Stakes schedules that feature combined purses of more than $3.2 million and a wide-ranging array of events for horses in most every category of competition have been announced by Churchill Downs Racetrack for its upcoming September Meet, which features an 11-day racing schedule from Friday, Sept. 16 through Sunday, Oct. 2, and its traditional Fall Meet, which kicks off a 21-day run on Sunday, Oct. 30 and will lower its curtain with its anticipated Thanksgiving/Closing Weekend celebration that will conclude on Sunday, Nov. 27.
The September session, an important part of the Churchill Downs racing schedule for the fourth consecutive year following its unveiling in 2013, features nine stakes races. Four stakes have earned graded status and three are listed events. The meet also features the return after a one-year absence of the $100,000 President of UAE Cup Sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, a 1 ¼-mile race for Arabian horses. Combined stakes purses for the September Meet total $1.125 million.
Fall Meet highlights are headed by the Thanksgiving/Closing Weekend events led by the 142nd running of the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) for 3-year-olds and up on Friday, Nov. 26, the 101st running of the $200,000 Falls City Handicap (GII) for fillies and mares ages 3 and up on Thanksgiving Day, and the “Stars of Tomorrow II” program on Saturday, Nov. 27 devoted exclusively to racing among 2-year-old Thoroughbreds and headed by the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and the $200,000 Golden Rod (GII) for juvenile fillies. Sharing the spotlight with the historic Clark Handicap on the post-Thanksgiving “Black Friday” will be the $200,000 Mrs. Revere (GII), the last graded stakes event of the year exclusively for 3-year-old fillies on turf, and the $70,000-added Dream Supreme overnight stakes for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at six furlongs. The Thanksgiving Day racing spotlight will also shine on the $100,000 River City Handicap (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up on turf.
The 2016 Fall Meet schedule features 13 stakes events with total purses of $2.08 million. That schedule consists of nine graded stakes races and four overnight stakes contests. Each of the latter will offer a purse of $70,000-added.
The opening Saturday of the September Meet is highlighted by the renewals the $150,000 Iroquois (GIII) for 2-year-olds and the $200,000 Pocahontas (GII) for juvenile fillies. Those 1 1/16-mile races open the respective “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points series that will determine the participants in the 2017 editions of the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI).
The tests for 2-year-olds are also part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” series that will ensure the Pocahontas winner a guaranteed spot in Santa Anita’s Breeders’ Cup Championships starting gate for the $2 million 14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies (GI) and the Iroquois winner a place in the field for the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), both to be run Saturday, Nov. 5. “Win and You’re In” race winners also earn entry fees and travel stipends for their Breeders’ Cup events.
Joining those races among four stakes contests on the first Saturday of the September Meet are the $100,000 Locust Grove, a race for fillies and mares ages 3 and up that will be run this year as a Grade III contest, and the $100,000 Open Mind, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares ages 3 and up. The meet’s stakes schedule will conclude on Saturday, Oct. 1 with a trio of stakes races headed by the fourth running of the $175,000 Lukas Classic for 3-year-olds and up, a listed 1 1/8-mile race designed as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) that was renamed last year to honor Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks winner D. Wayne Lukas. The other stakes on that program are the $100,000 Ack Ack (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at a mile, and the $100,000 Jefferson Cup, a listed race for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
The Clark Handicap is the only Grade I event on the September and Fall Meet racing schedules and the 1 1/8-mile test was won in 2015 by Tri-Bone Stables’ Effinex, the runner-up to Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown winner and eventual Horse of the Year American Pharoah in his previous start in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Keeneland. Other recent Clark winners include multiple stakes winner Hoppertunity (2014), Eclipse Award champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge (2013), 2011 Preakness (GI) winner Shackelford (2012) and two-time Horse of the Year, turf champion and champion older horse Wise Dan (2011). Past Clark winners also include Hall of Famer, 1997 Kentucky Derby winner and 3-year-old champion Silver Charm (1998), champion 3-year-old filly Surfside (2000) and 2005 Horse of the Year, champion older horse and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Saint Liam (2004).
The Fall Meet kicks-off on Sunday, Oct. 30 with the anticipated “Stars of Tomorrow I” for rising 2-year-old stars. That event for possible Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks hopefuls for 2017 is topped by a pair of $70,000-added overnight stakes events the Street Sense and Rags to Riches, each of which will be run at a mile on the main track and the latter of which is limited to fillies.
Winners of four of Churchill Downs’ September Meet stakes races also will earn automatic nominations to important Fall Meet stakes events at the Louisville track. The first-place finishers in the Pocahontas and Iroquois will be nominated, respectively, to the Golden Rod and Kentucky Jockey Club. The Lukas Classic victor will automatically be nominated to the Clark Handicap, and the winner of Locust Grove will earn a free nomination to the Falls City Handicap.
The Fall Meet’s Kentucky Jockey Club and Golden Rod winners will continue a Churchill Downs tradition by earning automatic nominations to next spring’s marquee races for 3-year-olds. The victor in the Kentucky Jockey Club will earn an automatic nomination to the 2017 Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown, while the filly that takes the Golden Rod will be the first of her gender nominated to compete in the Kentucky Oaks.
Changes in the 2016 September Meet stakes schedules from 2015 include:
- The $100,000 Locust Grove has been upgraded by the American Graded Stakes Committee from a “listed” stakes to a Grade III event,
- The Dogwood and Jefferson Cup have been downgraded from Grade III to “listed” races,
- The Jefferson Cup’s distance has been extended by one furlong from a mile to 1 1/8 miles on turf,
- The schedule has been expanded with the addition of the $100,000 The President of UAE Cup sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council for Arabian horses.
Changes in the 2016 Fall Meet stakes schedules from 2015 include:
- Schedule positions of the $200,000 Mrs. Revere (GII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on turf and the $100,000 Commonwealth Turf for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on turf have been switched. The Commonwealth Turf will now be run on Saturday, Nov. 12 and the Mrs. Revere will be renewed as part of the Friday, Nov. 25 holiday racing card that also features the Clark Handicap and Dream Supreme Overnight Stakes.
Click here for a look at the complete 2016 September and Fall Meet stakes schedules.