BY GRACE CLARK
Live thoroughbred horse racing returns to Southern Kentucky for just two weeks each year, beginning its annual run at Kentucky Downs on Saturday, Aug. 31. Thousands of fans lined the rail at the track on the Kentucky, Tennessee border for the 10 race card.
An earlier post time of 12:15 p.m., moved up from previous year's 1:25 p.m., did nothing to deter horsemen and fans from making it a record breaking day at the races, featuring full fields of horses in each race.
Stakes action for the meet kicked off in the seventh race, with the $250,000 One Dreamer Stakes for fillies and mares.
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. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione was unseated from his mount after placing second in the fourth race, and just three races later found himself in the winner's circle aboard Hanalei Moon. The Mark Casse-trained filly went off as the 5-1 third choice, and was held off the lead by Gaffalione in the early stages of the race. Once the field entered the stretch he began to urge Hanalei Moon for more, and the pair drew off to win by 2 ¼ lengths over Na Pali Spirit in second and Oh So Terrible in third. Owned and bred by Stonestreet Stables LLC, Hanalei Moon covered the mile and 70 yards in 1:43.16, paying $12 to win.
The second most lucrative race of the meet, the $750,000 Tourist Mile Stakes, was the highlight of Opening Day. A full field of 12 horses lined up in the gate, with a majority having raced at Kentucky Downs in the past, including two Kentucky Downs stakes winners in Next Shares (2018 Old Friends Stakes) and Snapper Sinclair (2017 Turf Showcase Juvenile Stakes). The sixth choice in wagering, Snapper Sinclair faced a rough trip under jockey Julien Leparoux, before making a bold run to emerge victorious by half a length. Real Story placed second by a neck over first Premio, who was third by a neck over Hembree in an incredibly close finish. Snapper Sinclair, owned by Bloom Racing LLC and trained by Steve Asmussen, completed the mile distance in 1:37.95, paying $22.80.
The final two races on the card gave a preview into the future of racing, with stakes races restricted to two year old fillies and colts. Jezebel's Kitten was making just her second career start in the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies, and while showed moments of inexperience, ultimately came home a victor under jockey Florent Geroux. The Brad Cox trainee was steadied mid-pack early, and ran away in deep stretch to win by 4 ¾ lengths. The two year old filly covered the mile distance in 1:40.06 to take home the winner's share of the $500,000 purse for owner Ilium Stables LLC. Jezebel's Kitten paid $10.40 to win in her victory over Ask Bailey, second, and Battleofwinterfell in third.
Trainer Mark Casse secured his second stakes victory of the day in the $500,000 Gainesway Farm Juvenile Stakes. Peace Achieved stalked the early pace under jockey Miguel Mena before drawing away to win by 2 ½ lengths over Fenwick Station and Longclaw. Owned by JSM Equine LLC, the two year old colt finished the mile distance in 1:40.39, paying $5.00 to win.
All sources betting handle totalled $8,464,103, the third highest of all time for a race day at Kentucky Downs.
Racing continues Sept. 5, 7, 8, and 12, with a daily first post at 12:15PM for the ten races, and free general admission, parking, and tailgating. Sunday, Sept. 8 is College Scholarship Day, where students who present a valid college ID can enter to win one of two $1,500 scholarships and one of ten Samsung Chromebooks.