Kentucky Downs’ Keeneland sale allowance races potential windfall for 2-year-olds

Grand Oak, a $105,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, won a Churchill Downs maiden race on May 20 under Martin Garcia. Coady Photography

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Wednesday, July 20, 2022) — There’s never a bad time to try to earn $150,000 with a young racehorse.

So as trainers begin thinking about late-summer objectives for their 2-year-olds, Kentucky Downs offers a new option this year in collaboration with its horsemen and the Keeneland Association: A pair of $250,000 allowance races restricted to horses who went through the ring at last year’s September Yearling Sale.

The FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs will offer the richest purses in America and among the most lucrative in the world with $18 million up for grabs at the all-grass meet Sept. 1, 3, 4, 8, 10, 11 and 14. Buy reserved seats here.

The 6 1/2-furlong allowance races — one for fillies and one for colts and geldings — will be staged Sept. 8 with no conditions other than the 2-year-old must have been offered for sale at Keeneland last September. Yearlings that sold as well as those not reaching their reserve bid are eligible. Every horse, no matter where born, will compete for the entire pot, which will pay $150,000 to the winner — more than many stakes are worth.

Trainer Rusty Arnold, a fixture in Kentucky racing and at Kentucky Downs, has every intention of his stable being represented. One candidate is Cadillac Candy, a $15,000 Keeneland September purchase who won a Churchill Downs maiden race on grass for Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman.

“That’s where he’d be pointed,” Arnold said. “Hey, I’m a trainer. I look at that (purse) number. Let’s face it: For a colt, if it’s not a Grade 1 race, it’s not that important anyway. But $250,000 is important.”

Funding for the races comes out of the Kentucky Downs purse account under an agreement with the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, which represents owners and trainers at the commonwealth’s five Thoroughbred racetracks.

Trainer Graham Motion was thrilled to hear about the Keeneland allowance race after his Herringswell Racing Club II purchased the Irish-bred Grand Oak, another Churchill Downs maiden winner on turf previously trained by Arnold, at auction recently.

“Obviously that’s a race we’ll strongly consider,” Motion said. “We love running at Kentucky Downs anyway. It’s extra appealing because as an Irish-bred, she still gets to race for the entire purse.”

Building on Synergy of Racing and Sales

The meet’s timing couldn’t be better for horse owners, dovetailing with Keeneland’s world-renowned September Sale, Sept. 12-23 in Lexington, Ky.

“It really does help you — adds a little money to the kitty to buy more horses,” said Mike Hall, managing director of the Breeze Easy partnership.

Cadillac Candy, a $15,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, won a Churchill Downs maiden race May 19 under Tyler Gaffalione. Coady Photography

Kentucky Downs also will stage four 2-year-old stakes. The Aristocrat Gaming Juvenile Fillies and the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile on Sept. 3, Global Tote Juvenile on Sept. 8 and Ainsworth Untapable for 2-year-old fillies on Sept. 11 offer purses of $500,000, of which $250,000 is available only to registered Kentucky-breds through the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.

Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale is the world’s most important Thoroughbred auction, offering quality yearlings at all levels of the market. Attracting buyers from across the world, Keeneland September is racing’s No. 1 source of future champions and Grade 1 winners. Last year’s September sale grossed almost $353 million for the 2,672 yearlings sold through the ring for an average of $132,045.

“It’s another example of how Kentucky’s signature industry interrelates,” Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ Vice President for Racing, said of the sales races. “Working together with the state legislature, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund and our horsemen’s association has made the Kentucky circuit the envy of American racing and Kentucky Downs a world leader in a few short years.”

As with Kentucky Downs’ stakes, the sales races also are well-timed lead-ins to the Keeneland fall meet’s three turf stakes races for 2-year-olds. Keeneland also is hosting the Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 4-5.

“Keeneland’s collaboration with Kentucky Downs builds on the synergy of racing and sales, and creates anticipation among horsemen for September,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing Gatewood Bell said. “This unique venture also fulfills Keeneland’s mission to strengthen Kentucky racing and work with industry entities toward a shared goal of bettering the sport.”

Kentucky Downs' Keeneland sale allowance races potential windfall for 2-year-olds - The Mint Gaming Hall