Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time winner of both the Kentucky Derby (Grade I) and Kentucky Oaks (GI), will be honored by Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”) with the naming of a stakes race to be run during its upcoming September Meet that will feature eight stakes events with total purses of $1.025 million.
The $175,000 Lukas Classic, a Listed race for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, was known as the Homecoming Classic during the first two years of September racing at Churchill Downs. The Lukas Classic, introduced in 2013 and designed to be an autumn prep for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (GI), shares the September Meet stakes spotlight with events for juveniles that that respectively launch the 2016 Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks: the $150,000 Iroquois (GIII) for 2-year-olds and the $200,000 Pocahontas (GII) for 2-year-old fillies. Both races will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track and each is included on the Breeders' Cup “Win & You're In” Challenge Series schedule. Their respective winners will be guaranteed automatic starting spots in Breeders' Cup events on Oct. 31 at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.
The 11-date September Meet operates on a four-day, Thursday-through-Sunday weekly racing schedule with the exception of its first week. Opening day is Friday, Sept. 11 and the meet will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 27. Regular post time for the meet will be 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern), with exceptions being 5 p.m. “Twilight Thursday” racing on September 17 and 24 and the meet's lone “Downs After Dark” night racing celebration on Saturday, Sept. 19 with a post time of 6 p.m.
The former Homecoming Classic is being renamed to salute Lukas' accomplishments, contributions and influence on Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, and the horse industry. The native of Antigo, Wis. – a four-time Eclipse Award honoree as America's top trainer – will celebrate his 80th birthday on Sept. 2. The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up that now carries his name will be run for the third time on Saturday, Sept. 26. Reigning Breeders' Cup Classic winner Fort Larned won its first running in 2013 and subsequently finished fourth at Santa Anita in his bid for a repeat Classic victory. The race was won last year by Cigar Street, who would finish seventh to Bayern in the 2014 Classic at Santa Anita.
Lukas, who bases his stable at Churchill Downs Barn 44 through much of the year, has won a record 14 victories in Triple Crown races, and trained a record 20 winners of Breeders' Cup Championship races. He earned four Eclipse Awards that honored him as the nation's top trainer. At Churchill Downs, Lukas ranks second in career stakes victories (73) and fourth in total wins (510).
“Along with the enormity of the numbers of his total victories, the stakes races he has won and earnings by his stable's horses throughout his Hall of Fame career, D. Wayne Lukas forever changed both the Kentucky Derby and North America's horse industry,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “It is Churchill Downs' honor to salute Wayne Lukas by placing his name on this race. We are enthusiastic about the potential of the Lukas Classic and believe it will very soon be an important annual stop for older horses who are working to prepare for and earn starting spots in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
“We think the presence of Wayne Lukas' name on this race will enhance its attractiveness and its status. And we would love to see Mr. Lukas do one of the few things he has yet to do during his legendary career. Our team at Churchill Downs is confident that Wayne is a long way from entertaining any thoughts of retirement, and we hope that he will soon saddle a winner of this race, which would allow him – for the first time – to present a winner's trophy to himself.”
The first races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks headline four stakes events on Saturday, Sept. 12, the first of three Saturdays of racing during the September Meet. Along with the Pocahontas and Iroquois, that program will feature the $100,000 Locust Grove, a Listed race for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up on the main track and the $100,000 Open Mind, which matches fillies and mares ages 3 and up at six furlongs on the dirt.
Along with the opportunity to collect the first points in the systems that will determine the starters in the 2016 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the Longines Kentucky Oaks, the Iroquois and Pocahontas provide their winners with a guaranteed starting spot in Breeders' Cup races in their divisions. The Iroquois is part of the Breeders' Cup “Win and You're In Challenge Juvenile Division” and its winner will earn a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile (GI). The filly that wins the Pocahontas, part of the “Juvenile Fillies Division”, will gain a spot in the field for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI). Both Breeders' Cup races will be run on Saturday, Oct. 31 at Keeneland Race Course.
The racing program on Saturday, Sept. 19 features the $100,000 Dogwood, a Grade III event for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.
The final Saturday of September Meet racing on Sept. 26 will offer three stakes events in the Lukas Classic, the $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at one mile, and the $100,000 Jefferson Cup (GIII) for 3-year-olds at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course – the only stakes race on grass during the meet.
Only two of the eight stakes races in September have changed from last year's schedule. Along with the new name for the Lukas Classic, the purse for the race was boosted by $50,000 to $175,000. The purse for the Iroquois also was increased by $50,000.
After the September racing session, Churchill Downs will have one remaining race meet in 2015. The track's traditional Fall Meet is scheduled for Nov. 1-29 Fall Meet, which will offer 21 racing dates on a weekly Thursday-through-Sunday schedule.
Churchill Downs September Stakes Schedule:
|Date||Race (with purse & grade)||Division||Distance||Surface|
|Sat., Sept. 12||$200,000 Pocahontas (GII)||2YO Fillies||1 1/16 Miles||Dirt|
|$150,000 Iroquois (GIII)||2YO||1 1/16 Miles||Dirt|
|$100,000 Locust Grove (Listed)||3YO & Up Fillies & Mares||1 1/16 Miles||Dirt|
|$100,000 Open Mind||3YO & Up Fillies & Mares||6 Furlongs||Dirt|
|Sat., Sept. 19||$100,000 Dogwood (GIII)||3YO Fillies||7 Furlongs||Dirt|
|Sat., Sept. 26||$100,000 Ack Ack Handicap (GIII)||3YO & Up||1 Mile||Dirt|
|$175,000 Lukas Classic (Listed)||3YO & Up||1 1/8 Miles||Dirt|
|$100,000 Jefferson Cup (GIII)||3YO||1 Mile||Turf|
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