(Ancient Rome captures $2 Million Mint Millions / All Photos by Coady Photography)

From the KY Downs Media Team:

Mint Millions Day at Kentucky Downs

$2 million Mint Millions (G3): Ancient Rome

$1 million Big Ass Fans Music City (G3): Secret Money

$1 million Gun Runner: Talk of the Nation

Carryover alert: The Super Hi-5, which is a 50-cent bet, comes into Sunday’s 10th race, the $1million Dueling Grounds Oaks, with a carryover $25,028.70. The Oaks has a full field of 12. Kentucky Downs this year added a Super Hi-5, where bettors attempt to pick the first five finishers in correct order, to all stakes in addition to the last race of the day.

Plan comes together for $2 million in Mint Millions!

Britain’s Ancient Rome gives Spencer first Ky Downs victory

Coady Photo: Jamie Spencer earned his first Kentucky Downs victory in style as Ancient Rome won the $2 million Mint Millions.

By Tim Wilkin

Jockey Jamie Spencer had been to Kentucky Downs before Saturday.

The 43-year-old Irishman has been a champion rider in England and Ireland but had never solved the kidney-shaped course in south central Kentucky.

That all changed late in the day on Saturday when the Fan Duel Meet at Kentucky Downs presented the Grade 3, $2 million Mint Millions Stakes, the richest grass in the United States outside of the Breeders’ Cup.

Spencer climbed aboard Ancient Rome, who traveled here from England.

It prove to be a trip worth making as Ancient Rome defeated 11 rivals and won the mile race by a hard-earned half-length.

It was the first Kentucky Downs trip to the winner’s circle for Spencer, who first raced here in 2019 and went winless in six starts. Things weren’t much better as he came to work on Saturday, He finished off the board in his first four mounts of the day, including a pair of last-place finishes, one with Queen Picasso in the Grade 3, $1 million Big Ass Fans Music City Stakes.

After he hopped off Ancient Rome in the winner’s circle, Spencer was asked if he liked riding at Kentucky Downs.

“I do now,” he said. “A half hour ago, I was calling it every name under the sun. It worked out well.”

Ancient Rome is trained by England’s Charlie Hills and owned by Mrs. Fitriani Hays with her husband, Jim. They were all at races in Budapest on Saturday with their racing manager, Alex Cole.

“We came, we saw we conquered,” Cole said by phone late Saturday night from Budapest. “It’s not often does a plan come together, but today it did.”

Ancient Rome began his career in France but moved to England where he joined Hills’ barn after being purchased by the Hayses. This was the second start for the 4-year-old son of War Front since the move, both wins. But the Kentucky Downs race was the goal when they bought the horse.

In the Mint Millions, Ancient Rome tracked the pacesetters, Stitched (24-1), trained by Greg Foley and ridden by Florent Geroux, and Smokin’ T, ridden by John Velazquez and trained by Shug McGaughey.

The early splits of 22.61 seconds for the quarter-mile and 46.59 for the half were set by the front pair and Ancient Rome had no trouble tracking them.

When the field turned into the stretch, Ancient Rome got next to the leaders and the even-money favorite Annapolis was looming, looking for running room that never came.

“He doesn’t have an electric turn of foot,” Spencer said, “so I wanted to commit but not get there too soon. It’s a fine line. It worked out today, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Stitched and Smokin’ T didn’t give in, but could not hold off Ancient Rome, who bounded home to get the narrow win.

“I thought I had a great chance to win it until the last sixteenth of a mile,” Velazquez said. “When I did not pass the horse on the inside (Stitched) , that was it. I was waiting for the two horses, the European horse (Ancient Rome) and Tyler’s horse (Gaffalione on the favored Annapolis). When I looked and saw the European horse, ok, it’s time to go. I said it’s time to go and there was nothing I could do. I went, but he didn’t.”

Velazquez said his horse ran well, but not well enough.

“It’s frustrating when you are going so well and you think he is going to go and you ask him and he is going to stay the same way.” he said. “He did not kick in the way I thought he would. It’s part of the business. The winner is a very decent horse.”

Foley was encouraged with the performance of Stitched, who was making his first start since a win in the Grade 2 Wise Dan at Ellis Park on July 1.

“He’s a nice horse,” Foley said. “He gave us a big thrill today. Second is pretty nice for this big a pot, but it would have been nice to win.”

Gaffalione said Annapolis, who came into this race after finishing second in the Grade 1 Fourstardave at Saratoga Aug. 12 for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, did not have the acceleration he needed to have in this spot.

“I had to wait a little longer than I wanted to,” he said. “When a spot opened up, I tried to go through it and my horse just wasn’t quick enough.”

Ancient Rome was timed in 1:33.37 and paid $15.32, $8.56 and $5.12.

Stitched finished a head in front of Smokin’ T, followed by Atone, Annapolis, Dhabab, Max K. O., Hozier, Gray’s Fable, Get Her Number, Cabo Spirit and Churchtown.

Coady Photography photos below: Jamie Spencer guided Britain’s Ancient Rome to a half-length victory over 24-1 Stitched in the $2 million Mint Millions (G3).

Secret Money gets all the money in $1 million Music City (G3)

(Photo: Trainer Brendan Walsh congratulates jockey Tyler Gaffalione after Secret Money takes the $1 million Big Ass Fans Music City Stakes (G3). Coady Photography)

By Jennie Rees

Owner Richard Nicolai of St. James, N.Y., had never been to Kentucky Downs before his 3-year-old filly Secret Money won Saturday’s Grade 3 Big Ass Fans Music City Stakes by a length over favored Danse Macabre.

