The Mint Gaming Hall at Kentucky Downs: Year in Review
For immediate release
Wishing you good health,
lots of winners in 2021!

2020: A final look back
2020 brought unique challenges with the coronavirus health pandemic. But the year also launched an exciting new era with the opening of our expansion and rebranding of the facility as The Mint Gaming Hall at Kentucky Downs, along with a long-desired additional sixth day of live racing. As our owners say, this is just the start and we can’t wait to see what 2021 brings!
Ring out the old, ring in the new …
… with it, our souvenir calendar giveaway is back!
(Steve Kornacki, national political correspondent/ election analyst for NBC/MSNBC who brought his analytics of NFL playoff scenarios to Sunday Night Football, didn't need his Big Board to call The Mint Gaming/Kentucky Downs 2021 calendar a winner! Photo courtesy Steve Kornacki)

The Mint Gaming Hall at Kentucky Downs says farewell to 2020 but not before we conclude the year with a bang.

Our $25,000 Countdown to New Year’s Eve runs through Wednesday, Dec. 30 with drawings for up to $5,000 in cash conducted at 8 and 10 p.m. CT. The $15,000 New Year’s Eve Drawings will be Thursday, Dec. 31, from 9 p.m. until-1 a.m. Guests can win up to $1,000 in cash to kick off the New Year.

Start off 2021 a winner! The Mint Rewards members joining us on Jan. 1 will receive a souvenir wall calendar, featuring photos of our 2020 stakes-winners at the live race meet and much more through the lens of Kentucky Downs social-media coordinator Grace Clark and track photographer Coady Photography. Each calendar includes coupons for Free Play on designated days in January, and 10 will include a special voucher for up to $1,000 in Free Play or cash. Calendars will be available for giveaway from noon CT until 9 p.m. to The Mint Rewards members while supply lasts. Not a member? You can sign up on the spot.

Can’t make it New Year's Day? Email track publicist Jennie Rees at to request your free calendar while supply lasts. Please include name and mailing address. Recipients agree to receive occasional emails about The Mint and Kentucky Downs news and events.
JANUARY: Zulu Alpha captures Grade 1 Pegasus Turf;
#KyDownsGrads shine in Fair Grounds' first round of stakes
Michael Hui's Zulu Alpha, winner of our first $1 million race in taking the 2019 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, became a Grade 1 winner by capturing the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf on Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park. Tyler Gaffalione rode for Mike Maker, our all-time career-leading trainer. It was Zulu Alpha's first start since finishing a good fourth in the 2019 Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita. Read more
Zulu Alpha won his second $1 million race in four months and his first Grade 1 race in the Pegasus World Cup Turf at Gulfstream Park. (Coglianese Photography)
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, owner Michael Hui (with wife Paige) and trainer Mike Maker were interviewed by NBC's Nick Luck after the Pegasus Turf victory. (Mike Kane photo)
Zulu Alpha won the Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup in 2019, when it became Kentucky Downs' first $1 million race. (Coady Photography)
Winchell's Finite gives Asmussen 1,000th stakes victory
The 3-year-old Finite continued her win streak that began with a Kentucky Downs maiden victory, taking the Fair Grounds' $150,000 Silverbulletday by a neck under Ricardo Santana Jr. on Jan. 18. The outcome made Steve Asmussen only the third trainer to win 1,000 stakes. Finite is co-owned by breeder Ron Winchell, the co-managing partner of The Mint Gaming Hall at Kentucky Downs, and Thomas Reiman, William Dickson and Deborah Easter. The filly came into the Silverbulletday off victories in Churchill Downs' Grade 2 Golden Rod and the Rags to Riches Stakes.

AJ Suited Racing Stable's $50,000 claim Dontblamerocket, winner of a 2019 Kentucky Downs starter-allowance race for trainer Norm Casse, captured the Fair Grounds' $125,000 Col. E.R. Bradley Stakes under Julien Leparoux in the horse's stakes debut. The field of eight included seven horses who had raced previously at Kentucky Downs.

Finite held off Ursula in the Silverbulletday. (Hodges Photography photos)
Dontblamerocket, a $50,000 claim, won the Col. E.R. Bradley in his stakes debut.
FEBRUARY: Finite wins fifth straight in G2 Rachel Alexandra
Ron Winchell's 3-year-old filly Finite continued to stamp herself among the favorites for the Kentucky Oaks with a powerful victory over 2-year-old filly champ British Idiom and future Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver in the Fair Grounds' Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra on Feb. 15. Her five-race win streak that started in a Kentucky Downs maiden race ended with a fourth in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks, with Finite afterward having surgery to remove a bone chip. (Hodges Photography photo)

Another filly proving that Kentucky Downs produces good horses -- not just good grass horses -- was Jay Em ESS Stable's Go Google Yourself. That 5-year-old mare started her career three years ago at Kentucky Downs and went on to become a multiple graded-stakes winner, including Oaklawn Park's Grade 3 Bayakoa on Feb. 17.
MARCH: COVID-19 shuts down facility for three months
Kentucky Downs' dates change to allow delayed Derby Week
(Photo: Kentucky Downs partnered with the Nashville Sounds Triple-A baseball team to distribute needed supplies after a series of deadly tornados ripped through Greater Nashville and Middle Tennessee on March 2-3. That's Chris Epley of our marketing department on the left.)

