Cleburne, who earned a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his victory in the Iroquois. He traveled to Santa Anita for the race, but suffered an injury and did not compete. Finishing behind Cleburne that day were third-place Tapiture, subsequent winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII), Rebel Stakes (GII) and Matt Winn (GIII); fourth-place Ride On Curlin, third in the Champagne (GI), Southwest (GIII) and Rebel (GIII) and runner-up in the Arkansas Derby (GI) and Preakness (GI); and Rise Up, who finished sixth and later won the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (GIII).
- George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire, who won the $100,000 Ack Ack (GIII) and then competed in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI), where he finished seventh to winner Goldencents. Ack Ack runner-up Taptowne also traveled to Santa Anita for the Dirt Mile, but was scratched shortly before the race
- Preston Stable’s Flashy American, the winner of the Locust Grove who has since won the Sixty Sails (GIII) at Hawthorne, finished fourth to champion Beholder in the Zenyatta (GI) at Santa Anita and third in the recent Delaware Handicap (GI) to Belle Gallantey and 2013 Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar. Among her rivals in that listed stakes event were runner-up Wine Princess, who would return to win the Falls City (GII); and sixth-place finisher Molly Morgan, who would later finish second to multiple Grade I winner On Fire Baby in the La Troienne (GI) before defeating that rival in a rematch in the Fleur De Lis Handicap (GII).
Churchill Downs had conducted racing during the month of September during parts of various summer and fall racing meets during its long history that began in 1875. But last year was the first in which the track had offered both a third racing meet in a calendar year and a racing session conducted exclusively during September.
Seating for the Sept. 5 and Sept. 19 “Downs After Dark” celebrations and other racing programs scheduled during the first Homecoming Meet at Churchill Downs is available for purchase online at www.ChurchillDowns.com/tickets.