Top of the world! Kentucky Downs maidens to run for $150,000

California Angel won her racing debut last September at Kentucky Downs to earn $81,000. It would be even more this year. Coady Photography

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Wednesday, June 1, 2022) — Registered Kentucky-bred horses will compete in the richest maiden races in the world during the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs’ seven-date meet spread over the first two weeks of September.

Maiden races will go for a record $150,000, including a purse supplement of $70,000 from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF), to surpass Japan as the highest on earth. By way of comparison, Kentucky Downs’ maiden races were $25,000 with no KTDF money in 2011, the last year before historical horse racing was fully implemented and began contributing to purses.

Picking up an extra date over 2021, Kentucky Downs’ all-grass meet runs Sept. 1, 3, 4, 8, 10, 11 and 14 over the undulating, 1 5/16-mile kidney-shaped course.

In response to high demand and races that often overfill, Kentucky Downs is adding more maiden races for the 2022 meet. The condition book, which spells out the races for which entries will be taken for each race day, includes 26 maiden races (15 for 2-year-olds). That’s up from the 16 maiden races staged last year, averaging almost 11 starters per race.

Click here for condition book index

Click here for the condition book

“Given the immense popularity of our maiden races and with an extra day, we’ve expanded the opportunities to compete for the most lucrative purses in the world,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ vice president for racing. “Winning a Kentucky Downs maiden race is like hitting a home run to start a ballgame. There’s nothing better than having runs on the board right away. In some instances, an owner can be out on a horse very early on.”

A prime example is Chris Walsh’s California Angel, whose debut victory came in what then was a $135,000 maiden race for KTDF-eligible horses at Kentucky Downs three months after being purchased as a 2-year-old for $5,500 at an Ocala auction. Trainer George Leonard III said when he saw the filly’s ability, he changed plans to stay home at his Indiana base and instead pointed her to Kentucky Downs’ all-grass meet. California Angel picked up $81,000 that day and in her next start captured Keeneland’s Grade 2 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine.

“The grass wasn’t part of the decision as was the $135,000,” Leonard said of the maiden race. “That money is like winning a minor stakes. It’s a boost for the game. Owners are encouraged to have a horse when they can run for that kind of money. For a trainer, it’s a great opportunity to make some money.”

Kentucky Downs again will offer track-record purses, surpassing $18 million after totaling $15.97 million last year. First-level allowance races will total $160,000 and second-level $170,000 for registered Kentucky-breds. Horses are eligible to be registered as Kentucky-breds if they are born in the state and sired by a stallion residing in Kentucky at the time of conception. That accounts for the majority of horses racing in Kentucky and throughout the nation.

Starters finishing sixth through last in Kentucky Downs’ non-stakes races will receive $1,000 each in acknowledgement of owners’ costs associated with running horses.

There will be 17 stakes races totaling $10.7 million, including more than $5 million in KTDF supplements. New will be the $400,000 Gun Runner for 3-year-olds at a mile on closing day.

The meet again features a trio of $1 million races, with the 1 1/2-mile, Grade 2 Kentucky Turf Cup and the six-furlong, Grade 2 FanDuel Turf Sprint part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. The first-place finishers in those “Win And You’re In” races gain a fees-paid entry into the corresponding Breeders’ Cup race Nov. 5 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.

The WinStar Mint Million on Sept. 3 will be worth $1 million for the second year. Each of the $1 million stakes’ purses include $450,000 in KTDF supplements. However, the $550,000 base purse still ranks among the most lucrative grass stakes in America for horses that aren’t registered Kentucky-breds.

The newly graded $750,000 Big Ass Fans Dueling Grounds Derby on Sept. 4 and the $550,000 AGS Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon on Sept. 11, both awarded Grade 3 status for 2022, bring to eight the track’s graded stakes (those judged as the country’s best).

Kentucky Downs’ 2022 stakes schedule

(All stakes on grass and include KTDF* enhancements)

Thursday, Sept. 1 — $400,000 TVG Tapit Stakes, 3-year-olds & up who have not won a stakes in 2022, one mile & 70 yards.

Saturday, Sept. 3 — $1 million WinStar Mint Million (G3), 3-year-olds & up, mile; $500,000 Aristocrat Gaming Juvenile Fillies, 2-year-old fillies, mile; $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile, 2-year-olds, mile.

Sunday, Sept. 4 — $750,000 Big Ass Fans Dueling Grounds Derby (G3), 3-year-olds, 1 5/16 miles; $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 1 5/16 miles.

Thursday, Sept. 8 — $500,000 Global Tote Juvenile Sprint, 2-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs.

Saturday, Sept. 10 — $1 million Kentucky Turf Cup (G2) “Win and You’re In Breeders’ Cup Turf,” 3-year-olds & up, 1 1/2 miles; $1 million FanDuel Turf Sprint (G2) “Win and You’re In Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Division,” 3-year-olds & up, 6 furlongs; $750,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3), fillies & mares 3 years old & up, mile; $600,000 Franklin-Simpson (G2), 3-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs; $600,000 Keeneland Mint Ladies Sprint (G3), fillies & mares 3 years old & up, 6 1/2 furlongs.

Sunday, Sept. 11 — $500,000 Ainsworth Untapable Stakes, 2-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs; $500,000 Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey Music City Stakes, 3-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs; $550,000 AGS Ladies Marathon (G3), fillies & mares 3 years old & up, 1 5/16 miles.

Wednesday, Sept. 14 — $400,000 Gun Runner, 3-year-olds, mile; $400,000 One Dreamer, fillies & mares 3 years old & up who have not won a stakes in 2022, mile and 70 yards.

*Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund money, which is restricted to registered Kentucky-breds.

Growth of Kentucky Downs’ purses

Year (days) total purses races

2022 (7) $17,950,000  74

2021 (6) $15,974,800  63

2020 (6) $11,668,473  62

2019 (5) $11,520,380  50

2018 (5) $10,273,630  50

2017 (5)  $8,625,396   50

2016 (5)  $7,923,476   50

2015 (5)  $6,609,355   48

2014 (5)  $4,875,772   50

2013 (5)  $4,150,687   50

2012 (5)  $2,086,650   43

2011 (4)    $769,810    30

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