Information for Kentucky Downs 2024 Meet

FRANKLIN, Ky. — Headed by the renamed $2.5 million Nashville Derby (Grade 3) on Aug. 31, Kentucky Downs will stage six races worth at least $2 million apiece, including supplements for registered Kentucky-breds, at this year’s seven-day race meet.

The all-turf meet offering some of the world’s richest racing runs Aug. 29 and 31 and Sept. 1, 5, 7, 8 and 11. The Kentucky Downs condition book is now online at equibase.com (condition book here and index here), with purses scheduled to total $35 million, including $16 million in Kentucky-bred money. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday approved Kentucky Downs’ requested purse enhancements from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF), which is restricted to registered horses that were foaled in the commonwealth and sired by a Kentucky stallion.

Previously known as the Dueling Grounds Derby, the Nashville Derby becomes the richest race in track history and the most lucrative grass race in North America outside the $5 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. The only American race offering more money for Kentucky-breds on any surface outside the Breeders’ Cup are the $5 million Kentucky Derby and $3 million Pegasus World Cup.

Colonial Downs Names Turf Course After Secretariat“We want to build the Nashville Derby into a race that American and European horsemen alike point to and buy horses for,” said Ron Winchell, co-managing partner of Kentucky Downs with Marc Falcone. “The name change reflects our close proximity to one of America’s great cities, which we see as an added incentive for coming. Even horses that aren’t Kentucky-breds still will race for $1.5 million, and we’ve positioned the Nashville Derby so that it fits into a big-money circuit for 3-year-old turf horses with Keeneland and Churchill Downs’ stakes as well as the New York’s Belmont Derby, Saratoga Derby and Jockey Club Derby.”

The Kentucky Downs meet will have 11 stakes overall worth at least $1 million (including KTDF supplements) out of a total of 18 stakes. Nine stakes enjoy graded status, including the track’s first Grade 1 stakes in the $2 million Franklin-Simpson for 3-year-old sprinters. The showcase Sept. 7 card’s six graded stakes offer a total of $10 million in purses, including a quartet of $2 million races.

Kentucky Downs overnight purses, the richest in America, also got boosts. Maiden races, already the richest in the world, increase from $150,000 to $170,000, with allowance races worth up to $220,000 for Kentucky-breds among the 75 total races scheduled for the meet.

The continued growth reflects Kentucky Downs ownership’s commitment to escalating the track from a very good domestic program to being an international racing venue.

Kentucky Downs has added highly respected track executive Martin Panza, America’s foremost expert in turning stateside races into international events, and the British-based International Racing Bureau to its team to increase foreign participation as the track works to position the meet into a key stop on the global schedule.

Panza brings in more than 30 years of experience, including being senior vice president of racing operations at the New York Racing Association from 2013-2021 and as vice president of racing at Hollywood Park from 1994-2013. At NYRA, he created the Turf Triple series at Belmont and Saratoga for both 3-year-old colts and 3-year-old fillies.

The International Racing Bureau has been involved in the planning and/or launching of the Breeders’ Cup, Dubai World Cup, Japan Cup and Arlington Million. The organization recruits overseas horses for big race dates around the world, working with horsemen and the tracks on logistics. Other services include securing international sponsorships and working with media.

Panza joins another highly respected executive in Rick Hammerle as Kentucky Downs’ directors of racing operations.

“Our all-star racing office is now off the charts with the addition of Martin Panza and the International Racing Bureau,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ Vice President for Racing. “Like Rick Hammerle, Martin has worked with horsemen around the country and the world. Racing secretary Tyler Picklesimer and assistant racing secretary Baley Hare do a tremendous job and possess extensive Kentucky and regional connections. They also have their hands full putting together the seven cards for America’s richest meet with the largest fields. Martin and the IRB will have the time and resources to concentrate on expanding recruitment, including overseas, with Hammerle continuing to work on both domestic and international growth.”

Kentucky Downs has attracted some European participation in recent years. Ancient Rome, a Kentucky-bred based in Britain, crossed the Atlantic to win the Grade 3 Mint Millions, which last year became Kentucky Downs’ first $2 million race. The year before, Reckoning Force, trained by Ireland’s Joseph O’Brien, ran twice at Saratoga before taking the then-$500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile.

Also being bumped to $2 million this year are the Franklin-Simpson; the Kentucky Turf Cup (G2) at 1 1/2 miles for older horses; Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G2) for sprinters and the Music City (G2) for 3-year-old filly sprinters. The Kentucky Turf Cup was raised from $1.7 million last year; the others from $1 million, including KTDF.

Other races getting purse hikes: the $1.5 million Ladies Turf (G3) and $1.5 million Dueling Grounds Oaks (both $1 million last year). Kentucky Downs’ four stakes for 2-year-olds were increased to $750,000 from $500,000 for Kentucky-breds.

An 18th stakes was added: The $500,000 Nashville Gold Cup at 2 1/16 miles set for Sept. 11’s closing card.

The Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint and Kentucky Downs Turf Cup winners receive a fees-paid berth in the corresponding Breeders’ Cup race.

Kentucky Downs 2024 stakes schedule

All on turf; all include KTDF purse supplements for Kentucky-breds

Thursday Aug. 29 — $500,000 Tapit Stakes, 3-year-olds & up, mile and 70 yards. Restricted to horses that have not won a stakes in 2024.

Saturday Aug. 31 — $2.5 million Nashville Derby (G3), 3-year-olds, 1 5/16 miles; $2 million Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G2), 3-year-olds & up, 6 furlongs. “Win and You’re In” for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint; $1.5 million Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3), fillies & mares 3 years old & up, mile.

Sunday Sept. 1 — $750,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Sprint, 2-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs; $750,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies, 2-year-old fillies, mile.

Thursday Sept. 5 — $500,000 One Dreamer, fillies & mares 3 years old & up, mile and 70 yards. Restricted to fillies and mares that have not won a stakes in 2024.

Saturday Sept. 7 — $2 million Franklin-Simpson Stakes (G1), 3-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs; $2 million Kentucky Downs Turf Cup (G2), 3-year-olds & up, 1 1/2 miles. “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf; $2 million Music City (G2), 3-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs; $2 million Mint Millions (G3), 3-year-olds & up, mile; $1 million Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint (G2), fillies & mares 3 years old & up, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon (G3), fillies & mares 3 years old & up, 1 5/16 miles.

Sunday Sept. 8 — $1 million Gun Runner Stakes, 3-year-olds, mile; $750,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile, 2-year-olds, mile; $750,000 Untapable Stakes, 2-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs.

Wednesday Sept. 11 — $1.5 million Dueling Grounds Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 1 5/16 miles; $500,000 Nashville Gold Cup, 2 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds & up.