Kentucky Downs’ Historical Horse Racing operation shut down on March 16 for three months upon the governor’s orders as the coronavirus surged, with racetracks across the country closing as well.

Churchill Downs announced on March 17 that it was delaying the Kentucky Derby until Sept. 5, an arrangement made possible by Ellis Park giving up the scheduled closing week of its summer meet and Kentucky Downs delaying its scheduled opening day until Labor Day.

Hronis Racing's Combatant, second in an allowance race at Kentucky Downs' 2019 meet, won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap by a neck over 33-1 Multiplier, who was sixth in the 2018 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup.

Zulu Alpha, winner of the first $1 million race ever at Kentucky Downs in the 2019 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, repeated his 2019 triumph in Gulfstream Park's $200,000, Grade 2 MacDiarmida on Feb. 29.

Ed and Susie Orr’s Silver Prospector, who ran in the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint in 2019, followed up on his victory in Churchill Downs' Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey the previous fall with a one-length victory over future Louisiana Derby winner Wells Bayou in Oaklawn Park's $750,000, Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 17.

Gaining Ground Racing's Factor This, fourth after setting the pace in the Calumet Farm, won the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Stakes as he started on a tear to stamp himself as one of the Midwest's best turf horses at shorter distances. Read more

APRIL: No fooling. We were shut down, as was most of racing
MAY: KD maiden winner Art Collector bursts on the scene
(Photo: Brian Hernandez Jr. guided Bruce Lunsford's Art Collector to victory in a May 17 allowance race at Churchill Downs in his first start for trainer Tommy Drury. Coady Photography)

Bruce Lunsford’s 3-year-old colt Art Collector, who the previous September had earned his first victory over the Kentucky Downs turf, without fanfare won a first-level allowance race on dirt on May 17 at Churchill Downs —15 days after what would have been the Kentucky Derby. Art Collector, whose training had been taken over by Tommy Drury, would prove to be among the horses benefiting from the pandemic-related cancelations and reconfiguration of the racing calendar. Art Collector was making his first start in 5 1/2 months in the allowance race, which fell on the second day of the Churchill meet whose start had been delayed three weeks. It became the first of four straight victories capped by Keeneland's Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and $200,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Derby.
JUNE: Larry Collmus hired to call races with Michael Wrona
  • HHR gaming operation opens after 3-month shutdown
  • $741,849 Jackpot hit, second-largest in our history
  • $12 million in purses, 16 stakes announced for live meet
  • Factor This takes Churchill's Grade 2 Wise Dan
Kentucky Downs said on June 2 that Larry Collmus -- the voice of NBC's Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup broadcasts -- would share race-calling responsibilities with Michael Wrona, giving the six-date race meet two of the world's most prominent announcers.

“I’m excited about calling the races at Kentucky Downs and looking forward to getting back in action,” said Collmus, who was the New York Racing Association announcer from 2015 through the 2019 fall meet after spending a year calling the races at Churchill Downs. “The purses at Kentucky Downs are second to none and the unique layout is a fun challenge. I’m thrilled to share the mic with Michael. We’ve known each other for decades, and we certainly have a lot in common.”

Said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs' Vice President for Racing: “This is a great coup for Kentucky Downs to get two of the best announcers in the world.” Read more

Kentucky Downs reopened on June 10 for Historical Horse Racing gaming and simulcasting after a state-mandated three-month shutdown because of the COVID health emergency. The facility, which was in the middle of a major expansion at the time of the closure, reopened with COVID protocols and gaming terminals separated by plastic partitions or at least six feet apart.

The next day, Kentucky Downs released a 12-stakes schedule for the six-date 2020 meet, with a total of $12 million offered over the scheduled 63 races.

A lucky guest on June 18 hit a Jackpot for $741,849 -- second only to the $780,307 hit in April, 2019.

Factor This, fourth in the $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup the previous September, continued his winning ways with another front-running victory in Churchill Downs' Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes on June 20.

Kentucky Downs maiden winner Art Collector took another step toward the delayed Kentucky Derby by winning a second-level Churchill Downs allowance race on June 13.
Larry Collmus, voice of NBC's Triple and Breeders' Cup broadcasts, was named Kentucky Downs' co-announcer on June 2.
Factor This, fourth in the 2019 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, winning Churchill Downs' Grade 2 Wise Dan. (Coady Photography)
JULY: #KyDownsGrads excel at Keeneland's makeup meet
Art Collector, Leinster, Enola Gay, Zulu Alpha take G2 stakes
Highlighted by Kentucky Downs maiden winner Art Collector taking the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes to catapult himself among the Kentucky Derby favorites, Kentucky Downs horses excelled at Keeneland's first summer race meet ever. COVID-19 spurred Keeneland to cancel its traditional April meet.

