Many of North America's most promising 2-year-old colts and fillies have been nominated to compete in Churchill Downs Racetrack's (“CDRT”) $150,000-added Pocahontas (Grade II) and $150,000-added Iroquois (GIII), two of four stakes races scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7 during the first of two Downs After Dark night racing sessions set for the track's first September Meet.
The $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) and the $100,000-added Locust Grove will share the racing spotlight with those important stakes events for juveniles during Downs After Dark: College Rivalry Night Presented by Finlandia Vodka – the first of four racing Saturdays during the September Meet. Admission gates will open at 4 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the first of 11 live races begins at 6 p.m.
Each fan who passes through Churchill Downs admission gates on College Rivalry Night will be asked which collegiate team they support. The school that collects the most votes on the evening will be awarded $5,000 in scholarships. The runner-up in the fan vote will receive $3,000 in grants, while the third-place finisher will get $2,000.
The inaugural 12-day meet, which will operate on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule, opens on Friday, Sept. 6 and concludes on Sunday, Sept. 29. The second Downs After Dark event is set for Saturday, Sept. 28.
The creation of the new meet makes 2013 the first year in the track's 139-year history that it has conducted three racing meets in a single year.
The Pocahontas, a race for 2-year-old fillies, and the Iroquois, for colts and geldings, were previously run during the track's Fall Meet, but now are part of a schedule of eight stakes races with total purses of nearly $1 million planned for inaugural September racing session. The distances of both races have been increased from a mile to 1 1/16 miles.
The Iroquois and Pocahontas carry added significance this year as they are the opening events of the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks, the points systems that determine eligibility for the 3-year-olds that will compete in next year's 140th runnings of those races.
Also for the first time, the two races are part of the Breeders' Cup “Win and You're In” Challenge Series. The winner of the Iroquois will be guaranteed a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile (GI) at Santa Anita on Saturday, Nov. 2, and the Pocahontas winner will earn a starting spot in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) on Friday, Nov. 1. Each winner also will be eligible for a $10,000 travel stipend for transport from anywhere in North America to the Arcadia, Calif. track for their respective Breeders' Cup events.
Wayne Saunders and Larry Hirsch's unbeaten Bahnah, the Bret Calhoun-trained dead-heat winner of the Schuylerville (GIII) at Saratoga, and Valene Farms' Designer Legs, winner via disqualification of Saratoga's Adirondack (GII) for trainer Dallas Stewart, head a roster of 41 two-year-old fillies nominated to the 45th running of the Pocahontas. Other nominees include Adirondack runner-up Thank You Marylou; Elena Strikes, third in the Schuylerville for trainer Todd Pletcher; Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies winner Silver Valley; Awesome Baby, a 4 ¾-length winner of her Del Mar debut and one of six fillies nominated by Bob Baffert; and Sweetsoutherndame and Madly Truly, the 2-3 finishers in the Ontario Debutante at Woodbine.
Anstu Stables' Wired Bryan is the most accomplished of 45 2-year-old colts and geldings nominated to run in the 32nd running of the Iroquois. Trainer Michael Dilger's gray/roan son of Stormy Atlantic won Saratoga's Sanford (GII) and lost by a nose to Corfu in the Saratoga Special (GII). Others on the roster of Iroquois nominees are Hollywood Talent, third in Churchill Downs' Bashford Manor (GIII) and third in the Saratoga Special; Ride On Curlin, a dazzline winner of an Ellis Park allowance race; Strong Mandate, an impressive winner at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, King Cyrus, an 11-length winner for Pletcher in his Saratoga debut; Dunkin Bend, a recent Saratoga winner for trainer Steve Asmussen; Smack Smack, winner of the Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile; Jimmy Connors, an impressive winner in his Monmouth Park debut for trainer Kelly Breen; and Rise Up, Bisque, and Joedini, the 1-2-3 finishers in the Mountaineer Juvenile.
Mort Fink's Successful Dan, runner-up to Cross Traffic in Saratoga's Whitney (GI) and winner of the 2012 Alysheba (GIII) and 2009 Northern Dancer (GIII, now the Matt Winn) at Churchill Downs, and Twin Creeks Racing Stable LLC's Graydar, winner of the Donn (GI) at Gulfstream and the New Orleans Handicap (GII) at Fair Grounds, top an accomplished list of 27 three-year-olds and up nominated to the 21st running of the Ack Ack Handicap (GIII).
Other nominees to the one-mile Ack Ack include Gentlemen's Bet, third in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (GI) at Saratoga and winner of the Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows; Last Gunfighter, whose four stakes wins this year include graded triumphs in the Iselin Handicap (GIII) at Monmouth, the Pimlico Special (GIII) and the Excelsior (GIII) at Aqueduct; the 3-year-old Looking Cool, winner of the Iowa Derby (GIII) for Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger; Monmouth Cup winner Pants on Fire, winner of the 2011 Louisiana Derby (GII) and 10th in the Kentucky Derby; Right to Vote, winner of the Kelly's Landing at Churchill Downs; and Prayer for Relief and Taptowne, the 1-2 finishers in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker (GIII).
Twenty-four fillies and mares ages 3 & up were made eligible for the 30th running of the Locust Grove, and that group is headed by Anita Cauley's homebred On Fire Baby, a narrow runner-up to Authenticity in Churchill Downs' Fleur de Lis (GII) and winner of the track's Golden Rod (GII) and Pocahontas (GIII) at two for trainer Gary Hartlage; TK Stables LLC's Devious Intent, upset winner over champion female sprinter Groupie Doll in the Gardenia (GIII) at Ellis Park; Becky Winemiller's Wine Princess, a daughter of Hall of Fame mare and Horse of the Year Azeri and runner-up to Joyful Victory in the recent Molly Pitcher (GII) at Monmouth Park; and Unlimited Equine LLC's Brushed by a Star, winner of the Chilukki (GII) at Churchill Downs and third to Summer Applause in the recent DuPont Distaff (GIII0 at Delaware Park.
Other fillies and mares eligible for the Locust Grove include Seaneen Girl, a six-length winner of the recent Monmouth Oaks (GIII) and the 2012 Golden Rod (GII); She's All In, runner-up to two-time champion Royal Delta in the Delaware Handicap (GI); Shuvee (GIII) runner-up Flashy American; Amie's Dini, winner of the 2012 Honeybee (GIII); Obeah (GIII) runner-up And Why Not; and Lady Canterbury winner Awesome Flower.
Complete nomination rosters can be found at http://www.churchilldowns.com/horsemen/stakes-nominations.
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