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FRANKLIN, KY – Kentucky Downs has been awarded its second Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series stakes for the 2021 race meet in early September.
For the first time, the $1 million Calumet Turf Cup (G2) will be a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), joining the $1 million Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3) that 2 years ago became an automatic qualifier for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
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The Breeders’ Cup on Tuesday announced its Challenge Series schedule, which features 84 automatic qualifying stakes spread throughout 10 countries. Challenge Series winners not only are assured a spot in the corresponding Breeders’ Cup event this Nov. 5-6 at Del Mar near San Diego, but the horses’ pre-entry and entry fees are waived. That’s a savings of $100,000 in pre-entry and entry fees for the Breeders’ Cup Turf and $30,000 for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
“There already were a million reasons for owners and trainers to send their turf sprinter or distance grass horse to Kentucky Downs,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ Vice President for Racing. “Now there’s even more incentive.”
“If you can get that ‘Win and You’re In,’ that’s like winning another stakes somewhere,” said Brad Cox, the reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer who won the 2020 and 2018 Calumet Turf Cup with Donegal Racing’s Arklow. “lt’s a huge bonus to be able to have all fees paid. It will make those races even tougher. Those are things people look for as far as getting into the Breeders’ Cup.”
Kentucky Downs’ all-grass meet runs Sept. 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 12. The two Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races are part of a blockbuster card featuring five graded stakes on Sept. 11, the only Saturday of the brief session.
“Last year we were really pleased with our meet at Kentucky Downs,” said East Coast-based trainer Chad Brown, the 4-time Eclipse Award winner who previously had started only one horse at the track. “The horses came out of those races well, too, which is important. It took us a little while to learn about Kentucky Downs. The best pathway was to go over there and have success. We look to take advantage of more of those races, those great purses and the ‘Win and You’re In’ is an added bonus.”
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The Calumet Turf Cup, for older horses at 1 1/2 miles, will be run as a Grade 2 stakes for the first time, having been promoted from a Grade 3 by the American Graded Stakes Committee. The Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3) is receiving a $250,000 purse increase to $1 million, including $450,000 in Kentucky-bred purse supplements from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.
Even with its $550,000 base purse, the 6-furlong Kentucky Downs race looms as America’s richest turf sprint outside the Breeders’ Cup. The Calumet Turf Cup’s base purse also is $550,000.
Trainer Mike Maker has captured the Calumet Turf Cup a record 4 times, most recently in 2019 with Michael Hui’s Zulu Alpha, who finished third last year. Maker calls giving the winner a free roll in the Breeders’ Cup Turf “very significant.”
“We always point toward the Calumet Turf Cup,” he said. “Now we just need to point for it with more horses.”
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