Zulu Alpha joined Art Collector among the four horses from Kentucky Downs' 2019 meet to take Grade 2 stakes on the final two days of Keeneland's historic five-date session, taking the $175,000 TVG Elkhorn. Leinster nipped Totally Boss in the Grade 2 Shakertown for a 1-2 finish for trainer Rusty Arnold. Totally Boss won Kentucky Downs' Grade 3 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint in 2019, with Leinster third. In fact, the Shakertown provided a Kentucky Downs superfecta (the 10-cent super paid $410.86) with 2018 Tourist Mile victor Bound for Nowhere taking third and 2019 starter-allowance winner Fast Boat fourth.
In addition, Kentucky Downs 2019 maiden winner Enola Gay won the $150,000 Appalachian for 3-year-old fillies in a three-way photo. And Parlor, whose four prior Kentucky Downs starts included three stakes placings, lost the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile by a nose.

“There have been a lot of good horses run down there,” Arnold said. “I mean, just a whole lot of them. With the purses the way they are, there’s just going to be more and more of them. I forget which president said ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ But people are going to run when there’s that kind of money. It’s tougher than it used to be. But when you win one, your payday is there for you.” Read more

(Photos below by Coady Photography)
Art Collector: G2 Toyota Blue Grass
Leinster: G2 Shakertown
Zulu Alpha: G2 TVG Elkhorn
Enola Gay: G2 Appalachian
August: Tough decision made for meet without spectators
Art Collector wins Ellis Park Derby but misses Kentucky Derby
A Clarksville, Tenn., woman hit for more than $105,000 playing one of our Historical Horse Racing gaming machines on Aug. 5. The Mint Gaming Hall pays out more than $4 million a month in Jackpots. (The Mint photo)

That came three days after Ellis Park staged its third Kentucky Downs Preview Day, featuring five $100,000 turf stakes whose purses are funded by money transferred from Kentucky Downs in an agreement with both tracks' horsemen's association, the Kentucky HBPA. Factor This led the way in winning the KD Preview Day Turf Cup for the second year for trainer Brad Cox.

Art Collector, Keeneland's Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass winner whose first victory came at Kentucky Downs as a 2-year-old, headed into the $200,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Derby on Aug. 9 as the heavy favorite.

In what likely was the most covered race in Ellis Park's long history, Brian Hernandez Jr. guides Bruce Lunsford's Art Collector to a front-running victory over Attachment Rate. Art Collector solidified himself as the likely second or third choice behind heavy favorite Tiz the Law for the Kentucky Derby. However, on Sept. 1, the morning entries were to be taken for the delayed Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, Art Collector was declared out with a minor foot injury. Trainer Tommy Drury immediately started planning to run in the Oct. 4 Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, where Art Collector finished fourth.

On Aug. 18, Kentucky Downs made the tough decision to run its September meet without spectators. “With the surge in cases in Kentucky and Tennessee, we feel it’s in our guests’ best interest and the state’s best interest to not have spectators,” said Kentucky Downs Vice President for Racing Ted Nicholson. “No one is more disappointed than us to have to make this difficult call. The track is working with horsemen on an arrangement to allow owners and their connections to attend."

Kentucky Downs already had been planning to resume a handicapping tournament that served as a qualifier for the National Horseplayers Championship, but to make it online rather than onsite. On Aug. 25, the track announced the inaugural Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge, a unique two-day format to crown the National Turf Handicapping Champion and produce qualifiers to both the NHC and the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge.
SEPTEMBER: The Mint Gaming Hall opens! Racing!
Kentucky Downs held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and Grand Opening of its new 30,000 square-foot expansion to celebrate the rebranding of the gaming side into The Mint Gaming Hall on Sept. 1. The expansion made it possible to safely add Historical Horse Racing gaming terminals amid the pandemic, totaling more than 1,000. The new space features The Center Bar. Much more is scheduled for 2021, with the remodeling of existing space.
The Sept. 1 ribbon-cutting ceremony for The Mint Gaming Hall.
We're open!
The Mint Gaming Hall has more than 1,000 gaming terminals.
The Center Bar is a centerpiece of the expansion's gaming floor.
RUNHAPPY at Kentucky Downs: Another record meet!
The RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs again set records even amid the pandemic and while played out with only horsemen and their guests in attendance.

Wagering over the meet’s 62 races (with another race ruled a no-contest) totaled $59,828,441, smashing last year’s record $41,239,699 over 50 races and five days. A total of $11,668,473 was paid out in purses to horse owners.

