The final weekend of the 2019 Kentucky Downs meet set records and a new standard for the Franklin racecourse. Thousands of fans lined the rail and filled the grounds to witness the biggest weekend in racing at the track since its inception in 1990.
Saturday, Sept. 7 was highlighted by five stakes races, including a Breeders' Cup Challenge Series race. The Breeders' Cup World Championships is a $30 million event held in late October, serving as a year end event for the horse racing industry, and the Challenge Series is comprised of races around the world (called Win and You're In races) that provide the winners with an automatic berth into certain races.
The G3 $700,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint Stakes was the first ever Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race to be held at Kentucky Downs, and was broadcast nationally on NBC. Trainer George "Rusty" Arnold II had two horses in the Turf Sprint Stakes, second choice Leinster as well as longer-shot Totally Boss. Totally Boss sat just off of the lead the entire race under jockey Florent Geroux, before taking aim at longshot leader Smart Remark. In deep stretch Totally Boss took command of the lead and drew away to win by 1¼ lengths for owners Susan and Jim Hill.
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The four year old gelding covered the six furlong distance in 1:09.21, just off of the track record. With this victory, he earned an automatic berth and expenses-paid trip into the G1 $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, to be held November 3rd at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.
Fillies and mares then took the spotlight in the G3 $500,000 Three Chimneys Ladies Turf Stakes and the G3 $500,000 Spendthrift Farm Ladies Sprint Stakes, the eighth and ninth race on the card, respectively. Trainer Richard Baltas notched back-to-back victories in the Ladies Turf Stakes, having trained 2018 victor Insta Erma, with Ms Bad Behavior. Ms Bad Behavior wired the field, leading from the break to the finish line, under jockey Jose Ortiz for owners Sayjay Racing and Brooke and Greg Hubbard. The four year old filly covered the mile distance in 1:35.25. Trainer Rusty Arnold took home his second stakes win on the card when Morticia definitively took the Ladies Sprint Stakes. Under jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who also won the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes with Cambria earlier on the card, Morticia set the pace early and maintained a steady lead, widening it in the stretch. The five year old mare covered the six and one half furlongs distance in a time of 1:15.85 for owner G. Watts Humphrey.
Kentucky Downs' signature race, the G3 $1,000,000 Kentucky Turf Cup capped a marvelous day of racing. The field included '18 victor Arklow, two-time Kentucky Downs winner Campaign, along with a number of other graded stakes winners and competitors. Six year old Zulu Alpha made a victorious return to Kentucky Downs, after finishing tenth in this race in 2017. Jockey Jose Ortiz steadied his mount midpack early in the race, before drawing away to win by 3 ¼ lengths in the stretch for owner Michael Hui and trainer Michael Maker. The gelding covered the 1 ½ mile distance in 2:28.62.
Aside from historic crowds and racing milestones, Kentucky Downs yet again shattered their single-day handle record. A total of $11,322,270 was wagered on the ten race card, up 12.8 percent over last year's record of 10,039,008.
Live racing at Kentucky Downs concludes Thursday, Sept. 12, with a ten race card beginning at 12:15 p.m., and highlighted by the G3 Franklin-Simpson Stakes and the Ramsey Farm Stakes.