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CHURCHILL OPENS SUNDAY

Edited Churchill Release – Thoroughbred racing in Kentucky shifts from Keeneland to Churchill Downs on Sunday as the home of the Kentucky Derby readies to open its 132nd Fall Meet with an 11-race program – all for promising 2-year-old Thoroughbreds – at 1 p.m. (all times Eastern).

The 21-day stand covers a four-week stretch every Wednesday-Sunday through Nov. 28.

The Fall Meet kicks off in style Sunday with the 17th annual “Stars of Tomorrow I” program, which is entirely devoted to hopeful 2-year-old stars that have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next year’s Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI).

Sunday’s 11-race opening day card is headlined by the ninth runnings of two 1 1/16 miles, $200,000 stakes – the open-company Street Sense and Rags to Riches for fillies.

Those races serve as local steppingstones to the two Grade II, $400,000, 1 1/16-mile counterparts on the Saturday, Nov. 27 “Stars of Tomorrow II” program – 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).

Inaugurated in 2005, Churchill Downs’ “Stars of Tomorrow” programs have helped launched the careers of numerous graded stakes winners, including more than 50 future Grade I winners led by Horse of the Year champions Gun Runner (2017) and Rachel Alexandra (2009), Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver (2010), Kentucky Oaks winners Rachel Alexandra (2009), Believe You Can (2012) and Monomoy Girl (2018), Preakness winners Shackleford (2011),  War of Will (2019) and Swiss Skydiver (2020), Belmont winner Creator (2016) as well as 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic and 2013 Stephen Foster hero Fort Larned and 2013 champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge.

Last year’s class of participants include graded stakes winners Army Wife (GII Black-Eyed Susan and GIII Iowa Oaks), Clairiere (GI Cotillion and GII Rachel Alexandra), King Fury (GIII Lexington), Mandaloun (GII Risen Star and GI Haskell), Super Stock (GI Arkansas Derby), Travel Column (GII Fair Grounds Oaks) and Will’s Secret (GIII Honeybee).

Horsemen will compete for $22.2 million (all purses include prize money from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund) offered in Vice President of Racing Ben Huffman’s Fall Meet condition book, including an 11-race stakes schedule cumulatively worth $3.75 million.

The stakes schedule is anchored by the 147th running of the $750,000 Clark presented by Norton Healthcare (GI). Midnight Bourbon (12-2-5-3—$1,094,920), the Preakness (GI), Travers (GI) and Pennsylvania Derby (GI) runner-up, and Alysheba (GII) and Stephen Foster (GII) winner Maxfield (10-7-2-1—$1,550,902) are among the top 3-year-olds and up targeting the 1 1/8-mile test on Friday, Nov. 26.

The Clark is one of six stakes events to be contested over Thanksgiving weekend. Bonny South (13-4-5-1—$866,150), this year’s Doubledogdare (GIII) winner who was runner-up in the Ogden Phipps (GI) and Personal Ensign (GI), hopes to add the $500,000 Falls City (GII) to her résumé on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25 after running second to Envoutante (15-5-2-4—$626,138) in the 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares last year.

Bell’s the One (21-10-4-2—$1,336,825), winner of this year’s Roxelana, Honorable Miss (GII) and Thoroughbred Club of America (GII), is bypassing a run in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (GI) in favor of the $300,000 Dream Supreme for fillies and mares on Saturday, Nov. 13. Local rival Sconsin (15-5-4-1—$783,362), winner of the Winning Colors (GIII) and Open Mind, also is targeting the six-furlong race.

Each of the 222 scheduled races during the Fall Meet will be run on the main dirt track. Sod for a new and more robust $10 million turf course – widened to 85 feet with banking in the turns which allow four racing lanes that range from 0 to 36 feet out and as many as 14 participants per race – was laid in October.

There will be no turf racing during the Fall Meet to allow the roots of the Tahoma 31 Bermudagrass over-seeded with ryegrass to grow effectively and take hold. Turf racing will resume at the start of the 2022 Spring Meet.

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