Kentucky Downs for the first time utilized Equibase Co.’s Gmax timing and tracking system based on GPS technology, which along with additional high-definition cameras made the broadcast viewing of races much better. Previously, all of Kentucky Downs’ races were hand-timed. Because the new system had some different and more standard starting positions based on GPS measurements, race times varied significantly and generally were faster from past meets. While the hand-timing continued from the new starting positions as part of Kentucky Downs’ testing, the technology-generated times were the official clockings for the Equibase race charts. Read more
'The numbers speak for themselves'
“We can’t thank the horsemen and the horseplayers enough for their support this meet,” Kentucky Downs Vice President for Racing Ted Nicholson said the day after the meet concluded. “The numbers speak for themselves. We appreciate the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission giving us an additional day this year, and the horsemen took full advantage of it. We had some mishaps and glitches, and each will be scrutinized whether they resulted from human error or were beyond our control. Through it all, our racing was spectacular, which is a credit to our owners, trainers and jockeys and to which bettors across the country enthusiastically responded.

“As far as times and course records, we are going to study the data before making a final determination. But in all likelihood, 2020 will become the baseline year going forward as far as course records. With any new technology, there is a learning curve and hiccups. But we believe the new system is a big step toward addressing the challenges of timing such a unique course as Kentucky Downs.”
Day 1: Fabius takes Tourist Mile for Brown's first KD stakes
  • Clement wins third Juvenile Fillies as Plum Ali rolls
  • Barrister Tom ($90!) gives Baze first Ky Downs victory
  • Dalika puts it all together to capture One Dreamer
World-renowned race-callers Michael Wrona and Larry Collmus shared the announcer's booth as Kentucky Downs opens on Labor Day for the first time. Wrona went on to call the second and third days, while Collmus completed the meet.

Future Hall of Fame trainer Chad Brown had only run one horse previously at Kentuckuy Downs until the 2020 meet. On opening day, the four-time reigning Eclipse Award trainer bagged his first win at the track when Fluffy Socks won a maiden race and his first stakes with Juddmonte Farms' Flavius in the $750,000 Tourist Mile. Flavius held off 2019 winner Snapper Sinclair to win one of the country's most lucrative mile turf races.

Click on photos below to get race replay
Tourist Mile: Flavius and Javier Castellano (Coady Photography)
The Mint Juvenile Fillies: Plum Ali and Tyler Gaffalione (Grace Clark)
Look for the Star Juvenile: Barrister Tom (#3) and Tyler Baze (Grace Clark)
One Dreamer: Dalika and Miguel Mena (Coady Photography)
Day 2: Ward pulls off hat trick to key five wins in two days
Ramsey Solution takes Tapit Stakes for Ken and Sarah Ramsey
(Photo: Wesley Ward/Coady Photography)

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s 4-year-old Ramsey Solution won the $300,000 Tapit Stakes by a length over Midnight Tea Time in the gelding’s first attempt in a stakes. It capped a huge day for trainer Wesley Ward and jockey Gerardo Corrales, who combined to win three races.

Reached the next morning, Ward had this to say about taking the training lead at Kentucky Downs through the second day of the six-date meet: “Tell ’em now we’re getting serious.”

Ward, who tied for the 2019 Kentucky Downs training title with four wins, was laughing but apparently not kidding. He went out to win two more races Thursday, putting him at five halfway through the meet. Read more

Click Ramsey Solution photo below for Tapit replay
Trainer Wesley Ward won three races on the second day of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs and two more on the third day. Among them: Ramsey Solution taking the Tapit Stakes under Gerardo Corrales. (Coady Photography)
Among the trio of wins for Wesley Ward and jockey Gerardo Corrales was Royal Approval, who went from her Kentucky Downs maiden triumph (above) to take Belmont's Grade 3 Matron. (Coady Photography)
Day 3: Moon Over Miami arrives in time to take DG Derby
Claustrophobic Micheline reels in Harvey's Lil Goil in DG Oaks
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott took a shot and had Moon Over Miami ship from Churchill Downs to Kentucky Downs the morning of the $750,000 Gun Runner Dueling Grounds Derby, knowing it would be a wasted trip if there wasn't a late defection to allow the colt to get into the field. Moon Over Miami not only got in as No. 13, he wore down front-running Big Dreaming to win by a half-length. “They said we could stay in until 10 a.m. ," said Mott assistant Kenny McCarthy. "So we just sent him down with our fingers crossed. It doesn’t often work out like that. We got a little bit of racing luck in every which way.” Read more

A race earlier, Mott's barn had been on the other side of the narrow outcome. This time Godolphin's Micheline - who is housed in a covered but open-air outdoor stall because of claustrophobia - wore down the Mott-trained Harvey's Lil Goil to take the $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks by a neck. “It’s been a journey with her, and it’s been well worth it,” trainer Michael Stidham said after Micheline's biggest stakes victory. Read more

Click on photos for stakes race replays
Moon Over Miami (Coady Photography)
Micheline (Grace Clark)
Day 4: Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup Day
  • G3 Calumet Farm: Arklow wins for second time
  • G3 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint: Imprimis returns to finish job
  • G3 Ladies Sprint: Got Stormy just does fine sprinting
  • G3 Ladies Turf: Regal Glory shows mettle
  • Juv Turf Sprint: Outadore makes Ward 3-for-3 in race
Donegal Racing's Arklow had earned almost $2 million in 28 prior races, but trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux felt the 6-year-old horse wasn't giving his best. So Cox added blinkers in Arklow's 29th start. The result? Arklow won the $1 million, Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup for the second time in three years - and in the process avenged last year's runner-up finish to Zulu Alpha, who finished third behind Red Knight. Read more

