The 139th annual runnings of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), America’s greatest race and the opening leg of racing’s elusive Triple Crown, and the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI), the nation’s premiere race for 3-year-old fillies, top an impressive schedule of 24 stakes races carrying total purses of $7.475 million that will be featured during the 2013 Spring Meet that will open Saturday, April 28 and run through Sunday, June 30 at historic Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”).
While the Derby and Oaks are among the most anticipated events on the American racing calendar, other marquee stakes events on the 2013 Spring Meet schedule include three more Grade I events in the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up that has become of the nation’s most significant events for older horses; the $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, a Kentucky Derby Day event for 4-year-olds & up at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course; and the $300,000-added Humana Distaff, for fillies and mares ages 4 & up at seven furlongs that is also a Derby Day fixture.
Churchill Downs will continue its emphasis on “big event” days that feature several stakes events. Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, May 4 will offer six stakes races and total purses of $3.575 million. Six stakes races also are set for Kentucky Oaks Day on Friday, May 5. The purse total for the half-dozen Oaks Day races is $2.1 million.
Three additional stakes races will support the Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday, June 15 when that multi-race program will be run under the Churchill Downs lights as a “Downs After Dark” night racing spectacular for the second consecutive year. And two stakes events will highlight the final Saturday of Spring Meet racing on June 29, also a “Downs After Dark” night racing celebration, on the eve of the meet’s closing day.
The 2013 Spring Meet stakes events are the same as those offered last year, but purses for five races have been adjusted. Those changes include:
Total purses for the 24 Spring Meet stakes races reflect an increase of $200,000 from last year’s spring racing session.
“Our Spring Meet stakes races at Churchill Downs in 2012 were memorable in terms of the high quality of their fields, the impressive success throughout the year for horses that participated in those races and the drama that played out on the track when those races were run,” said Ben Huffman, Churchill Downs Racing Secretary. “Particularly pleasing was the response by horsemen and our fans to our first nighttime Stephen Foster Handicap multi-stakes event, and we’ll be back under the lights with that terrific program this year. We’re happy to have been able to boost some purses for 2013, including restoration of $100,000 to the Stephen Foster purse, and are excited to offer some wonderful opportunities to owners and trainers to bring their horses to Churchill Downs to compete in a diverse schedule of high-quality, tradition-rich races set for our 2013 Spring Meet.”
Twenty-two of the 24 Spring Meet stakes races are graded stakes events. The two listed stakes races are the $100,000-added Debutante, a six-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies set for Saturday, June 22. The Debutante was a Grade III race in 2012, but was downgraded by the American Graded Stakes Committee to listed status for 2013. The $150,000-added Edgewood Presented by Forcht Bank, a Kentucky Oaks Day race for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on turf, is also a listed stakes race.
There will be no surface, distance or basic name changes for races on the 2013 Spring Meet schedule.
The 2012 renewals of each of the Grade I races set for Churchill Downs’ 2013 Spring Meet had a significant impact on the Eclipse Awards presented over the weekend to last year’s top American racing stars. All three finalists for “Horse of the Year” competed in major events beneath the historic Twin Spires in 2012. The victorious Wise Dan suffered his only 2012 defeat in a narrow loss in the Stephen Foster Handicap. The other finalists were 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another and Fort Larned, who was eighth in the Foster and runner-up in Churchill Downs’ Alysheba (GII).
Wise Dan also earned Eclipse Award honors as top older male and male turf horse. Fort Larned and Little Mike, winner of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, were finalists in the older male division, and Little Mike was a turf male finalist.
I’ll Have Another was honored as the top- 3-year-old of 2012 over finalists that included Kentucky Derby runner-up Bodemeister and Union Rags, who was seventh in the Derby and would later win the Belmont Stakes. Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for 3-year-old female won by Questing.
Groupie Doll, winner of the 2012 Humana Distaff, was honored with the Eclipse Award for female sprinter. She also was a finalist for the award for top older female won by Royal Delta, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (GI) winner who scored a victory in Churchill Downs’ Fleur De Lis during her championship campaign.
The male sprint champion was Trinniberg, who finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby but completed his year with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI). Shackleford, winner of the Churchill Downs (GII) and the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI), was a finalist in that division.
Tapitsfly and Marketing Mix, finalists with the victorious Zagora in the female turf Eclipse division, finished second and fourth, respectively, in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII).
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2013 and its 2013 Spring Meet is scheduled for April 27-June 30. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.ChurchillDowns.com.