Cumberland Run concludes successful meet

Cumberland Run raced against the backdrop of fall foliage in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Amanda Stephens photo

CORBIN, Ky. (Wednesday Nov. 8, 2023) — Mountains – or at least part of a foothill – had to be moved to create Cumberland Run harness track. But once built, the first horse-racing meet in southeastern Kentucky went off with few hitches.

Cumberland Run’s 12-day meet wrapped up Tuesday. More than $1.4 million was paid out to horse owners, not including the lucrative Kentucky Sire Stakes series that covers 12 categories based on age, gender and gait.

“The meet itself went extremely well,” said Ted Nicholson, Vice President of Racing for The Mint Gaming Hall properties, which includes the Kentucky Downs thoroughbred track. “There were no hiccups. That is remarkable when you consider this is a complete ‘start from the ground up’ racetrack. That’s a testament to all the people who put all their blood, sweat and tears to making it happen.

“It was a strong meet when you consider our purses and how happy the horsemen were with the physical racetrack. Everybody who came enjoyed the atmosphere of the racetrack itself. It’s nestled next to a mountain and with the fall colors it was beautiful.”

The Ron Burke-trained Hungry for Love went 3 for 3 at the meet, including Sunday’s $70,000 final of the Kentucky Sire Stakes for 3-year-old pacing fillies. Owned by Thomas Dillon and Scott Dillon of Anson, Maine, Hungry for Love was the track’s only three-time winner and the leading earner at $65,000. She was bred by Brittany Farms of Versailles, Ky.

Andy Miller was the leading driver with 17 victories and a meet-high $403,700 in purse earnings. His 90 starts trailed only Tony Hall’s 93 (resulting in 15 wins and $343,200 in purse earnings to rank second). One of the most productive drivers was Dexter Dunn, who had five wins and four seconds out of only nine starts.

Tony Alagna led the meet in most trainer statistics, including starts (61), wins (12), seconds (13), thirds (10) and purse earnings ($408,370). Two of his wins came with 18-time winner and millionaire I Did It Myway, the Lexington-born winner of a preliminary leg and the $70,000 final of the Kentucky Sire Stakes series for 4-year-old male pacers. Alagna also went 2-for-2 with Brittany Farm’s homebred Local Honey, including the $70,000 final of the Kentucky Sire Stakes for 2-year-old filly trotters.

“We were thrilled to be part of the inaugural meet,” Alagna said by phone. “We’re big supporters of Kentucky racing — love what they’ve done with the Kentucky Sire Stakes program. We look forward to next year and supporting the meet even more. Beautiful facility. They’ve done a great job. The track, for being new, was in excellent shape. I’d say it’s the start of even greater things.”

Cumberland Run held its 2021 and 2022 race dates at The Red Mile in Lexington while the five-eighths mile track was being built in Corbin.

Nicholson said to pull off a successful meet, Cumberland Run drew upon employees working at Cumberland Run’s adjacent gaming and entertainment operation as well as those at The Mint Gaming Hall Cumberland in Williamsburg, along with a few from sister properties in Franklin and Bowling Green.

“They poured everything into the meet while doing double duty because they have another job on the gaming side,” Nicholson said. “The staff did an amazing job. It’s very similar to how we’re able to pull off Kentucky Downs’ seven-day meet. It takes a lot of people to roll up their sleeves and do a lot of things they don’t normally do. But you make it work.”

Cumberland Run’s 2024 dates follow a similar Sunday-through-Tuesday format: Oct. 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29 and Nov. 3, 4, 5.

“With any new operation, we have a list of things we want to improve upon, most of which would be things we’ll do for the horsemen in the paddock,” Nicholson. “Over the next few years, we see the purses continuing to go up. I think the horsemen really appreciated the purse structure. We hope the sire stakes, which have a different funding mechanism, can increase as well.”

From the United States Trotting Association:

Cumberland Run final driver standings

Cumberland Run final trainer standings

Cumberland Run concludes successful meet - Kentucky Downs