One year after getting beat as the favorite in the Grade 3, $700,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint, Imprimis rewarded those who kept the faith as the gelding got up by a neck over dead-heat runners-up Front Run the Fed and Bombard. The six-furlong Turf Sprint offered the winner a fees-paid spot in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) on Nov. 7 at Keeneland as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series’ “Win and You’re In” program. Read more

Gary Barber's Multiple Grade 1 winner Got Stormy had never sprinted in 23 career races that stamped her among America's best turf milers -- male or female. Trainer Mark Casse's theory that the 5-year-old mare could handle soft turf if racing at a shorter distance proved correct as Got Stormy won the $500,000 Grade 3 Real Solution Ladies Turf. Read more

Trainer Chad Brown won his second stakes of the meet as Paul Pompa Jr.'s Regal Glory reeled in the front-running Mitchell Road to take the $500,000, Grade 3 English Channel Ladies Turf by a neck. Read more

Wesley Ward continued his distinction as the only trainer to win Kentucky Downs' sprint stakes for 2-year-olds as Breeze Easy LLC's Outadore beat stablemate Fauci in the $500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint. Read more

(Grace Clark photos below) Click on photos for stakes replays
$1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup:
Arklow wins for second time.
Arklow and Florent Geroux being led into winner's circle on a wet afternoon.
$700,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint: Imprimis (#9) wins a squeaker under Irad Ortiz Jr.
$500,000 Real Solution Ladies Sprint: Got Stormy, Tyler Gaffalione roll in the rain.
$500,000 English Channel Ladies Turf: Regal Glory prevails under Jose Ortiz.
$500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint: Outadore (rail) beats stablemate Fauci.
Day 5: Fillies of all ages take center stage on delayed card
  • Music City: Lighthouse sends Rispoli home a winner
  • Untapable: Bridgmohan guides Emro to 2-for-2
  • TVG: Theodora B. holds off favored Mrs. Sippy
(Grace Clark photo: Lighthouse winning the $400,000 Music City under Umberto Rispoli)

Torrential rain forced Kentucky Downs to move its Sunday, Sept. 13 card to Tuesday, Sept. 15, with fillies of all ages on display in the new $400,000 Untapable for 2-year-olds, the inaugural $400,000 Music City for 3-year-olds and the $500,000 TVG Stakes for fillies and mares.

The delay, combined with COVID-19 testing protocol, meant that Umberto Rispoli, a rising star on the Southern California circuit, had to stick around almost a week to ride LNJ Foxwoods’ Lighthouse in the Music City, the Italian-born jockey’s last of two mounts. She made it worth his time, winning the sprint stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over Miss J McKay.

Kueber Racing’s Emro showed her versatility to come from off the pace to win the Untapable after taking her debut on the lead.

Augustin Stable's Theodora B. held off a late charge by favored Mrs. Sippy to win the TVG Stakes by three-quarters of length while never seriously challenged over a course rated good. Read more on all three stakes

Click on stakes photos for replays
Emro takes the Music City under Shaun Bridgmohan (Coady Photography)
Theodora B. and Irad Ortiz Jr. won the TVG Stakes (Coady Photography)
Day 6: Gaffalione caps first KD title in Franklin-Simpson
Tyler Gaffalione concluded his first Kentucky Downs riding title with a flourish, capturing the $500,000 Grade 3 Franklin-Simpson aboard Guildsman. Gaffalione joined five-time meet training leader Mike Maker and Three Diamonds Farm, winning its first owners title at the track. Read more

After starting out in England and Europe, Qatar Racing's 9-1 Guildsman found Kentucky Downs' undulating course and the Franklin-Simpson's 6 1/2-furlong distance to his liking in a narrow victory over Island Commish (21-1) and Souper Dormy (47-1) "It certainly made Sheikh Fahad a big fan of Kentucky Downs," said Sheikh Fahad's representative Fergus Galvin after Qatar Racing won the stakes for the second year in a row. "He’s already wanting to stock up the stable to point to the meeting next year.” Read more
Qatar Racing's Guildsman, with Tyler Gaffalione up, won the Grade 3 Franklin-Simpson for trainer Brendan Walsh. (Coady Photography) Click photo for replay
Tide of the Sea, with Gaffalione aboard, was among Three Diamonds Farm's four victories for their first track title. All four were trained by Mike Maker. (Coady Photography)
Tyler Gaffalione receiving his Kentucky Downs' leading jockey trophy from Director of Marketing John Wholihan. Grace Clark photo
Mike Maker accepted the leading trainer award for himself and the leading owner trophy for Three Diamonds Farm. Coady Photography
Notable: Born Great wins twice; Maker wins four on Sept. 12
Not many horses race twice during Kentucky Downs’ compact meets, and it’s a very rare horse that is able to actually win two races. Marc Detampel’s Born Great, however, won a $90,000 maiden race by 1 1/2 lengths on Sept. 9 and a $95,000 allowance race by 5 3/4 lengths a week later on the closing card. The 4-year-old gelding did a great job catching up for lost time. Born Great was making only his second career start when he ran for the first time at Kentucky Downs, having debuted at Churchill Downs in June. Trainer Brendan Walsh also won the final stakes with Guildsman, giving him three wins at the meet. Quipped Walsh: “I’m not just a one-horse trainer!”

