Churchill Backstretch Opens for Business

Posted By Kimberly French on May 11, 2020 - Last Updated on May 13, 2020

The entire horse community breathed a sigh of relieve when the firsts vans rolled through the Churchill Downs stable gate at 6 a.m. on Monday morning. A total of 175 horses are scheduled to be on the grounds by the end of the day. All the early arrivals hail from Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

“We’re so glad to be coming home,” trainer Greg Foley relayed to the Churchill Downs publicity department.

Foley, who resides in Oldham County, Ky. like many others was relegated to remaining in New Orleans due the COVID-19 pandemic as Churchill Downs was supposed to open in March that delayed entry to the backside at Churchill Downs by nearly two months. Foley typically is annually one of the first in the barn area at Churchill Downs and he continued that trend on Monday as he and the first group from his stable were the first to arrive at 6 a.m.

Other trainers to begin filling their shedrows include Tom Amoss, Steve Asmussen, Mark Casse, Bret Calhoun, Steve Margolis and Al Stall Jr.

Prior to their journey to Kentucky, stable employees from Fair Grounds (295) were administered COVID-19 tests. Approximately 580 tests were conducted at Churchill Downs.

Three hundred additional horses will arrive at Churchill Downs from Fair Grounds in the next 48 hours. Horses in Florida are scheduled to ship May 14-16 with horses from Arkansas arrive May 17-19. Horses that remained in Kentucky and from other locations can take up residence on May 20.

Some of the sport’s brightest stars were on the first vans from Fair Grounds including Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) winner Serengeti Empress, multiple graded stakes winner Mr. Money and likely Matt Winn Stakes competitors Major Fed and Mr. Big News.

Racing is slated to commence Saturday at Churchill Downs with a first post of 1 p.m. Entries for Saturday’s races will close on Tuesday.

As part of the regulations to begin live racing under stringent guidelines and protocols, racing will be held without fans spectator-free at Churchill Downs as well as no owners or media until government officials remove restrictions.

Only authorized racetrack employees and KHRC license holders who are caring for horses stabled at the facility are permitted on the grounds. This applies to trainers with horses stabled or racing and those who are veterinarians, grooms, exercise riders and farriers.

Purses to top $500,000 Daily with $2.25 million for Stakes Schedule

Horsemen will vie for an average of $559,000 daily when Churchill Downs opens Saturday.

After opening weekend (May 16-17), racing at Churchill Downs will be held Thursdays through Sundays with a special holiday Monday card on Memorial Day, May 25. Post time for the first race each day will be 1 p.m. (all times Eastern). Closing day is Saturday, June 27. All racing for spring will be spectator-free until government officials determine otherwise.

A total of 125 races worth a total of $7,265,000 in the first condition book, which covers May 16-June 5. Maiden special weight races will be contested for a purse of $79,000 and allowance races between $81,000 and $88,000. All purses contain prize money from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.

The stakes schedule features 16 stakes events totaling $2,250,000

Saturday, May 23 (Stephen Foster Preview Day): Grade III, $150,000 Matt Winn (3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles); $100,000 Blame (4-year-olds and up at one mile); $100,000 Shawnee (fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles); $100,000 War Chant (3-year-olds at one mile on turf); and $100,000 Tepin (3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf).

Saturday, May 30: Grade III, $100,000 Old Forester Mint Julep (fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf) and Grade III, $100,000 Winning Colors (fillies and mares at six furlongs).

Saturday, June 6: $100,000 Aristides (Listed) (4-year-olds and up at six furlongs) and Grade III, $100,000 Dogwood (3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs).

Saturday, June 13: Grade III, $100,000 Louisville (4-year-olds and up at 1 ½ miles on turf).

Saturday, June 20: Grade II, $200,000 Wise Dan (4-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on turf) and $100,000 Audubon (3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on turf).

Saturday, June 27 (Stephen Foster Day): Grade II, $500,000 Stephen Foster (4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles); Grade II, $200,000 Fleur de Lis (fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles); Grade III, $100,000 Regret (3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf); and Grade III, $100,000 Bashford Manor (2-year-olds at six furlongs).

The second condition book for racing between June 6-27 be available to by May 29.

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Kimberly French

Kimberly French is an award winning freelance journalist specializing in horse racing and horse health living in Louisville, KY. Her work has appeared in more than 25 national and international publications. She is currently the editor of Hoof Beats magazine, the official publication of the U.S. Trotting Association and the special assistant to the president for the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

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