Thursday, October 23, 2014
CHURCHILL DOWNS’ 125TH FALL MEET OPENS SUNDAY
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014) – 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 125th Fall Meet on Sunday, Oct. 26.
The 10-race opening day program is headlined by a pair of one-mile $58,000-added overnight stakes – the open-company Street Sense (Race 4 at 2:06 p.m. ET) and Rags to Riches for fillies (Race 9 at 4:44 p.m.). Both races serve as local steppingstones to the pair of “Stars of Tomorrow II” $200,000-added, 1 1/16-mile counterparts on Saturday, Nov. 29 – 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 successful Stars of Tomorrow programs have helped launch the careers of numerous graded stakes winners, including 33 Grade I winners and 19 millionaires 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; and 2013 champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge.
Last year’s renewals included future stakes stars such as Albano, Commanding Curve, General a Rod, Ride On Curlin, Southern Honey, Stonetastic, Tapiture, Tiz Windy and Unbridled Forever.
First post Sunday, as is the case for most of the meeting, is 12:40 p.m. (all times Eastern). The National Weather Service forecast for Louisville calls for ideal fall conditions on Sunday: sunny skies with a high near 68.
Over the course of the meet, horsemen will have ample opportunities to uncork promising juveniles or seek year-end graded-stakes glory. All told, 13 stakes races cumulatively worth $2.032 million – which includes a quartet of overnight stakes – 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 26-day schedule and not as many competing race meets at year’s end, the Fall Meet traditionally offers larger fields. Last fall, the average field size was 8.84 horses per race compared to the 7.29 and 7.70 at this year’s Spring and September meets, respectively.
The anchor of the lucrative stakes program comes on “Black Friday,” Nov. 28 with the 140th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I). 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 five stakes events to be contested over Thanksgiving weekend.
After Sunday’s opener, live racing will be conducted on a Wednesday-Sunday schedule with dark days on Mondays and Tuesdays. Most race days will begin at 12:40 p.m. ET and feature 10 live races. Eleven-race programs are scheduled for opening day and Friday, Nov. 14. Twelve-race cards are scheduled for Nov. 27-29.
Churchill Downs will have special post times for Friday, Oct. 31 (Halloween) and Saturday, Nov. 1 so the races coincide but don’t overlap with a simulcast of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships from Santa Anita. The Friday, Oct. 31 card will begin at 2 p.m. ET, while the Saturday, Nov. 1 action will commence at 2:15 p.m. ET. All Breeders’ Cup races will be shown between live races on Churchill Downs’ Big Board, the world’s largest 4K ultra-high definition video board,
Jockey Julien Leparoux could enter the Fall Meet with a chance to collect his 2,000th career win (he began Thursday’s action at Keeneland with 1,995 victories). Also, Robby Albarado is just five wins shy of becoming only the third rider to win 1,000 races at Churchill Downs. He has 995 local wins and only trails Pat Day (2,482) and Calvin Borel (1,167) in the all-time standings.
Meanwhile, record-breaking owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who collected their 22nd Churchill Downs leading owners’ title in September, are two wins away from their 400th local victory.
The defending Fall Meet champs are jockey Corey Lanerie (36 wins), trainer Mike Maker (16) and the Ramseys (18).
Larry Collmus will describe action in what will be his final meet as track announcer at Churchill Downs (in addition to being the voice of Gulfstream Park’s winter meet he’ll be the NYRA announcer starting in April 2015). While Collmus is attending to Breeders’ Cup duties for NBC, Mike Battaglia, the voice of Churchill Downs from 1978-96, will substitute Oct. 29-Nov. 2.
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