Kentucky Downs announces first $2 million race

Published 4:30 pm Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Somelikeithotbrown held off Atone (No. 7) and Mr Dumas (No. 1) to win last year’s Mint Million, which will be the $2 million Mint Millions in 2023 for the seven-day meet at Franklin’s Kentucky Downs. GRACE CLARK/Kentucky Downs

Kentucky Downs’ Grade 3 Mint Million stakes now is the Mint Millions, reflecting its dramatic growth to become the first $2 million race in track history and America’s richest turf race outside the Breeders’ Cup, the Franklin turf track announced Wednesday.

The mile Mint Millions offers a base purse of $1 million, with another $1 million from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF) for registered Kentucky-born and -sired horses. Last year the base was $600,000 with a $400,000 supplement from the KTDF.

The seven-day, all-turf race meet will offer seven stakes worth at least $1 million for Kentucky-bred horses to highlight an overall purse structure scheduled for $22.82 million – a track record for the 12th straight year since the advent of historical horse racing. Once again Kentucky Downs will feature the richest maiden races in the world at $150,000 for Kentucky-bred horses.

Helping to fuel overall purses and the KTDF supplements is the success of historical horse racing at The Mint Gaming Hall Bowling Green, Downs’ satellite simulcasting and gaming operation that opened in late 2021.

The meet’s 17 stakes – included nine with graded-stakes status – will be worth a total of $14 million, with $7.6 million available for all horses and another $6.4 million earmarked for those horses foaled in Kentucky and sired by a Kentucky stallion. Horses born outside Kentucky still will compete for one of the world’s most lucrative stakes schedules.

Kentucky Downs runs Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, 3, 7, 9, 10 and 13 over the distinctive kidney-shaped course with subtle elevation changes.

The Mint Millions, a race for 3-year-olds and up on Sept. 2, has the potential to be the second-richest race offered by a racetrack in Kentucky and the third-richest in North America, topped only by the $3 million Kentucky Derby and Gulfstream Park’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup in Florida, both on dirt. Of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races, only the $6 million Classic and $4 million Turf surpass $2 million.

Only one other track has ever offered as many races in a year with the potential to be worth $1 million without being the Breeders’ Cup host. That was Belmont Park in 2016, with six such races at its spring meet and one in the fall.

“We want the Mint Millions to be the pre-eminent launching pad to the Breeders’ Cup Mile,” Ron Winchell, who with Marc Falcone are Kentucky Downs’ co-managing partners, said in a news release. “Turf milers are among the biggest stars in Europe, and we’re giving them a million more reasons to come to Kentucky Downs.”

The six other graded stakes offering $1 million in available purses are the Franklin-Simpson, Kentucky Turf Cup (Grade 2) at 1 1/2 miles, Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G2), The Mint Ladies Sprint (G2), Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3) and the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon (G3). Those stakes are all carded for the blockbuster Saturday Sept. 9 program.

“Our KTDF money allows us to run North America’s richest two weeks of racing, including the potential to run more stakes worth at least $1 million during a meet than any U.S. track outside a Breeders’ Cup host,” Kentucky Downs Vice President for Racing Ted Nicholson said in a news release. “But regardless of where horses are born, our base purses guarantee everyone runs for some of the largest purses on the planet.”

Three other Kentucky Downs’ stakes – the Sept. 2 Music City (G3) for 3-year-old filly sprinters, the Sept. 2 Gun Runner for 3-year-olds at a mile and the Sept. 3 Dueling Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 5/16 miles– had their purses substantially boosted to $750,000.

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 – $750,000 Music City (G3), 3-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs; $750,000 Gun Runner, 3-year-olds, one mile; $2 million Mint Millions (G3), 3 year olds & up, one mile.

Sunday Sept. 3 – $750,000 Dueling Grounds Derby (G3), 3-year-olds, 1 5/16 miles; $750,000 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 Franklin-Simpson (G2), 3-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G2), 3-year-olds & up, six furlongs; $1 million Kentucky Turf Cup (G2), 3-year-olds & up, 1 1/2 miles; $1 million The Mint Ladies Sprint (G2), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, one mile; $1 million Kentucky Downs 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 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies, 2-year-old fillies, mile.

Wednesday Sept. 13 – $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Sprint, 2-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs; $500,000 Untapable Stakes, 2-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs.