(Trainer Steve Asmussen / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the KY Downs Media Team:

Sunday’s Grade 3 West Virginia Derby winner Red Route One is expected to make his next start in the $1 million National Thoroughbred League Dueling Grounds Derby on Sept. 3 at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs.

In this case, the dirt-to-turf makes a lot of sense and cents — more accurately, big bucks. The Steve Asmussen-trained Red Route One actually began his career with a victory over the Kentucky Downs grass last year, after which he headed to the dirt to pursue the spring classics for 3-year-olds. The other thing: Red Route One is owned by Ron Winchell, co-managing partner with Marc Falcone in Kentucky Downs and its sister The Mint Gaming Hall properties.

“I think since he had been successful there last year, we have always had our eye on Kentucky Downs to bring him back and run him this year,” said David Fiske, the longtime racing and bloodstock manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds. “Because he was successful and because the purses are what they are. We were hoping to get him into the richest race that made sense, and after winning (the $500,000 West Virginia Derby), the Dueling Grounds Derby looks like a real possibility.”

There’s also the idea that 1 5/16 miles might be right up Red Route One’s alley.

“It seems like all year long, he’s been dropping out the back and the makes a big run, which is kind of like how a lot of turf races are run,” Fiske said. “Slow early and fast late. Sometimes if there is enough pace in front of you and you can get there and sometimes you don’t.”

Red Route One is a son of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, co-owned by Winchell with Three Chimneys Farm, where he’s a record-setting stallion. Red Route One also comes from a long and highly successful female family of Winchell-bred horses that includes 2014 Kentucky Oaks, Breeders’ Cup Distaff and champion 3-year-old filly winner Untapable. There’s a fair amount of turf in that family. RR1’s second dam, Fun House, was a Grade 2 winner on grass who was sired by 1989 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Prized. (She also is the dam of Untapable.) Also in the pedigree is Grade 1 turf winner Paddy O’ Prado. Gun Runner himself is out of a mare sired by six-time Group 1 turf winner Giants Causeway.

“I think he was just ready to run, and $150,000 maiden race, why not?” Fiske said of starting Red Route One out on grass. “And there is some grass form in the family, so let’s go see.”

With his West Virginia Derby victory, Red Route One became a millionaire. Now a graded-stakes winner, he also was second in Oaklawn Park’s Grade 2 Rebel and Grade 3 Southwest, as well as fourth in the Preakness Stakes after winning Oaklawn’s listed Bath House Row Stakes. Off his Kentucky Downs victory last year, RR1 was third in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity won by champion Forte.

Cogburn expected to point to $1M Ainsworth Turf Sprint

Another Asmussen-trained graded-stakes winner from last weekend also is likely headed to Kentucky Downs. That’s Saratoga’s Grade 3, $300,000 Troy Stakes winner Cogburn, ridden to victory by Ricardo Santana for owners Clark Brewster and Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt. The Kentucky Downs race would be the $1 million, Grade 2 Ainsworth Turf Sprint, a six-furlong race on Sept. 9 whose winner earns a fees-paid spot in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) Nov. 4 at Santa Anita Park.

While graded-stakes placed on dirt, Cogburn is unbeaten since Asmussen put him on turf three races ago, a streak that started with a pair of stakes at Lone Star Park. He now has won over very firm and soft turf. Finishing fourth at 1-2 odds was 2022 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Caravel.

“I think obviously he has excelled on the turf, being undefeated, and gave me a great feel today,” Asmussen told Saratoga’s publicity team after the race. “We put him on the turf, honestly, because he wasn’t performing as well as he trained on the dirt. He would run solid, but not as special as he seemed training.

“… I feel great to beat the field that we did and now we can think big. We hopefully have a Breeders’ Cup horse. We have had one Turf Sprint winner in the past (2011 winner Regally Ready, who won Kentucky Downs’ mile turf stakes three years later), so hopefully we have another one. We had planned on running here and then Kentucky Downs, but we’ll see how we come out of this and figure out what we should do.”

