(Trainer Mike Maker / Photos by Coady Photography)

From the KY Downs Media Team / Jennie Rees:

Maker always leans toward green, no more so than at KY Downs 

Equibase’s Thursday entries with Global Tote morning line

Saturday’s Equibase entries with Global Tote morning line

Sunday’s Equibase entries with Global Tote morning line

Click to purchase VIP Chalet, Finish Line Pavilion tickets

The Mike Maker-trained Red Knight (#1 on the rail) won last year’s 1 1/2-mile stakes at Kentucky Downs and will shoot for a repeat in the $1.7 million FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup. Grace Clark photo

Mike Maker had no idea what percentage of his career success was on grass, just that it was a lot. So here are some numbers:

Maker is Kentucky Downs’ all-time winningest trainer, getting his 80th victory when he won Thursday’s opener with the 2-year-old first-time starter Buttercream Babe. Heading into the day, Maker had 1,277 career victories over the last five years — with 726 coming on turf for 57 percent, according to Brisnet statistics. To put that in perspective, turf races accounted for 14 percent of all racing in the United States and Canada in 2022: Of the 37,730 races overall held on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces last season, only 5,442 were on the grass, according to The Jockey Cub.

Since he began training full-time in 2003, Maker has won 1,411 turf races — or 44-percent of his 3,204 victories during that span through Wednesday. (Maker won 13 races in 1993, his first as a trainer of record, then didn’t train again until he went 0 for 3 in 1999. Equibase statics are only filtered by surface, stakes, age, sexes etc. since 2000.)

Of Maker’s $155.8 million in career purse earnings since 2003, $86 million — or 55 percent — have been on turf. Of his 406 stakes wins, 231 have been on turf during that span. That includes 75 graded-stakes victories on turf out of his overall total of 121 on all surfaces.

His reaction? “Means I’ve got a very unbalanced stable,” Maker said with a laugh.

An imbalance that has served him very well, no place more so than the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs, where last year his horses set records for a single meet with 12 wins and more than $2.3 million purse earnings.

Even as the racing has gotten tougher, Maker is always in the hunt. That includes 2019, when Maker didn’t win the title, winning three races, but had a record 14 seconds that led the way to $1.4 million in purse earnings, almost double the next closest trainer’s bankroll.

“I have a lot of fond memories there every year – and looking to add to it,” he said. “We’ve had plenty (of entries), but we’ve had plenty excluded (in overflow fields). We have a lot more 2-year-olds than we’ve had. So hopefully we can get some in.”

Maker had six horses entered for Thursday, plus six more Saturday and seven on Sunday. No trainer has started more horses at Kentucky Downs than Maker’s 472 after Thursday’s first race Wesley Ward is second with 226 starters.

He will shoot for repeats in two of the meet’s biggest stakes: Saturday’s $2 million Mint Millions (formerly the Mint Million until its purse was doubled) and the $1.7 million FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup. Maker finished 1-2 in the Mint Million last year with Somelikeithotbrown and Atone. The New York-bred Somelikeithotbrown – who only ran in the Mint Million last year because it wound up being delayed a week – is sitting it out this year, but runner-up Atone is back.

The 6-year-old Atone was one of several Maker horses earning their first Grade 1 victories this year, that coming in Gulfstream Park’s Pegasus World Cup Turf. off a 2 1/2-month break, Atone pressed the pace in Colonial Downs’ 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million (G1) before tiring to 11.

“That’s why he sort of had a break,” Maker said of running Atone back in three weeks. “In the Arlington Million, he put himself in contention at the quarter pole and kind of retrenched with no excuse. Hopefully the cutback in distance will do the trick.”

Maker also is running minor stakes-winner Max K.O. in the Mint Millions. He’ll be a long shot, having finished sixth in the Ellis Park prep, but lost by only three lengths. His credential is that he is 2 for 2 at Kentucky Downs, albeit against allowance and starter-allowance company. “He’s a horse for the course, likes the one turn,” Maker said. “He’ll have to step it up against the competition, but he’s run well here in the past.”

Red Knight returns at age 9 to defend last year’s Kentucky Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles. Three races ago he earned his first Grade 1 victory in Belmont Park’s Man o’ War. In his last start, Red Knight rallied to finish a good third in Monmouth Park’s United Nations, a race Maker won as Therapist earned his first Grade 1 at age 8.

