(Above: Calumet Farm’s Gear Jockey, with Jose Lezcano up, on his way to victory in last year’s $1 million FanDuel Turf Sprint. The stakes will be a Grade 2 race in 2022. Coady Photography)
FRANKLIN, Ky. (Friday, January 28, 2022) — Kentucky Downs’ $1 million FanDuel Turf Sprint has been elevated to Grade 2 status and the elite all-grass meet also received two more Grade 3 stakes for 2022.
The newly graded Big Ass Fans Dueling Grounds Derby and Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon bring the track’s number of graded stakes to eight of its 14 races eligible to be graded. Two other stakes with a restrictive condition are not eligible for grading. The Dueling Grounds Derby purse was $750,000 and the Ladies Marathon $550,000 in 2021, including Kentucky-bred supplements.
The FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs, whose all-grass format offers among the most lucrative purses in the world, will run Sept. 1, 3, 4, 8, 10, 11 and 14 in 2022.
The promotion places the $1 million FanDuel Turf Sprint on the same graded status as the $1 million Calumet Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles and $600,000 Franklin-Simpson Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters. Those races last year became Kentucky Downs’ first Grade 2 stakes in track history. The FanDuel Turf Sprint and Calumet Turf Cup also have been Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series races, with their winners earning a fees-paid spot in the corresponding Breeders’ Cup race.
Graded stakes are those judged the best in America, with Grade 1 being the very elite, followed by Grade 2 and Grade 3. The annual evaluations are made by the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association’s American Graded Stakes Committee, which rates stakes’ strength based on the overall performances of their participants in recent years in order to provide a guide to the relative quality of bloodstock. To be eligible for grading, a stakes must meet purse minimums and have no restrictions on horses other than age and sex.
“We are focused on getting all our eligible stakes graded and then to get them to Grade 2 and ultimately Grade 1,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ Vice President for Racing. “Our racing’s remarkable progress the past six years is attributable to the enthusiasm horse owners and trainers have shown for Kentucky Downs. This would not be possible without Kentucky’s support for historical horse racing, which has made our circuit the envy of America. Obviously integral is the Kentucky General Assembly’s passing legislation a year ago to protect HHR, thereby protecting the Commonwealth’s signature industry and its tens of thousands of jobs.”
Few tracks have added as many graded stakes the past few years as Kentucky Downs, which has picked up seven new Grade 3 races since 2017. From 2001-2016, the Calumet Turf Cup was Kentucky Downs’ only graded stakes. During that span, the track generally had a five-date meet, being awarded a sixth date for 2020 and 2021 and a seventh this year.
The graded-stakes committee met Wednesday and Thursday to crunch the data and Friday announced this year’s graded-stakes classifications. The committee reviewed 891 U.S. stakes races with a purse of at least $75,000. There will be 449 graded stakes overall for 2022, four more than 2021. The FanDuel Turf Sprint was one of only five stakes elevated to a Grade 2. The Ladies Marathon and Dueling Grounds Derby were among 13 new Grade 3 races.
Kentucky Downs is coming off another record-shattering meet, with a record $74,088,532 wagered on the six-date meet in September. A record $15,974800 was paid to horse owners in purses and Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund supplements.
Calumet Turf Cup becomes a Grade 3
Ladies Turf becomes a Grade 3
FanDuel Turf Sprint becomes a Grade 3
Ladies Sprint becomes a Grade 3
Franklin-Simpson becomes a Grade 3
WinStar Mint Million becomes a Grade 3
Calumet Turf Cup becomes a Grade 2
Franklin-Simpson becomes a Grade 2
Dueling Grounds Derby becomes a Grade 3
Ladies Marathon becomes a Grade 3
FanDuel Turf Sprint becomes a Grade 2