Cooler temperatures and the leaves changing colors signify the return of live horse racing to the Louisville area as Churchill Downs, the historic home of the Kentucky Derby, readies to open its 128thFall Meet on Sunday, Oct. 29.
The popular 21-day stand, which covers a four-week stretch through Sunday, Nov. 26, kicks off in style Sunday with the 13th annual “Stars of Tomorrow I” program, which is entirely devoted to hopeful 2-year-old stars that have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and Longines Kentucky Oaks.
Sunday’s 11-race opening day card is headlined by the fifth running of a pair of one-mile, $80,000-added overnight stakes – the open-company Street Sense and Rags to Riches for fillies, along with the $200,000Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes and inaugural $200,000 Spendthrift Juvenile Filly Stallion Stakes, which are a pair lucrative seven-furlong sprint exclusively for 2-year-old offspring sired by any active or non-active Spendthrift stallion, including all Spendthrift-owned stallions standing regionally in North America.
Those races serve as local steppingstones to the pair of Grade II, $200,000, 1 1/16-mile counterparts on the Saturday, Nov. 25 “Stars of Tomorrow II” program – the open Kentucky Jockey Club and Golden Rod for fillies that are part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks series which award points to the Top 4 finishers (10-4-2-1).
The pair of Spendthrift Stallion Stakes – made possible through a partnership with Spendthrift Farm – is designed to be run annually to benefit both racehorse owners and breeders. The $200,000 purses have been structured with a unique approach to award $100,000 to the owners of the placed horses, with the other $100,000 allocated to award the breeders of the first-through-fourth-place finishers. Specifically, the winning breeder will earn $40,000, with $30,000 going to the breeder of the runner-up, $20,000 for third, and $10,000 for fourth.
Trick-or-Treat at the Track, Family Adventure Day on Sunday
Sunday’s opener features Family Adventure Day Presented by Kroger with more than 20 activities for children 12 and under to enjoy including bounce houses, pony rides and games. Because it’s two days before Halloween, kids 12 and under are encouraged to wear costumes and trick-or-treat throughout the first floor of the racetrack. Churchill Downs and community partners will hand out more than a ton of candy between 2-5 p.m. Adults may wear costumes but masks on adults are prohibited for safety reasons.
Tickets are $8 in advance and can be purchased at www.churchilldowns.com/tickets
Parking Changes for the Fall Meet
The majority of onsite guests must park in the Gate 10 Longfield Avenue lot during the Fall Meet because of construction. Guests are advised to visit www.ChurchillDowns.com/Parking in advance of attending Churchill Downs’ Fall Meet to view recommended routes and a complete list of guest-appropriate temporary parking lots. Signs, electronic message boards and personnel will be in place to alert guests about the temporary closures and direct them parking in Gate 10 off Longfield Ave.
Stars of Tomorrow Produces
Inaugurated in 2005, Churchill Downs’ Stars of Tomorrow programs have helped launched the careers of numerous graded stakes winners, including more than 50 future Grade I winners led by 2010 Kentucky Derby champ Super Saver; 2011 Preakness and 2012 Met Mile and Clark Handicap winner Shackleford; 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra; 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic and 2013 Stephen Foster Handicap hero Fort Larned; 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can; 2013 champion 3-year-old Will TakeCharge; 2016 Belmont Stakes winner Creator; and four-time Grade I winner Gun Runner, who will vie for favoritism in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Big Money, Big Fields
Over the course of the meet, horsemen will have ample opportunities to uncork promising juveniles or seek year-end graded-stakes glory. All told, 15 stakes races cumulatively worth $2.52 million – which includes nine graded stakes events – will be run during the fall stand. Meanwhile, bettors are certain to be challenged by the competitive Fall Meet racing that typically pits the fastest and battle-tested horses against the recently freshened year-end bloomers.
With a compact 21-day schedule and not as many competing race meets at year’s end, the Fall Meet offers larger fields. Last fall, the average field size was 9.0 horses per race compared to the 8.1 and 8.9 at this year’s Spring and September meets, respectively.