Trainer Mike Maker won four races on the Sept. 12 showcase card, though to his disappointment none came in stakes. It was a great payday all the same as Maker won four straight: with Glynn County and Golden Voice in $90,000 maiden races and Bourbon in May and Tide of the Sea in $95,000 allowance races. All but Bourbon in May are campaigned by meet-leading owner Three Diamonds Farm. Maker sent out 13 starters overall on the card, including losing a maiden race by a nose with future Laurel Futurity winner Catman and finishing third with Zulu Alpha in defense of his 2019 victory in the $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup.
Marc Detampel's Born Great, trained by Brendan Walsh, won a maiden race on Sept. 9 and an allowance race (#1 in Grace Clark photo above) on Sept. 16.
Three Diamonds Farm's Glynn County was the first of four winners saddled by meet-leading trainer Mike Maker on Sept. 12. (Grace Clark photo)
Muhlada wins inaugural Turf Handicapping Challenge
Andy Muhlada calls himself a “weekend warrior” when it comes to horse-racing handicapping tournaments, working in contest play around his full-time job in Cincinnati. But the 53-year-old from Lawrenceburg, Ind., proved a weekday wonder when it came to the inaugural Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge presented by Daily Racing Form on Sept. 15 and 16.

Muhlada, a self-employed manufacturers’ rep working with architects in high-end construction, earned the track’s title of National Turf Handicapping Champion with a final combined bankroll of $9,211 for the two, separate live-money tournaments. That included the $7,354 Muhlada finished with to top the Sept. 16 competition. Muhlada’s two-day score comfortably beat out runner-up Robert Swickard, a retired firefighter from Commerce Township, Mich., who accrued $7,965.60, including winning Tuesday’s tournament. Read more
OCTOBER: #KyDownsGrads shine in Breeders' Cup preps
Ivar, Harvey's Lil Goil earn first Grade 1 wins at Keeneland
With the Breeders' Cup just weeks away at Keeneland, Kentucky Downs stakes program produced its latest Grade 1 winners as Ivar, third in the $750,000 Tourist Mile in his prior start, captured Keeneland's $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile and Harvey's Lil Goil turned the tables on Micheline to take Keeneland's $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup a week later. Micheline had nipped Harvey's Lil Goil in Kentucky Downs' $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks.

“I think you’re just going to see better and better quality horses run there and come out of those races and do some big things,” said jockey Joe Talamo, who this year rode at Kentucky Downs for the first time and picked up the mount on Ivar. “I imagine quite a few more of those races are going to be graded or upgraded in a short period of time. Not only are the purses so big, but that’s drawing really high-quality horses that are eventually going to win Grade 1 and Grade 2 races.”

Others who went from Kentucky Downs to stakes victory in October: Got Stormy (G3 Buffalo Trace Franklin County), Bodenheimer ($150,000 Indian Summer), Blame Debbie (G3 Rood and Riddle Dowager), Stunning Sky (G3 Pin Oak Valley View) and Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup runner-up Red Knight (G3 Sycamore), all at Keeneland; Plum Ali (G2 Miss Grillo) and Royal Approval (G3 Matron) at Belmont; Catman ($150,000 Laurel Futurity), Fluffy Socks ($150,000 Selima) and Evil Lyn ($100,000 Hilltop) at Pimlico. Read more
Ivar winning Keeneland's G1 Shadwell Turf Mile under Joe Talamo (Coady Photography)
Ivar in the post parade for Kentucky Downs' $750,000 Tourist Mile, in which he finished third. (Grace Clark Photo)
Harvey's Lil Goil, with Martin Garcia up, beating Micheline in Keeneland's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. (Coady Photography)
Harvey's Lil Goil, with jockey Joel Rosario, in Kentucky Downs' $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks, in which she was second to Micheline. (Grace Clark)
Got Stormy nipped Into Mystic by a nose in Keeneland's Grade 3 Buffalo Trace Franklin County. (Coady Photography)
Got Stormy and Tyler Gaffalione after winning Kentucky Downs' $500,000 Real Solution Ladies Sprint. (Grace Clark)
Bodenheimer won Keeneland's $150,000 Indian Summer under Brian Hernandez Jr. (Coady Photography)
Bodenheimer before Kentucky Downs' $500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint, in which he finished fifth. (Grace Clark)
NOVEMBER: Breeders' Cup and much more
  • Cowan's second tops Ky Downs' Breeders' Cup horses
  • Arklow rebounds to take G2 Hollywood Gold Cup
  • Turf course gets biggest renovation in track history
We didn’t get the Breeders’ Cup wins that we were hoping to land, but Kentucky Downs-raced horses who ran in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 6-7 at Keeneland still offered up memorable performances:

