Matt Winn Stakes History
The Matt Winn (G3) will be run for the 23rd time on May 23, 2020, but the Churchill Downs race for 3-year-olds was known by a different name for more than a decade.
From 1998 through 2010, the race was called the Northern Dancer in honor of the 1964 Kentucky Derby champion and breed-shaping sire.
In 2011, the name was changed to celebrate a human legend, former Churchill Downs President Matt Winn. Col. Winn, enshrined as a Pillar of the Turf in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2017, played the pivotal role in transforming the Kentucky Derby into America’s iconic horse race and social occasion.
The Matt Winn is typically staged in June, until this year’s COVID-19 pandemic scrambled the stakes schedule. Its distance has been fixed at 1 1⁄16 miles since 2004, the same year it was elevated to Grade 3 status.
The race’s honor roll includes several horses coming out of the Kentucky Derby, most notably Gun Runner (2016). Third to champion Nyquist in the Run for the Roses, Gun Runner dominated the Matt Winn by 5 1⁄4 lengths in a stakes-record 1:41.12. But he was best the following season, capping his 2017 Horse of the Year campaign with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and retiring on a high note after romping in the 2018 Pegasus World Cup (G1).
Other Derby alumni rebounding in this spot include Exchange Rate (in 2000, the one time it was 7 furlongs), Don’t Get Mad (2005), Pyro (2008), Tapiture (2014), and McCraken (2017).
The Matt Winn has also served as a launching pad for sophomores who didn’t peak in time to make the Derby, such as Suave (2004), Successful Dan (2009), Code West (2013), and Mr. Money (2019). Memorable winners in the early years were the brilliant Forestry (1999), who was on the upswing but not trying classic distances, and Champali (2003), who was already accomplished but opted to stick to shorter trips.
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