Maker routinely runs multiple horses in the Kentucky Turf Cup, a race he has won a record five times since 2015. He also plans to run 10-time winner Me and Mr. C, who earned a fees-paid spot in the stakes by virtue of victory in Ellis Park’s $250,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup. “We’re running at least three and maybe four,” he said.

Maker’s other stakes horses include Delaware’s Kent Stakes winner Really Good in Sunday’s $1 million National Thoroughbred League Dueling Grounds Derby; Indiana maiden winner Value Engineer in the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile on Sept. 10; and Saratoga’s off-the-turf Skidmore winner Ship Cadet and Saratoga turf maiden winner Jimmythetooth in the $500,000 Pepsi Juvenile Sprint on Sept. 13.

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2023 Kentucky Downs stakes schedule

All stakes are on turf and include Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund

Thursday Aug. 31 — $500,000 FanDuel TVG Tapit Stakes, 3 year olds & up who have not won a stakes in 2023, mile and 70 yards.

Saturday Sept. 2 — $1 million Big Ass Fans Music City (G3), 3-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million Gun Runner, 3-year-olds, one mile; $2 million The Mint Millions (G3), 3 year olds & up, one mile.

Sunday Sept. 3 — $1 million National Thoroughbred League Dueling Grounds Derby (G3), 3-year-olds, 1 5/16 miles; $1 million Dueling Grounds Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 1 5/16 miles: $500,000 National Thoroughbred League Handicap, 3-year-olds & up, one mile.

Thursday Sept. 7 — $500,000 Jeff Ruby’s One Dreamer, fillies and mares 3 years old & up who have not won a stakes in 2023, mile and 70 yards.

Saturday Sept. 9 — $1 million Ainsworth Turf Sprint (G2) *BC, 3-year-olds & up, six furlongs; $1 million FanDuel Turf Cup (G2) *BC, 3-year-olds & up, 1 1/2 miles; $1 million Exacta Systems Franklin-Simpson (G2), 3-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million AGS Ladies Sprint (G2), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million Castle Hill Gaming Ladies Turf (G3), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, one mile; $1 million Aristocrat Ladies Marathon (G3), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, 1 5/16 miles.

Sunday, Sept. 10 — $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile, 2-year-olds, mile; $500,000 Global Tote Juvenile Fillies, 2-year-old fillies, mile.

Wednesday Sept. 13 — $500,000 Pepsi Juvenile Sprint, 2-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs; $500,000 Pepsi Untapable, 2-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs.

*BC: Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race – winner gets fees-paid berth in corresponding Breeders’ Cup race at Santa Anita

The Mint Gaming Hall properties
The Mint Gaming Hall at Kentucky Downs

Located near the Kentucky and Tennessee border, just off Interstate 65 and approximately 35 miles from Nashville, Tenn., Kentucky Downs features Historical Horse Racing gaming terminals and conducts live turf racing each September on America’s only “European-style” race course while offering among the highest purses in the world. Kentucky Downs is a pioneer in modern Historical Horse Racing, the electronic form of pari-mutuel betting on horses that has become one of the great financial success stories in the sport’s history. Racing has been conducted at the facility since 1990, when it was called Dueling Grounds.

Address: 5629 Nashville Road, P.O. Box 405, Franklin, KY 42135

Website: www.TheMintGaming.com

Phone: 270.586.7778

2023 racing dates: Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, 3, 7, 9, 10 and 13.

The Mint Gaming Hall Bowling Green

Address: 2475 Scottsville Road, Ste. 101 & 102, Bowling Green, KY 42104

Website: www.TheMintGaming.com

Phone: 270.353.6400

The Mint Gaming Hall Cumberland Run

Address: 777 Winners Lane, Corbin, KY 40701

Website: www.TheMintGaming.com

Phone: 606.620.0250

2023 harness racing dates: Oct. 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31; Nov. 5, 6, 7

The Mint Gaming Hall Cumberland

Address: 244 Penny Lane, Williamsburg, KY 40769

Website: www.TheMintGaming.com

Phone: 606-400-2888