KY Turf Cup bumped to $1.7 million; four other stakes now $1 million

#1 Red Knight winning last year’s Kentucky Turf Cup. Grace Clark photo

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Wednesday, July 12, 2023) — Kentucky Downs’ Grade 2 Kentucky Turf Cup will be worth $1.7 million in 2023, with the winner earning more than $1 million if bred in Kentucky. Even horses that aren’t registered Kentucky-breds will compete for $1.3 million, the winner of the 1 1/2-mile stakes making about $800,000.

In addition, four other stakes are being raised to $1 million to bring the total of seven-figure races to 11 at the all-turf FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs. The most lucrative meet in North America — including the biggest maiden purses in the world at $150,000 for Kentucky-breds — runs Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, 3, 7, 9, 10 and 13.

The Kentucky Turf Cup’s $1.7 million purse includes $400,000 from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF), which provides purse supplements to registered Kentucky-breds. The Turf Cup also is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race, meaning its winner gets a fees-paid spot in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita.

Outside the Breeders’ Cup, the only turf race in America that could be worth more money also is at Kentucky Downs: the $2 million Mint Millions. As announced earlier, that Grade 3 mile stakes has a base purse of $1 million and another $1 million from the KTDF.

The four new $1 million stakes, each for 3-year-olds over Labor Day weekend, will see their purses boosted from $750,000 to $1 million. Of that, $600,000 will be the base purse for which every horse runs and the remaining $400,000 in KTDF supplements.

Getting those raises are the Grade 3 Music City Stakes for fillies at 6 1/2 furlongs and the Gun Runner at a mile on Saturday Sept. 2 and the Grade 3 Dueling Grounds Derby and the Dueling Grounds Oaks for fillies, both at 1 5/16 miles on Sunday Sept. 3. The hikes give the Sept. 2 card three races worth at least $1 million, highlighted by the Mint Millions.

Also offering $1 million purses are the Turf Sprint (G2), a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series’ “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1); Franklin-Simpson (G2), Ladies Sprint (G2), Ladies Turf (G3) and Ladies Marathon (G3). Those stakes join the Kentucky Turf Cup on the showcase Sept. 9 card.

‘We want to Attract horses like Aspen Grove’

“We want to provide horse owners a shot to where winning and even hitting the board goes a long way on the balance sheet in a challenging industry where the payoff more often is thrills than profit,” said Ron Winchell, co-managing partner of Kentucky Downs and The Mint Gaming Hall properties with Marc Falcone. “Getting these races up to $1 million — and more in a couple of cases — further stamps Kentucky as America’s premiere racing circuit. And we know the vast majority of this purse money will be reinvested in the racing and breeding industries in Kentucky.

“This should grab people’s attention, and we hope it pushes our four Grade 2 stakes over the finish line to be awarded Grade 1 status for 2024. This is important to us, and we thank our partners with the Kentucky HBPA and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund for making it possible, along with the wisdom of the General Assembly, whose members understand that investing in such a labor-intensive industry is a huge investment in the state that pays dividends in jobs and economic development.”

Outside serving as a Breeders’ Cup host, no track comes close to matching Kentucky Downs’ lineup of million-dollar races.

“Think of that: the capability to run nine races worth a million dollars, one that’s $1.7 million and another that’s $2 million spread over a week and a half,” said Kentucky Downs’ Vice President for Racing Ted Nicholson. “All of our nine graded stakes and two others are the most lucrative turf stakes for their respective divisions in the country and among the richest on the planet.

“We also want to attract horses like Aspen Grove, the Belmont Oaks winner, to Kentucky Downs. Irish-bred, such as she is, and all horses outside Kentucky-breds still race for $600,000 in the Dueling Grounds Oaks and the Grade 3 Ladies Marathon, as well as in all of our $1 million races. That by itself is the most any turf filly can race for in America before the Breeders’ Cup.”

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

Sunday Sept. 3 — $1 million Dueling Grounds Derby (G3), 3-year-olds, 1 5/16 miles; $1 million 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 Turf Sprint (G2), 3-year-olds & up, six furlongs; $1 million Turf Cup (G2), 3-year-olds & up, 1 1/2 miles; $1 million Franklin-Simpson (G2), 3-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million Ladies Sprint (G2), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million Ladies Turf (G3), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, one mile; $1 million 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 Juvenile Fillies, 2-year-old fillies, mile.

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

KY Turf Cup bumped to $1.7 million; four other stakes now $1 million - Kentucky Downs