Churchill Downs has unveiled a $9.025 million stakes schedule for its Spring and Fall racing meets in 2010 headed by the 136th renewals of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks and $500,000-added Clark Handicap among its six Grade I offerings.
Stakes purses for the historic track’s 42-day April 24-July 4 Spring Meet total $7.1 million and $1.925 million for the 20-day Fall Meet that runs from Oct. 31-Nov. 27. The schedule of stakes events features six Grade I events after the American Graded Stakes Committee restored the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare to Grade I status for the first time since 2006. Three of those Grade I events are scheduled on Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, May 1, which also includes the $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and $300,000-added Humana Distaff. The $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks on Friday, April 30 and the $600,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday, June 12 are the other Grade I events contested at Churchill Downs this year (not including Breeders’ Cup World Championship races).
The 2010 Churchill Downs stakes schedule includes 40 races, all but one of which are graded events. Along with the six Grade I races, the track will offer 12 Grade II stakes races and 21 contests with Grade III status.
The Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Stephen Foster Handicap, respectively, head three special event days that consist of five or more stakes races with total purses in excess of $1 million. The biggest of those days is Kentucky Derby Day, which includes six stakes races with total purses of $3.35 million. Kentucky Oaks Day features the main event and five other stakes races with total purses of $1.325 million. And five stakes races set for Stephen Foster Handicap Day carry total purses of $1.15 million.
Churchill Downs’ popular of “Stars of Tomorrow” programs devoted exclusively to 2-year-olds are scheduled for the opening and closing days of the Fall Meet. And 2010 marks the return of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to the historic Louisville track for a record seventh time – and for the first time as a two-day event – on Nov. 5-6. One Churchill Downs stakes race is scheduled daily over Breeders’ Cup Weekend, Thursday, Nov. 4 through Sunday, Nov. 7.
“Our goal every year is to provide our fans and horsemen with a high quality stakes schedule that offers compelling and competitive opportunities for horses in every division,” said Don Richardson, senior vice president of Racing. “We believe the 2010 stakes schedule at Churchill Downs – topped by the historic 136th renewals of the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Clark Handicap among its six Grade I offerings – is one of our strongest schedules ever, with all but one race having achieved recognition as a graded race from the American Graded Stakes Committee. It is going to be an exciting year with the return of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and six racing sessions scheduled under our new permanent lights, and we look forward to working with owners and trainers throughout North America in an effort to bring their most talented horses to Churchill Downs to compete in the stakes races that will be run beneath the Twin Spires.”
Several races on the 2010 schedule have undergone name, purse or distance changes – including significant changes for the final Kentucky Derby prep race and the return of the name of the great mare La Troienne to the schedule. Those changes include:
- The $200,000-added Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (GIII) on Saturday, April 24 – the last of the year’s Kentucky Derby prep races is traditionally the first stakes race of the year and prominent Thoroughbred owner/breeder Robert LaPenta will sponsor the race that now also carries the name of one of his most accomplished horses. The Cliff’s Edge finished fifth to Smarty Jones as the morning line favorite for the 2004 Kentucky Derby, but won a pair of stakes races at Churchill Downs and the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. The purse for the Trial has been doubled to $200,000-added and the race distance returns to one mile after a string of three consecutive renewals at 7 ½ furlongs.
- The $300,000-added La Troienne (GII) on Friday, April 30 – Formerly known as the Louisville Stakes, this 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares ages 3 and up on Kentucky Oaks Day now honors one of the great broodmares in the history of American racing. La Troienne’s offspring included champion Black Helen and 1940 Kentucky Derby runner-up and Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Bimelech. Her notable descendants included Kentucky Derby winners Sea Hero and Go for Gin, Kentucky Oaks winner Princess Rooney, and champions Easy Goer, Buckpasser, Busher, Pleasant Tap, Caerleon and Woodman. Churchill Downs had previously honored La Troienne by placing the great mare’s name on a race for 3-year-old fillies. That race was renamed last year in honor of ill-fated 2008 Kentucky Derby runner-up Eight Belles and is part of the Kentucky Derby Day stakes schedule.
- The $100,000-added Churchill Downs Turf Sprint (GIII) on Friday, April 30 is getting a name change. It was most recently known as the AEGON Turf Sprint.
- Purse increases from 2009 include the addition of $100,000 to the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare, which is again a $500,000-added event, and the purse for the Pocahontas on Sunday, Oct. 31, which received a $50,000 boost to $150,000-added after the American Graded Stakes Committee granted it Grade II status. Other races scheduled for purse hikes in 2010 include the American Turf, an Oaks Day staple that is now a Grade II event with a purse of $175,000-added, an increase of $25,000; the Grade II Firecracker Handicap, up $25,000 to $175,000-added; the Northern Dancer (GIII), with a purse of $125,000-added that reflects a $25,000 increase; and the $125,000-added Early Times Mint Julep (GIII), which also gains $25,000.
- Races with reduced purses for 2009 include the $100,000-added Jefferson Cup, which carried a $150,000-added purse in 2009. The race is now a Grade III event, down from Grade II status a year ago, and will be run at a new distance of 1 1/16 miles on turf. Also reduced by $25,000 is the $125,000-added Regret (GIII).
- The $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) will be run at a new distance of 1 1/16 miles. The race had been previously run at one mile or 7 1/2 furlongs.
- And going on hiatus is the $100,000-added Edgewood, a 1 1/16 mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies that had been run on Kentucky Oaks Day.
The four Churchill Downs stakes races scheduled to support the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup World Championships include $100,000-added River City Handicap (GIII) on Thursday, Nov. 4; the Ack Ack Handicap on Friday, Nov. 5; the $150,000-added Chilukki (GII) on Saturday, Nov. 6; and the $100,000-added Cardinal (GIII) on Sunday, Nov. 7.