(Photo: Gray’s Fable winning Ellis Park’s 2022 prep for Kentucky Downs’ Mint Million, now the Mint Millions. Coady Photography)
The first stakes offering a $2 million purse in Kentucky Downs history is all set as the Grade 3 mile Mint Millions headlines Saturday’s 11-race card at the FanDuel Meet.
The Mint Millions offers a base purse of $1 million, with another $1 million from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF) for registered Kentucky-born and -sired horses. Last year, with the race called the Mint Million, the base was $600,000 with a $400,000 supplement from the KTDF.
The Mint Millions is one of three Kentucky Downs stakes worth $1 million or more for Kentucky-breds Saturday, joining the Grade 3 Big Ass Fans Music City for 3-year-old filly sprinters and the Gun Runner for 3-year-olds at a mile. That triumvirate kicks off the sequence of 11 stakes that carry $1 million or more purses with KTDF during the meet. The second-richest is the $1.7 million, Grade 2 FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles. All the $1 million stakes have a base purse of $600,000.
A capacity field of 12 older horses was entered in the Mint Millions, with California-based multiple graded-stakes winner Cabo Spirit expected to scratch out of Thursday’s opening-day $500,000 FanDuel Tapit Stakes to run for the bigger money. Money talks, and the Mint Millions attracted the entry of British’s Group 1-placed Ancient Rome, trained by Charlie Hills with European standout jockey Jamie Spencer named to ride. Although based overseas, Ancient Rome is a Kentucky-bred who will compete for all the money.
Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher entered Annapolis, winner of last year’s Grade 1 Coolmore Turf Mile against older horses, in what would be a three-week turnaround from the colt’s close second in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Fourstardave.
With 10 of the 12 entrants being Kentucky-bred the Mint Millions for 3-year-olds and up has huge potential to be:
- America’s richest turf race outside the Breeders’ Cup.
- the second-richest race offered by a racetrack in Kentucky outside the $3 million Kentucky Derby
- third-richest in North America not counting the Breeders’ Cup, topped only by the Kentucky Derby and Gulfstream Park’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup in Florida, both on dirt.
- Of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races, only the $6 million Longines Classic and $4 million Longines Turf surpass $2 million.
The Mint Millions is the marque feature on the second day of the FanDuel Meet, which runs Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, 3, 7, 9, 10 and 13 over the distinctive kidney-shaped course with subtle elevation changes.
Among the favorites for the Mint Millions figures to be the Greg Foley-trained Stitched, winner of the Grade 2 Wise Dan held at Ellis Park.
Kentucky Downs’ all-time leading trainer Mike Maker, who finished 1-2 in the last year’s stakes with Somelikeithotbrown and Atone, comes back with Atone and adds Max K. O.
Atone kicked off his 6-year-old season by becoming a Grade 1 winner in Gulfstream Park’s Pegasus World Cup Turf. Most recently he faded to last after pushing a strong pace in the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million (G1) at Colonial Downs, but Maker is never hesitant to wheel back a horse who is doing well.
The 7-year-old Max K. O. is 2-for-2 at Kentucky Downs but not against stakes company. The 12-time winner most recently was sixth, beaten a total of three lengths, in the Kentucky Downs Preview Mint Millions at Ellis Park.
Winning the Ellis Park prep to earn a fees-paid berth in the Mint Millions was the Rodolphe Brisset-trained Hozier, who in his prior start was a very good fourth in the Grade 2 Wise Dan run at Ellis Park.
At age 8, Gray’s Fable is back for another crack at the Mint Millions. The gelding finished a close fifth last year race after winning the prep race at Ellis Park. He returned to the Kentucky Downs Preview Mint Millions four weeks ago, rallying to finish fourth but beaten 1 1/4 lengths.
“Hopefully he breaks a lot better, because that’s where he’s been getting in a tangle at the gate,” said trainer Brian Lynch. “But his (handicapping) numbers have been good and he’s been running great. But he’s just a horse that seems to have some little gate issues. Hopefully if he ever gets a clean break and a clean trip there will be a big difference.”
Others entered in the Mint Millions: multiple Grade 1-placed Get Her Number as trainer Peter Miller ships in from California, Saratoga’s Lure winner Smokin’ T, Canadian-based Churchtown and Dhabab.
The Mint Millions is carded as the 10th race, with an approximate post of 5:28 p.m. Central. First post is 12:30 p.m. CT.
The Music City (race 9, 4:54 p.m. CT) at 6 1/2 furlongs came up with a sensational field of 12 plus the maximum four also-eligibles.
The Kelsey Danner-trained Danse Macabre, winner of last year’s Untapable, returns to the site of her most lucrative victory. The daughter of Army Mule comes into the Music City with a 4-2-1 mark in seven starts, including being 2-for-2 as a 3-year-old after Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3 Herecomesthebride and Churchill Downs’ Mamzelle.
She takes on Grade 3 winner and British invader Mammas Girl and stakes-winners stakes-winners L J’s Emma, American Apple, Queen Picasso, Mohawk Trail, Malley Moo, Jill Jitterbug and Determined Jester. Though she hasn’t won a stakes, Secret Money was a good third in her last start in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Lake Placid.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Major Dude, winner of the Grade 2 Penn Mile and two other graded stakes, heads a field of 10 for the Gun Runner (race 8, 4:21 p.m. CT). Brad Cox entered Godolphin’s Wadsworth, winner of the American Derby and Ellis Park’s Kentucky Downs Preview Dueling Grounds Derby. Others entered: Grade 3 UAE 2000 Guineas winner Tall Boy, stakes-winners Gaslight Dancer and Talk of the Nation, Georgie W, Highway Robber, Smokey Mandate, Escape Artist and Communication Memo.
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