Red Route One winning the West Virginia Derby. Coady Photography
Cristian Torres guiding Red Route One to victory at Mountaineer Park. Coady Photography

KY Downs Preview Celebration on ESPN Louisville Aug. 15

Louisville’s ESPN 680/105.7 will be broadcasting live from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Eastern at the Blind Squirrel restaurant in Middletown, Ky., on Tuesday Aug. 15, featuring interviews with trainers, owners, jockeys and other racing personalities who will be participating at the upcoming FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs. The Kentucky Downs Preview Celebration, presented by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund and ESPN 680/105.7, is a shout-out to the importance of the Louisville market and designed to further increase awareness about the one-of-a-kind meet among sports fans and the general public. The racing content kicks into full gear in the second hour (11 a.m.-noon) of the Issel and Louis Show, featuring Louis Rabaut on site, followed by Bob Valvano’s ESPN V Show (noon-3 p.m.) Tune into ESPN 680/105.7, the ESPN Louisville app or the live stream on ESPNLouisville.com.

Valvano also will broadcast his show live from Kentucky Downs on the opening card, Thursday Aug. 31.

Kentucky Downs adds $500,000 NTL Handicap

It’s not a stakes, but Kentucky Downs has added another big-money race on Sunday Sept. 3 with the $500,000 National Thoroughbred League Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at a mile. There are no fees, but horses must be nominated by Aug. 21, with the assigned weights coming out Aug. 24.

The handicap is named after Kentucky Downs’ day sponsor. The National Thoroughbred League is an evolving concept based on teams of horses representing different owners and markets. The idea is to sell the excitement of horse racing, combined with a high-end social experience, to celebrities and the general public. The jockeys in the race will wear NTL silks, regardless of the horses’ actual ownership.

The National Thoroughbred League has released a limited supply of tickets for reserved seating for the VIP Chalet and the Finish Line Pavilion for Sept. 3. Both venues offer a spectacular view of the course, betting windows, a complimentary lunch buffet, afternoon snacks and an open bar. Buy tickets at kentuckydowns.ticketspice.com/tickets2023

With the $1 million NTL Dueling Grounds Derby and $1 million Dueling Grounds Oaks, the Sept. 3 will be the richest race card in the world that day.

Making a splash! Pool Party ticket available for Sept. 10

New this year on Sept. 10 is the Pool Party ticket, costing $50 per person, which includes access to the new SpringHill Suites Franklin Mint pool area, the Summerly Event Lawn, an open-air tented seating and viewing platform overlooking the track, free parking, access to food and drinks (to be purchased by ticket-holder), mobile betting, TV screens for race viewing and live entertainment between races.

The Pool Party is located outside the hotel, across from the eighth-pole and only steps from The Mint Gaming Hall. The Pool Party access is free for hotel guests. And yes, you can swim if you want. Buy tickets at kentuckydowns.ticketspice.com/tickets2023.

Hotel at Kentucky Downs open for business – and play!

The SpringHill Suites Franklin Mint — the latest addition to entertainment complex that has mushroomed at Kentucky Downs, along with The Mint Gaming Hall and The Mint Event Center — opened July 25 and had its ceremonial ribbon cutting Wednesday Aug. 9. Among the comments:

Simpson County Judge Executive Mason Barnes: “We’ve had hotels and hotels and hotels in Franklin and Simpson County, but they’ve never really been a destination location like this one is and is going to be. We really want to thank (co-managing partners) Ron (Winchell) and Marc (Falcone) and the group here with The Mint Gaming Hall and Kentucky Downs for their investment in Simpson County, their belief that Simpson County was worth investing in… It’s a pretty awesome thing.”

Franklin Mayor Larry Dixon: “Looking out here and seeing this great facility, all I can say is ‘wow.’ It’s just great to have something of this nature in Simpson County…. It is a really, really nice hotel and it’s going to be a real asset to the City of Franklin.”

Rooms are filling up fast during the race meet. Here’s the link for more information and to reserve rooms.

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. Also: $500,000 National Thoroughbred League Handicap, 3-year-olds & up, 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