$2M Mint Millions heads seven million-dollar stakes at 2023 meet

(Above: Somelikeithotbrown held off stablemate #7 Atone and #1 Mr Dumas to win last year’s WinStar Mint Million Mile, now named the $2 million Mint Millions. Grace Clark/Kentucky Downs photo)

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Wednesday, April 19, 2023) — Kentucky Downs’ Grade 3 Mint Million stakes now is the Mint Millions, reflecting its dramatic growth to become the first $2 million race in track history and America’s richest turf race outside the Breeders’ Cup.

The mile Mint Millions offers a base purse of $1 million, with another $1 million from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF). Last year, the base was $600,000 with a $400,000 supplement from the KTDF.

The seven-day, all-turf race meet will offer seven stakes worth at least $1 million for Kentucky-bred horses to highlight an overall purse structure scheduled for $22.82 million — a track record for the 12th straight year since the advent of historical horse racing. Once again, Kentucky Downs will feature the richest maiden races in the world at $150,000 for Kentucky-bred horses.

The meet’s 17 stakes — including nine with graded-stakes status — will be worth a total of $14 million, with $7.6 million available for all horses and another $6.4 million in KTDF enhancements earmarked for those horses foaled in Kentucky and sired by a Kentucky stallion.

Kentucky Downs runs Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, 3, 7, 9, 10 and 13 over the distinctive kidney-shaped course with subtle elevation changes. The 2023 Kentucky Downs condition book spelling out the conditions for the daily races is available on equibase.com.

The Mint Millions, a race for 3-year-olds and up on Saturday Sept. 2, has the potential to be the second-richest race offered by a racetrack in Kentucky and the third-richest in North America, topped only by the $3 million Kentucky Derby and Gulfstream Park’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup in Florida, both on dirt. Of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races, only the $6 million Classic and $4 million Turf surpass $2 million.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday approved the meet’s KTDF purse supplements. The purses for the daily “overnight” races and the base purses for stakes are set in consultation with the Kentucky HBPA, the official representative of the track’s owners and trainers.

Only one other American track has ever offered as many races in a year with the potential to be worth $1 million without being the Breeders’ Cup host. That was Belmont Park in 2016, with six such races at its spring meet and one in the fall.

No matter where a horse is born, it still competes for one of the world’s most lucrative stakes schedules. The Mint Millions was won last year by the Mike Maker-trained New York-bred Somelikeithotbrown by 1 1/4 lengths over stablemate Atone, who went on to win Gulfstream’s Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf in January. Dr. Harvey Diamond, head of co-owner Skychai Racing, was delighted with Somelikeithotbrown’s first-place check of $330,770 last year at Kentucky Downs and is thrilled about the Mint Millions’ purse explosion for 2023.

“If we run for $1 million, I’ll be ecstatic,” Diamond said. “That’s our major objective, to return to Kentucky Downs.”

The six other graded stakes offering $1 million in available purses are the Kentucky Turf Cup (Grade 2) at 1 1/2 miles, Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G2), Franklin-Simpson (G2) for 3-year-old sprinters, The Mint Ladies Sprint (G2), Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3) and the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon (G3). Those stakes, all carded for the blockbuster Saturday Sept. 9 program, will have base purses of $600,000 with another $400,000 available for KTDF-eligible horses, which reflect the vast majority of horses racing at Kentucky Downs.

“We are laser-focused on securing Grade 1 races for Kentucky Downs. Our 2023 stakes schedule is another step toward that mission,” said Kentucky Downs Vice President for Racing Ted Nicholson. “Our KTDF money allows us to run North America’s richest two weeks of racing, including the potential to run more stakes worth at least $1 million during a meet than any U.S. track outside a Breeders’ Cup host. But regardless of where horses are born, our base purses guarantee everyone runs for some of the largest purses on the planet.”

“We want the Mint Millions to be the pre-eminent launching pad to the Breeders’ Cup Mile,” said Ron Winchell, who with Marc Falcone are Kentucky Downs’ co-managing partners. “Turf milers are among the biggest stars in Europe, and we’re giving them a million more reasons to come to Kentucky Downs.”

Three other Kentucky Downs’ stakes — the Sept. 2 Music City (G3) for 3-year-old filly sprinters, the Sept. 2 Gun Runner for 3-year-olds at a mile and the Sept. 3 Dueling Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 5/16 miles— had their purses substantially boosted to $750,000, split evenly between the base purse and KTDF enhancements. The Dueling Grounds Derby (G3), also on Sept. 3, was raised to $750,000 last year.

The remaining six stakes will be worth $500,000, half from the base purse and the rest from the KTDF.

The $22,820,000 being offered in the condition book tops the $17,863,177 paid out at the 2022 meet. The 2023 projected purses reflect base purses of $12.76 million and $10.06 million in KTDF funding.

Kentucky Downs again will offer a pair of $250,000 allowance races — one for 2-year-old fillies and one for 2-year-old colts — restricted to horses that went through the sales ring at Keeneland’s 2022 September Yearling sale, the largest auction for yearlings in the world. Those 6 1/2-furlong races will be held opening day, Thursday Aug. 31, with all runners competing for the entire pot.

Last year’s Keeneland sales allowance race for colts produced both the winner of Oaklawn Park’s Grade 1 Arkansas Derby (Angel of Empire) and Keeneland’s Grade 3 Transylvania (Mo Stash).

2023 Kentucky Downs stakes schedule

All stakes are on turf and include Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund supplements

Thursday Aug. 31 — $500,000 Tapit Stakes, 3 year olds & up who have not won a stakes in 2023, mile and 70 yards.

Saturday Sept. 2 — $750,000 Music City (G3), 3-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs; $750,000 Gun Runner, 3-year-olds, one mile; $2 million Mint Millions (G3), 3 year olds & up, one mile.

Sunday Sept. 3 — $750,000 Dueling Grounds Derby (G3), 3-year-olds, 1 5/16 miles; $750,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 1 5/16 miles.

Thursday Sept. 7 — $500,000 One Dreamer, fillies and mares 3 years old & up who have not won a stakes in 2023, mile and 70 yards.

Saturday Sept. 9 — $1 million Franklin-Simpson (G2), 3-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G2), 3-year-olds & up, six furlongs; $1 million Kentucky Turf Cup (G2), 3-year-olds & up, 1 1/2 miles; $1 million The Mint Ladies Sprint (G2), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, one mile; $1 million Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon (G3), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, 1 5/16 miles.

Sunday, Sept. 10 — $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile, 2-year-olds, mile; $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies, 2-year-old fillies, mile.

Wednesday Sept. 13 — $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Sprint, 2-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs; $500,000 Untapable Stakes, 2-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs.

$2M Mint Millions heads seven million-dollar stakes at 2023 meet - The Mint Gaming Hall