The Steve Asmussen-trained Cowan, third in the $500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint, nearly pulled off the upset in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, his late rally falling three-quarters of a length shy of favored Golden Pal. The winner is trained by Wesley Ward, Kentucky Downs’ No. 2 all-time win leader. BC race chart

Ward had to settle for third in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf as his Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Outadore weakened late while stretching out to a mile. The winner, Fire At Will, is trained by Kentucky Downs’ all-time win leader Mike Maker. Outadore was nipped late for second by Irish invader and race favorite Battleground. BC race chart

An injury kept $400,000 Untapable Stakes winner Emro out of the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf won by her stablemate Aunt Pearl, with both horses trained by Kentucky Downs regular Brad Cox.

Off at 20-1, Harvey’s Lil Goil came flying late in the $2 million Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf but finished a neck shy of running down France’s victorious Audarya. The 3-year-old Harvey’s Lil Goil came in third, losing second on a head bob with favored Rushing Fall. The big performance validated Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s decision to take on older fillies and mares in the Breeders’ Cup off of two hard-fought races in a relatively short period of time: Harvey’s Lil Goil’s second in the $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks and then victory in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup. BC race chart

There was no beating Aidan O’Brien in the $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf as the Irish kingpin finished 1-2-3. But Keeneland’s Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile winner Ivar, third in Kentucky Downs’ Tourist Mile, had the best finish of everyone else. The Paulo Lobo-trained Brazilian-bred Ivar checked in fourth in the Breeders’ Cup while beaten by a total of only two lengths. BC race chart

Wet Your Whistle, seventh in the 2019 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint, rallied from last of 14 (still six lengths back at the eighth pole) but came up a half-length shy of Britain’s Grass Slipper to take second in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Finishing another half-length back in third was Leinster, third in the 2019 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint won by stablemate Totally Boss. Got Stormy, the Grade 3 Real Solution Ladies Sprint winner, finished fifth against the boys in the Breeders’ Cup race. BC race chart
Arklow, Fluffy Socks take Del Mar stakes; Finite roll
(Joel Rosario guided Arklow to victory in the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup. Benoit Photo)

The Brad Cox-trained Arklow, owned by Donegal Racing, Joe Bulger and the Estate of Peter Coneway, shipped out to California to take Del Mar's Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup 20 days after the two-time Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup winner finished sixth in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at Keeneland. Read more

The next day, Head of Plains Partners' 2-year-old filly Fluffy Socks won Del Mar's Grade 3 Jimmy Durante. Fluffy Socks' maiden victory at Kentucky Downs was the first for trainer Chad Brown at the track.

Winchell Thoroughbreds' 3-year-old Finite regained her winning ways in her fourth start after a 5 1/2-month layoff, prevailing in Churchill Downs' Grade 3 Chilukki on Nov. 21 in her first start taking on older fillies and mares. Read more
Head of Plains Partners' Fluffy Sox shipped to Del Mar to capture the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante under Irad Ortiz Jr. on Nov. 28. (Benoit Photo)
Fluffy Socks and jockey Tyler Gaffalione cruised in a maiden race on Sept. 7 to give trainer Chad Brown his first winner at Kentucky Downs. (Grace Clark photo)
Ricardo Santana Jr. showed his appreciation for Finite after she captured Churchill Downs' Grade 3 Chilukki Stakes. Finite earned her first victory in a Kentucky Downs maiden race. (Coady Photography)
Finite, shown here in the paddock with trainer Steve Asmussen, resumed racing off a 5 1/2-month layoff in Kentucky Downs' Music City Stakes. She didn't handle the off turf but rebounded with victory in the Chilukki. (Grace Clark Photo)
Turf gets first major renovation since course was laid down
Kentucky Downs completed the first major renovation of its turf course since the track was laid out in a field as a steeplechase course in 1990.

The project involved nearly half of the 1 5/16-mile kidney-shaped course. A swath five-eighths of a mile long and 63-feet wide around the spacious far turn and into the stretch was replaced with sod featuring a blend of 90 percent Kentucky 31 fescue and 10 percent Kentucky bluegrass. The project was overseen by track consultant Butch Lehr, whose 30 years as track superintendent at Churchill Downs included building the Louisville track’s turf course in 1985. Iron Bridge Sod Farms of nearby Bowling Green provided and installed the sod for the Kentucky Downs course.

