Jennie Rees, Kentucky Downs — There was one record that was made to be broken at the 31st FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs.
Over and over again as a matter of fact.
Mike Maker, who has made it a habit of winning the training title at the boutique meet in the south-central part of the Bluegrass State, did it again. When the seven-day season ended on Wednesday, Maker continued his dominance with his record seventh training title.
Tyler Gaffalione held on to win the riding title. The 28-year-old jockey won his second championship at the track with nine wins from 66 starts. He also had 17 seconds (seven of them in the last two days of the meet) and three third-place finishes.
Maker won 12 races, a meet record. The old record of 10 wins, set by Wayne Catalano in 2013, was broken when Maker won his 11th race on Sunday. Then he broke his own record on Wednesday when Intrigue won the closing-day opener.
“That’s a good thing, it doesn’t happen very often,” Maker, a man of few words, said with a smile. “All kidding aside, it has been a fabulous meet.”
Maker started 65 horses during the 73 races at the meet and also had 11 seconds and six thirds and his horses won a record $2,340,436. Maker broke his own record of $1,529,053, which he set in 2017 when he had eight wins.
Wesley Ward finished second in the training standings with six wins from 31 starts.
The 53-year-old Maker was born in Garden City, Mich., but calls Louisville home. This was the third straight year he has won or shared the training title at Kentucky Downs. He finished in a three-way tie with four wins with Steve Asmussen and Brendan Walsh last year. He won it outright in 2020 as well as every year from 2015-2018.
This is a meet that Maker has always pointed to.
“We love everything about Kentucky racing,” Maker said. “Whether it’s here, Turfway, Ellis … Kentucky is home and Kentucky is where all my favorite tracks are. The way I look at it, Kentucky Downs has been about 10 percent of my business the last, seven, eight years. Cram that 10 percent into five days for years, that is pretty remarkable.”
Maker won two of the biggest races on the Kentucky Downs calendar when Red Knight won the G2, $1 million Kentucky Turf Cup and Somelikeithotbrown took the G3, $1 million WinStar Mint Million. Maker’s Atone finished second in the Mint Million and Field Pass was fourth.
“Basically, we try to put them where they fit here and try to win as many as we can,” Maker said.”We don’t have a numbers goal (for wins). When you run 10 to 17 horses a day on average, you hope to win 20 to 25 percent. The competition here is brutal. When you run against the Steve Asmussens and Brad Coxs and Chad Browns, it’s very tough.”
Gaffalione had a strong start, winning three races on opening day, Sept. 1, and three more on Sept.8. His horses earned $2,218,906, the second highest total in Kentucky Downs history behind Joel Rosario, whose mounts won $2,952,097 last year. Rosario and Gerardo Corrales tied for second in the standings with seven wins.
“It was crucial,” Gaffalione said of the quick beginning. “We slowed down the last couple days, so that start definitely helped us. It always gives you confidence.It was nice knowing the horses were running for me.”
Four of Gaffalone’s wins came on horses trained by Maker. He gave credit to his agent, Matt Muzikar, for getting him on the right horses.
“I am very proud of this accomplishment,” he said. “A lot of the credit goes to the horsemen bringing their horses over here ready to run. The horses really showed up, big time. It’s such a tough meet and you had to have everything go your way.”
Six owners won a meet-high two races apiece. They are Brownwood Farms, Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, Godolphin, NBS Stable, Paradise Farms Corp. and Three Diamonds Farm.