Churchill Downs releases 2014 spring stakes schedule
The 140th runnings of the $2 million Kentucky Derby and $1 million Kentucky Oaks, as well as the 33rd running of the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap, are the highlights of a record six Grade 1 events that headline Churchill Downs' schedule of 24 stakes races cumulatively worth $7.675 million during its April 26-June 29 spring meet.
Total purses for the 2014 spring meet stakes events reflect an increase of 2.7 percent from 2013.
The spring stakes schedule continues Churchill Downs' emphasis on big days highlighted by multiple stakes races, and the Kentucky Derby Day card on May 3 will be the richest in track history. The Derby program offers six stakes events with record total purses of $3.75 million. Half of those races are Grade 1 events -- the Derby, $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic for four-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf and $300,000 Humana Distaff for four-years-old and up distaffers going seven furlongs on the main track -- and the rest are Grade 2 contests.
Along with the trio of Grade 1 races, the Kentucky Derby Day card features the 80th running of the $400,000 Churchill Downs for four-year-olds and up at seven furlongs; $300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile for fillies and mares, four-years-old and up on the Matt Winn Turf Course; and $250,000 American Turf for sophomores at 1 1/16 miles on grass. The latter will be run on Derby Day for the first time after being part of the Kentucky Oaks Day program since its inception in 1998.
The decision by the American Graded Stakes Committee to grant Grade 1 status to the $300,000 La Troienne, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares ages four and up on Kentucky Oaks Day, May 2, increased the number of spring meet Grade 1s to six. The track will offer seven Grade 1 races in 2014 with the inclusion of the 140th running of the Clark Handicap, a fall meet fixture.
The Kentucky Oaks, for three-year-old fillies, and the 39th running of the La Troienne are the marquee races on an Oaks Day stakes schedule that also features a total of six stakes events, five of them graded contests, with total purses of $2.075 million.
Another highlight on the Oaks Day program will be the 11th running of the Grade 2, $300,000 Alysheba. The 1 1/16-mile race for four-year-olds and up has been won over the past three years by such stars as Take Charge Indy (2013), Successful Dan (2012) and First Dude (2011) against fields that have included the likes of future two-time Horse of the Year (2012-2013) Wise Dan, who finished eighth in 2011, and future Breeders' Cup Classic winners Fort Larned (2012) and Mucho Macho Man (2013), who finished second and third, respectively, in the Alysheba's 2012 running.
Completing the Kentucky Oaks Day schedule are the Grade 3, $175,000 Eight Belles, a seven-furlong race for three-year-old fillies; Grade 3, $150,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint, a five-furlong turf event for four-year-olds and up; and $150,000 Edgewood, a 1 1/16-mile race for sophomore fillies on turf.
The Stephen Foster Handicap, the racing centerpiece of a "Downs After Dark" night racing program on June 14, is one of the major American races for older horses and heads a schedule of four races beneath the Churchill Downs lights that offer total stakes purses of $900,000. Sharing the nighttime spotlight with the Foster are the 39th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares ages three and up; Grade 3, $100,000 Matt Winn sending sophomores 1 1/16 miles; and Grade 3, $100,000 Regret for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
One other multi-stakes program is set the for the June 28 program which will spotlight the 24th running Grade 2, $200,000 Firecracker for three-year-olds at up at a mile on turf and 113th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Bashford Manor for juveniles at six furlongs as its co-features. The Firecracker has been won in two of the last three years by 2012-13 Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
The 2014 spring stakes schedule will be launched by the 90th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Derby Trial, a one-mile race for sophomores that is the racing highlight of the "Opening Night" celebration under the lights on April 26 that kicks off the spring meet and Kentucky Derby Week.
Other events include the Grade 3, $100,000 Louisville Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on turf for three-year-olds and up on May 24; Grade 3, $100,000 Winning Colors for fillies and mares age three and up at six furlongs on the Memorial Day card on May 26; Grade 3, $100,000 Aristides for three-year-olds and up at six furlongs on May 31; Grade 3, $100,000 Mint Julep Handicap for fillies and mares age three and up at 1 1/16 grassy miles on June 7; and 114th running of the $100,000 Debutante for juvenile fillies at six furlongs on June 21.
Changes to purses and other race conditions in the 2014 stakes schedule compared to the prior year: