The 135th renewal of the Grade II, $400,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare, a race that is as old as the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and the Kentucky Oaks (GI), is the premier event on a schedule of 12 stakes races with total purses of $1.775 million announced today for the Nov. 1-28 Fall Meet at historic Churchill Downs.
The Clark Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up won last year by dual Eclipse Award finalist Einstein, is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 27 and is the richest event on a stakes schedule in which every race has been granted graded stakes status by the American Graded Stakes Committee. Other highlights of the Fall Meet stakes schedule include a pair of “Stars of Tomorrow” programs devoted exclusively to races for 2-year-old Thoroughbreds. Each of those programs includes a pair of graded races, one for open company and one scheduled exclusively for fillies.
The “Stars of Tomorrow” programs are set for Sunday, Nov. 1, the opening day of the meet, and the closing day program on Saturday, Nov. 28. The first of those programs spotlights a pair of Grade III races in the Iroquois and Pocahontas, both one-mile contests and the latter restricted to fillies. The final “Stars of Tomorrow” day features two Grade II races at 1 1/16-miles in Kentucky Jockey Club and the Golden Rod, with the latter scheduled for fillies. Last fall’s renewals of those races produced Rachel Alexandra, the leading candidate for 2009 “Horse of the Year” honors who finished second in the Pocahontas before launching an ongoing seven-race winning streak with a 4 3/4-length romp in the Golden Rod. That string of stakes wins by Rachel Alexandra includes the Kentucky Oaks; a win over males in the Preakness (GI), the second jewel of the Triple Crown; and the Mother Goose (GI).
The total purses available in the 12-race stakes program at Churchill Downs have the same value as in the 2008 Fall Meet. One race was moved to a new position on the schedule as the $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (GIII), a one-mile race for 3-year-olds and up will be run this year on Friday, Nov. 6. The Ack Ack will serve as the top attraction on the live racing card at Churchill Downs that will complement the simulcast of the first day of competition in the Nov. 6-7 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.
“Our 2009 Fall Stakes schedule includes a very strong roster of graded stakes races that are either rich in tradition or growing in stature, and the quality of the overall stakes schedule is a tribute to both our horsemen and our racing office,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs. “Despite intensifying competition from tracks in nearby states with purses fueled by casino revenues and the nation’s difficult economic landscape, our purses for stakes races in the 2009 Fall Meet remain level with those offered during last year’s meet. We are pleased that our 2009 Fall Meet stakes purses remain stable despite those challenges, and we thank our owners and trainers for their continued support for racing and stakes events at Churchill Downs.”
Other highlights of the Fall Meet Stakes schedule include the 94th running of the $150,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII) for fillies and mares ages 3 & up, a traditional Thanksgiving Day fixture that will be renewed on Nov. 26, and the 19th running of the $175,000-added Mrs. Revere (GII) for 3-year-old fillies on turf on Saturday, Nov. 14. Like the Clark Handicap, the Falls City dates to the track’s first racing meet in 1875, but the Clark, like the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, has been renewed each year without interruption and the Falls City has missed a few years during that span.
CHURCHILL DOWNS FALL STAKES SCHEDULE (NOV. 1-28)
Date Race (Grade) Division Distance (surface)
Nov. 1 STARS OF TOMORROW I
$100,000-added Pocahontas (GIII) 2 YO fillies Mile
$100,000-added Iroquois (GIII) 2 YO Mile
Nov. 6 $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) 3 YO & up Mile
Nov. 7 $150,000-added Chilukki (GII) F & M 3 & up Mile
Nov. 14 $175,000-added Mrs. Revere (GII) 3 YO fillies 1 1/16 m (T)
Nov. 15 $100,000-added Commonwealth Turf (GIII) 3 YO 1 1/16 m (T)
Nov. 21 $100,000-added Cardinal Handicap (GIII) 3 YO & up 1 1/8 m (T)
Nov. 26 $150,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII) F & M 3 & up 1 1/8 m
Nov. 27 $400,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GII) 3 YO & up 1 1/8m
Nov. 27 $100,000-added River City Handicap (GIII) 3 YO & up 1 1/8 m (T)
Nov. 28 STARS OF TOMORROW II
$150,000-added Golden Rod (GII) 2 YO fillies 1 1/16 m
$150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) 2 YO 1 1/16 m
(T) – Turf F & M – Fillies and mares YO – year-olds m – Mile(s)