Churchill Downs has unveiled a stakes schedule for its 2009 Spring Meet that is headed by the 135th renewals of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks (GI), and includes a total of 29 stakes events with total purses of $7.575 million.
Three more Grade I events are included on the schedule for the 52-day session that will run from April 25-July 5. The $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and $300,000-added Humana Distaff, both scheduled on the Kentucky Derby program on Saturday, May 2, and the $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap, which is set to head the “Stephen Foster Super Saturday” racing program on Saturday, June 13, round out the five Grade I events on the schedule.
The 2009 Spring Meet stakes schedule includes 27 graded races. Along with its five Grade I races, the schedule features six Grade II events and 16 Grade III races. Two races on the schedule were granted higher graded status by the American Graded Stakes Committee. The $100,000-added Derby Trial was restored to Grade III status for its 84th running on the meet’s opening day. The Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile will be a Grade II event for the first time when the one-mile turf race for fillies and mares ages three and up is renewed on Kentucky Derby Day.
Three races have new names: the $100,000-added Eight Belles (GIII), a Derby Day race formerly known as the La Troienne that now honors the ill-fated 2008 Kentucky Derby runner-up; the $350,000-added Louisville Distaff, formerly the Louisville Breeders’ Cup, on May 1; and the $100,000-added Kentucky Juvenile (GIII) on April 30, formerly the Kentucky Breeders’ Cup. One race will be run at a new distance as the $100,000 Matt Winn on May 16 moves from six furlongs to seven furlongs. Two non-graded stakes races run in 2008 will go on hiatus this year. Those races are the Opening Verse Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up, and the Mamzelle, a five-furlong turf sprint for fillies and mares ages 3 and up.
“Our Spring Meet stakes schedule offers something for horses in all age and gender divisions, and we continue our focus of high quality, big event days with multiple stakes surrounding the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Stephen Foster Handicap,” said Ben Huffman, Churchill Downs racing secretary. “Declines in wagering caused by economic conditions and unexpected limits on distribution of our simulcast signal in 2008 provided challenges as we put this schedule together. But we are satisfied with the finished product and look forward to working with our horsemen to continue to present compelling, high quality stakes events to fans of Churchill Downs racing throughout North America.”
The 2009 stakes schedule includes two days that feature six stakes races headed by Grade I events. The Stephen Foster Day program on June 15 has five stakes races, and the April 30 and May 30 programs each feature a pair of stakes races.
The Kentucky Derby Day program on Saturday, May 2 will again be the biggest day of the meet as the main event will be accompanied by five other stakes races – including two other Grade I events – and total stakes purses on the day of $3.35 million. Other Grade I events on the Derby Day card include the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and Humana Distaff, and the $250,000-added Churchill Downs Stakes (GII), Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII) and the Eight Belles round out the day’s stakes races. The Friday, May 1 program topped by the Kentucky Oaks also features six stakes races – five of them graded – and total purses for those events total of $1.35 million. The Kentucky Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race that is America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies, is supported on the program by the Louisville Distaff, $150,000-added Crown Royal American Turf (GIII), $150,000-added Alysheba (GIII), $100,000-added Aegon Turf Sprint (GIII) and the $100,000-added Edgewood.
The Stephen Foster Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up, tops the June 13 “Stephen Foster Super Saturday” program of five graded stakes races with total purses $1.55 million. Last year’s Stephen Foster featured a 1-2 finish by reigning “Horse of the Year” Curlin and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and Clark Handicap (GII) winner Einstein – two of the three finalists for the Eclipse Award that honors America’s top older horse. Other races on the “Super Saturday” program include the $200,000-added Jefferson Cup (GII), $150,000-added Northern Dancer (GIII), $300,000-added Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII), and $150,000-added Regret (GIII). The May 30 program will include the $100,000-added Aristides (GIII) and $100,000-added Dogwood (GIII).
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2009. The track’s 2009 Spring Meet is scheduled for April 25-July 5. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record six times, and will host the international racing championship again on Nov. 5-6, 2010. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.