Franklin hosting 2nd-richest race in state with $2 million Mint Millions

Published 4:17 pm Thursday, August 31, 2023

By Jennie Rees, Special to the Daily News

FRANKLIN – Kentucky Downs is staging the second-richest race in the commonwealth – behind only the $3 million Kentucky Derby – with Saturday’s $2 million, Grade 3 Mint Millions on the second day of the all-turf FanDuel Meet.

The meet begins Thursday, with the featured attraction being the $500,000 FanDuel Tapit Stakes. Kentucky Downs runs this Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Sept. 7, 9, 10 and 13 over the distinctive kidney-shaped and undulating course 20 miles from Bowling Green. First post is 12:30 p.m. every day except for 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 9.

There is free general admission in front of the Mint Gaming Hall and the top of the stretch with free tailgating into the far turn. Reserved seating can also be purchased in the FanDuel VIP Chalet and the open-air Finish Line Pavilion.

The 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, with the race called the Mint Million, the base was $600,000 with a $400,000 supplement from the KTDF. With 10 of the 12 entrants this year bred in Kentucky, the Mint Millions is almost assured of surpassing the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks as the second most lucrative race in the state.

The Mint Millions is one of three Kentucky Downs stakes worth $1 million or more for Kentucky-breds Saturday, joining the Grade 3 Big Ass Fans Music City for 3-year-old filly sprinters and the Gun Runner for 3-year-olds at a mile. That triumvirate kicks off the sequence of 11 stakes that carry $1 million or more purses with KTDF during the meet, which features 17 stakes overall. The second-richest is the $1.7 million, Grade 2 FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles on Sept. 9.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher – whose career earnings of $467 million is a record – has no trouble hearing when money talks.

Though his main base is in New York, he has three very strong contenders in Saturday’s trio of big-money stakes.

Pletcher entered the likely Mint Millions favorite Annapolis, winner of last year’s Grade 1 Coolmore Turf Mile against older horses at Keeneland, in what would be a three-week turnaround from the colt’s close second in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Fourstardave. Now 4, Bass Stables’ colt has six wins and four seconds in 11 career starts, earning almost $1.5 million.Tyler Gaffalione, winner of his second Kentucky Downs riding title last year, has the mount.

“This will be my first time on him,” Gaffalione said. “I’m very familiar with him, competing against him in some of his previous races. He’s a very talented colt, and I’m very excited to ride him.”

One of five horses entered by Pletcher for Saturday’s card, Spendthrift Farm’s Major Dude will be among the favorites in the Gun Runner.

Malleymoo, who started her career in Ireland, will make her first start for Pletcher since being bought this summer by LSU Stables for $550,000, which matched the top price at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Horses of Racing Age sales. In her last start, she led all the way through a slow pace to win the Penn Oaks.

With 10 of the 12 entrants being Kentucky-bred the Mint Millions for 3-year-olds and up shapes up to be:

  • America’s richest turf race outside the Breeders’ Cup.
  • the second-richest race offered by a racetrack in Kentucky outside the $3 million Kentucky Derby
  • third-richest in North America not counting the Breeders’ Cup, topped only by the 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 Longines Classic and $4 million Longines Turf surpass $2 million.

“Incredible, right?” Gaffalione said. “It’s crazy.”

Kentucky Downs’ all-time leading trainer Mike Maker, who finished 1-2 in the last year’s stakes with Somelikeithotbrown and Atone, comes back with Atone and adds Max K. O to the Mint Millions. Atone kicked off his 6-year-old season by becoming a Grade 1 winner in Gulfstream Park’s Pegasus World Cup Turf.

The Mint Millions also attracted the entry of British’s Group 1-placed Ancient Rome, trained by Charlie Hills with European standout jockey Jamie Spencer named to ride.