“Safety is the No. 1 priority,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ Vice President for Racing. “With Kentucky Downs now having six race dates compressed into eight calendar days, we want to ensure we have a course that is of high quality and safe for horses and riders throughout the meet. We’re thrilled with how it’s turned out.” Read more
Iron Bridge Sod Farms of Bowling Green, Ky., dug up a large swath of the old course and replaced it with sod comprised of 90 percent Kentucky 31 fescue and 10 percent Kentucky bluegrass.
The Kentucky Downs turf after undergoing its first major renovation since the course was dropped down in a field in 1990 for steeplechase racing. Kentucky Downs photos
DECEMBER: We earn first (and second) Grade 2 stakes!
  • Calumet Farm, Franklin-Simpson elevated from Grade 3
  • $750,000 Tourist Mile lands graded status for first time
The American Graded Stakes Committee, which applies a rating system to determine which stakes races are the best in the country, took a decidedly hard line on elevating races for 2021. But Kentucky Downs matched Saratoga as the the only tracks to receive three upgrades, with the $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup and $500,000 Franklin-Simpson among only three stakes promoted from Grade 3 to Grade 2 and the $750,000 Tourist Mile one of only four to go from non-graded to Grade 3 for the 2021 season.

"We can’t thank our horse owners and trainers enough for their support, with a special shout-out to the two horses who have won the Calumet Farm’s past three runnings: Donegal Racing’s two-time winner Arklow and Michael Hui’s Zulu Alpha," said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs' Vice President for Racing. "Both went on to become Grade 1 winners and are outstanding advertisements for our race. Both horses are being pointed for a fourth appearance in 2021, and we are beyond thrilled that they will now will be able to run in the Calumet Farm as a Grade 2 stakes.” Read more

(Coady Photography photos below of 2020 winners Arklow, Guildsman and Flavius)
Calumet Farm KY Turf Cup:
Now a Grade 2!
Franklin-Simpson Stakes:
Now a Grade 2!
Tourist Mile:
Now a Grade 3!
Claiming Crown: Championship for blue-collar work horses
Kentucky Downs starter horses High Noon Rider ($113!), Jakarta win
A month after the Breeders' Cup, Gulfstream again was host to the Claiming Crown, created as a championship-style event for the blue-collar claiming horses that fill out so many cards across America. Kentucky Downs is proud to stage several Claiming Crown qualifiers as launching pads carrying $100,000 purses for horses who have raced for $25,000 or less. One was won by Jakarta, campaigned by 2020 leading owner Three Diamonds Farm and trained by 2020 meet-leader Mike Maker. The 5-year-old mare went on to take the Claiming Crown Distaff Dash under Luis Saez as one of the heaviest favorites on the card.

At the other end of the betting spectrum was GenStar Thoroughbreds' High Noon Rider, who was second and third racing twice in $10,000 starter races at Kentucky Downs' short meet. Off at 55-1, the Saffie Joseph-trained High Noon Rider out-finished dead-heat runners-up Temple and Muggsamatic to win the Claiming Crown Emerald by a half-length, paying $113. Temple had finished sixth in in Kentucky Downs' Tapit Stakes, while Muggsamatic was third in the Claiming Crown prep. With Artie's Rumor (second by a nose in a $40,000 claiming race at Kentucky Downs) finishing fourth, the Emerald's #KyDownsGrad superfecta paid $839 and $787 (because of the dead-heat) for 10 cents. Maker trainsTemple, Muggsamatic and Artie's Rumor.
GenStar Thoroughbreds' High Noon Rider paid $113 to win the Claiming Crown Emerald by a half-length Dec. 5 by at Gulfstream Park. (Coglianese Photography)
Three Diamonds Farm's Jakarta won the Claiming Crown Distaff Dash at Gulfstream Park under Luis Saez. (Coglianese Photography)
High Noon Rider (#2) finished second to Celerity in a $10,000 starter-allowance race on closing day of the RUNHAPPY Meet. He also finished third in a similar race on the opening card. (Grace Clark photo)
Jakarta won one of Kentucky Downs' closing-day $25,000 starter-allowance races, carrying $100,000 purses. This race was designed as a prep for the Claiming Crown Distaff Dash. (Grace Clark photo)
The spirit of the season
December is one of our favorite times of the year, when The Mint Gaming Hall employees get behind the annual Marine Toys for Tots toy drive. We get so much pleasure out of making the holiday season a little more cheerful for less-fortunate boys and girls in our Franklin-Simpson County community. We felt it especially important to continue the tradition this year.
See you in '21 at The Mint Gaming Hall at Kentucky Downs!
About The Mint Gaming Hall at Kentucky Downs
Check out our new The Mint Gaming Hall!
Located near the Kentucky and Tennessee border, just off Interstate 65 and approximately 35 miles from Nashville, Tenn., Kentucky Downs features Historical Horse Racing gaming terminals and conducts live turf racing each September on America’s only “European-style” race course while offering among the highest purses in the world. Kentucky Downs is a pioneer in modern Historical Horse Racing, the electronic form of pari-mutuel betting on horses that has become one of the great financial success stories in the sport’s history. Racing has been conducted at the facility since 1990, when it was called Dueling Grounds.
Address: 5629 Nashville Road, P.O. Box 405, Franklin, KY 42135
Phone: 270.586.7778
2021 racing dates: Sept. 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 12
Kentucky Downs media contact:
Jennie Rees,
Kentucky Downs publicity