Overnight purses for the Fall Meet have skyrocketed 30 percent over the last five years. The average purse for an overnight race in 2012 – the year before the debut of Churchill Downs’ September Meet – was $32,672. The average purse per overnight race in this year’s condition book is $42,379. The prize money for maiden special weights is $60,000 compared to $50,000 five years ago. Allowance purses will range from $62,000 to $72,000 compared to $52,000 to $58,000 in 2012. All other overnight races have benefited from purse increases, as well.
The anchor of the lucrative stakes program comes on “Black Friday,” Nov. 24with the 143rd running of the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI). The 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds and up annually lures some of the top older horses in North America and is one of seven stakes events cumulatively worth $1.48 million to be contested over Thanksgiving weekend. Also on that day are the $200,000 Mrs. Revere (GII), a prominent 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies and $80,000-added Dream Supreme Overnight Stakes.
After Sunday’s opener, live racing will be conducted on a Wednesday-Sundayschedule with dark days on Mondays and Tuesdays. Most race days feature 10 live races, but there will be 11 on Saturday, Nov. 11 and Saturday, Nov. 18, and 12-race cards over the final four days, Nov. 23-26.
Post time will be 1 p.m. (all times Eastern) on most racing days with admission gates open at 11:30 a.m. Churchill Downs will have special post times on Friday, Nov. 3 (2 p.m.) and Saturday, Nov. 4 (2:15 p.m.) so the races coincide but don’t overlap with a simulcast of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships from Santa Anita. Admission gates will open at 12:30 p.m.both days.
There will be an early 11:30 a.m. start (gates 10 a.m.) on Thanksgiving Day – a Louisville tradition at Churchill Downs since 1969 where more than 7,000 turkey dinners are served with all the trimmings, making it the largest number anywhere in the region.
Watch and Wager on the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, 2018 Churchill Downs Wall Calendar Giveaway
Churchill Downs will simulcast the Breeders’ Cup World Championships from Southern California’s Del Mar on Friday, Nov. 3 and Saturday, Nov. 4. Churchill Downs will run 10 races those days beginning at 2 p.m. and 2:15 p.m., respectively. The first 5,000 fans in attendance on Saturday, Nov. 4 for a simulcast of the Breeders’ Cup receive a free 2018 Churchill Downs Wall Calendar presented by Humana. The colorful calendar features major event listings and vivid and memorable images from the Kentucky Derby and around the historic racetrack.
Admission gates will open at 12:30 p.m. and first race is 2:15 p.m. A simulcast of the 10-race Championship Friday card from Del Mar will begin at 2:25 p.m. and the Breeders’ Cup will cover Races 6-9 (5:25-7:35 p.m.). Championship Saturday’s 12-race program at Del Mar will commence at 1:10 p.m., cover Races 4-12 (Breeders’ Cup starts at 3 p.m.) and culminate with the Grade I, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at 8:35 p.m. In addition to the simulcasts interspersed between live races, Churchill Downs will present a stakes race on Saturday, Nov. 4: the 32nd edition of the Grade II, $200,000 Chilukki for fillies and mares at one mile.
When live racing concludes on Friday at 7:10 p.m. and Saturday at 8:15 p.m., simulcast wagering on the Breeders’ Cup will continue in the ITW area on the second floor of the Clubhouse, as well as reserved dining spaces and the Horsemen’s Services Center. Customers who attend Churchill Downs on Friday will be able to advance wager on the entire Championship Saturday program from Del Mar. There is no advance wagering on-track Thursday for the Championship Friday program.
Special Fall Meet Events Include Military Appreciation Day
Other special events during the Fall Meet include Military Appreciation Daywith free admission for active and retired members of the U.S. armed services on Saturday, Nov. 11; Senior Days with a discounted Millionaires Row offer for seniors age 60 and up on Thursday, Nov. 2and Wednesday, Nov. 15; “Who’s the Champ?” Handicapping Contests on Sundays, Nov. 12 and 19; and a 50/50 Charitable Gaming Raffle that will be held throughout the meet with a live drawing on closing day, Sunday, Nov. 26. Raffle tickets can be purchased for $5 onwww.derbygives.com starting Sunday.
