Horse racing on the Kentucky circuit shifts to Churchill Downs on Friday (Sept. 15) with a 10-race program at 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern) as the famed Louisville racetrack opens its fifth September Meet for an action-packed 11-date run through Sunday, Oct. 1.
This year's three-week, boutique race meeting, presented by Commonwealth Technology, will feature record purse levels. Horsemen can compete for $4.81 million in prize money offered in Director of Racing Ben Huffman's 109-race September Meet condition book, which averages to $437,000 per day. Last year, an unprecedented $4,189,809 was paid to horsemen for a daily average of $380,892, which was up 16.2% from the prior year.
Inaugurated in 2013 by request from Kentucky horsemen, the three-week September Meet provides area horse owners, trainers and jockeys a viable racing option to compete for ample prize money mainly on dirtduring an important time on the racing calendar in advance of the popular Keeneland and Churchill Downs fall meets.
A total of 99 horses and four also-eligible entries were drawn Tuesday for Friday's opener for an average of 9.9 horses per race. The average field size during last year's meeting was a September record 8.5 horses.
The second half of the 10-race card features a pair of maiden races, including one for 2-year-old fillies, and a pair of allowances. The most lucrative opening day race is the eighth race at 4:18 p.m., a $55,000 allowance/optional claiming event ($62,500 claiming tag) over one mile that attracted a competitive field of nine fillies and mares. Race 9 at 4:50 p.m. is a first-level, seven-furlong allowance that lured 11 3-year-olds, including Brittlyn Stables' Behavioral Biss, who rolled to a three-length maiden win at Saratoga on Aug. 5 for trainer Al Stall Jr.
The maiden special weight for 2-year-old fillies at one mile goes as the sixth race at 3:16 p.m. and drew an oversubscribed cast of 15 in the maximum 12-horse field. Among the entrants is Churchill Downs Racing Club's Party Club, a daughter of Sky Mesa who looks to break through after a trio of summertime races at Ellis Park and Saratoga. Trained by 82-year-old legend D. Wayne Lukas, Party Club is one of two juvenile fillies – the other is Card Club – that were purchased by the 200-member club earlier this year with earnings accrued by their first horse, 3-year-old Warrior's Club, who won for the third time on Labor Day weekend at Saratoga to boost his career record to 16-3-3-3—$293,299.
“Whoever thought the club would be this successful?” Lukas said on ESPN 680/105.7's “Inside Churchill Downs,” which airs Fridays at 6 p.m. “Both (fillies) will be really effective this fall. I think Party Club is definitely sitting on a good race.”
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