Lanerie, Maker, Ramsey Defend Fall Titles
Corey Lanerie, who rode 31 winners at the 2016 Fall Meet, is seeking to land his 15th riding title at the last 17 meets at Churchill Downs. The native of Lafayette, La. landed his 14th local title with a record 19 wins over last month’s 11-day September Meet. Mike Maker, who won 16 races a year ago for his sixth local title, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of his record-setting 2008 Fall Meet when he won an unprecedented 31 races over 26 days. His primary owners, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, secured their 29th title for top owners at Churchill Downs during the September Meet when their red-and-white silks were carried into the G.H. MUMM’s Winner’s Circle five times. Last fall, the Nicholasville, Ky. couple won six Fall Meet races. Overall, they’ve won 474 races at Churchill Downs, which is more than twice as much as their nearest competitor, the famed Overbrook Farm’s 206.
Betting Menu Features 20-Cent Single 6 Jackpot
The betting menu will be the same as recent meets and includes the 20-cent minimum “Single 6 Jackpot,” which is offered on the last six races each day with a low 15-percent takeout. The Single 6 Jackpot will be paid out only if there is a single winning wager with six winners placed at the required minimum bet value. If there are multiple winning wagers with six winners in the six-race sequence, 90 percent of the net money wagering into the pool will be paid out, and the remaining 10 percent will carry to the Single 6 Jackpot. If there are no tickets will all six winners, 100 percent of the pool will carry to the Single 6 Jackpot. There will be a mandatory payout on closing day.
Kentucky Derby Future Wagers Return on Closing Weekend
The first pools of the 2018 Kentucky Derby Future Wager will be offered Nov. 23-26. The traditional pool with 23 individual wagering interests and an “all others” option will return, and so will the Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager, which debuted in 2015 and requires bettors to wager on the winning sire for next year’s Kentucky Derby winner. The other Future Wager dates will be Feb. 9-11 (Pool 2), March 9-11 (Pool 3) and April 6-8 (Pool 4). The lone Kentucky Oaks Future Wager will coincide with Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager on March 9-11.
General Admission, Reserved Seating Options
General admission to Churchill Downs is $3 ($10 on Thanksgiving Day; $5 on Nov. 3-4 and Nov. 24-26). Reserved box seats are $10 ($25 for Thanksgiving); indoor dining options are $38 ($47 on Nov. 3-4 and Nov. 24-26; $70 on Thanksgiving Day). Children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Free seating is available over a first-come, first-serve basis in Sections 115-117. Parking is free in the Gate 10 Longfield Avenue lot. Valet parking is $10.
‘Stakes and Eggs’ Sunday Brunch
Throughout the Fall Meet, Churchill Downs is offering a special “Stakes and Eggs” brunch special in the newly-renovated Stakes Room every Sunday. The $45 package for adults and $22 package for children includes a seat in the Stakes Room on the fourth floor of the Clubhouse and all-you-can-eat access to the brunch menu that includes an omelet station, scrambled eggs, biscuits and country gravy, French toast, hot brown, carved country ham, crispy bacon, sausage patties, hash brown potatoes with peppers and onions, fresh fruit, garden vegetables, breakfast breads and a chef’s dessert display. Gates on Sundays open at noon and the first race is 1 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets, in person at the Gate 10 box office or by calling (502) 636-4400.
Travis Stone will describe the racing action with Joe Kristufek serving as a paddock analyst.
2017 CHURCHILL DOWNS FALL MEET STAKES SCHEDULE
Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion
Spendthrift Juvenile Filly Stallion
2yo F ®
Street Sense (overnight stakes)
Rags to Riches (overnight stakes)
1 1/16M (T)
1 1/8 M (T)
Bet On Sunshine (overnight stakes)
Falls City Handicap
1 1/8 M
River City Handicap
1 1/8 M (T)
Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare
1 1/8 M
1 1/16M (T)
Dream Supreme (overnight stakes)
Kentucky Jockey Club
1 1/16 M
1 1/16 M
* Added-money events.
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: CHDN) offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 5, 2018. The track will conduct one more live racing meet in 2017: the Fall Meet from Oct. 29-Nov. 26. An eight-time host to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Churchill Downs will again be the site of that event on Nov. 2-3, 2018. Information is available atwww.ChurchillDowns.com.