The result gave Nicolai his first victory in a $1 million stakes.

“It feels great, let me tell you,” he said. “I have good partners and a great trainer. A lot of patience. This filly really did her work for us today. I thought she had a tough race ahead of her, but she made it look easy, to be honest with you. We’re really thrilled.

“I love this place, and I love it a lot more after winning. It’s a real experience, and they did a great job at this place. I can’t wait to come back.”

Defending Kentucky Downs riding champion Tyler Gaffalione settled Secret Money toward the inside within striking distance of pacesetting Determined Jester, who had Danse Macabre closest in pursuit. Gaffalione went after the leaders nearing the quarter pole, splitting rivals in mid-stretch with Secret Money striding away late from Danse Macabre.

Secret Money, who is from the first crop of the WinStar stallion Good Samaritan, covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.14 seconds after tracking fractions of 22.90, 46.30 and 1:09.23. The Brendan Walsh trainee paid $12.96 as the third-choice in the capacity field of 12 three-year-old fillies.

“It feels amazing to win that kind of race here,” Gaffalione said. “Brendan has done a great job with that filly. He said he was pointing for this race a couple months back. And he brought her over ready to run. As soon as a spot opened up, she didn’t hesitate. She ran right through and finished up very well. It all has to come together. You have to have the trip, have to have the luck. Everything has to fall into place and luckily it did for us today.”

The Kentucky-bred Secret Money, who did not race as a 2-year-old, now is 3-0-1 in six starts, ballooning her earnings to $740,811 with the $585,960 payday for Nicolai and his partners Robert Hahn and Matthew Hand. She finished third by a total of one length in Saratoga’s one-mile, Grade 3 Lake George on July 21.

“She’s been very good all year,” Walsh said. “She hasn’t put a foot wrong really. She had a horrible trip at Woodbine a couple of starts back (finishing fifth by a total of 1 1/2 lengths). Came back, we decided we’d try to stretch her out, see if she’d get the mile at Saratoga. She ran really well, didn’t quite get home, but ran a very respectable third in very good company. We always had this race in the back of our mind all year, the 6 1/2 we felt would hit her right between the eyes. Thankfully it did. I’m delighted. It’s a great group of owners. It’s Richard’s first time here at Kentucky Downs, so it’s been a great experience for him.

“And Tyler gave her a great ride as usual.”

Walsh obviously was thrilled to see the Music City purse raised to $1 million.

“Absolutely. We’re always thankful for a few bucks extra,” he said. “Listen, it was great. This has always been a lucky track for us. It’s nice to come and win a nice race like this.”

A year ago Danse Macabre, with Adam Beschizza up, won Kentucky Downs’ $500,000 Untapable Stakes by a nose. She was 2-for-2 this year, having last run May 3 in Churchill Downs’ Mamzelle Stakes.

“She ran great,” said trainer Kelsey Danner. “She just got beat. It was a great race.”

Bling finished another three-quarters of a length back in third under Rafael Bejarano, followed by 59-1 shot Determined Jester, L J’s Emma, the Danner-trained Mohawk Trail, Jill Jitterbug, Malleymoo, Accede, Mammas Girl, American Apple and Queen Picasso.

Coady Photography photos below: Tyler Gaffalione rode Secret Money to victory in the $1 million Big Ass Fans Music City Stakes (G3).

Jose Ortiz, McGaughey win Gun Runner with Talk of the Nation

By Tim Wilkin

Jockey Jose Ortiz woke up at 3:30 Saturday morning, drove from Saratoga Springs to Albany International Airport and caught a 5:20 flight to Atlanta. After a connecting flight to Nashville, Ortiz drove 40 miles to his final destination, Kentucky Downs.

By late afternoon, Ortiz wasn’t tired. Not one bit.

“Not really,” Ortiz said as he stood in the winner’s circle at Kentucky Downs. “I just won a million dollar race.”

That he did. Ortiz was on board 6-5 favorite Talk of the Nation and the 3-year-old son of Quality Road delivered, winning the second running of the one-mile $1 million Gun Runner at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs Saturday.

Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Talk of the Nation won for the third time in six starts this year on grass. He won the race going away, by a half length.

McGaughey had started the colt on the dirt in his first two starts. He broke his maiden on dirt last year at Aqueduct Race Track and, in his first start this year, he was a dull sixth at Gulfstream Park in January.

Then came a surface switch.

“We always figured he was going to want the grass,” said Reeve McGaughey, assistant to his father. “When he won on the dirt, we had to give him one more try to make sure. As soon as he got on the grass, he was a different horse.”

In his last start, the Grade 3 Manila Stakes at Belmont Park on July 7, Talk of the Nation finished second to More Than Looks after setting the pace.

“The last time, he was pressed the whole way,” Ortiz said, who won his second race on the card. “He finished, he dug in, but today, I wanted him to be more relaxed. I had nobody to the outside of me and I could sit and move whenever I wanted.”

Smokey Mandate, trained by Mike Maker and ridden by James Graham, set the early pace, setting fractions of 22.86 seconds for the first quarter, 45.62 for the half mile and 1:09.37 for six furlongs.

“He broke very alert,” Ortiz said. “The other horse (Smokey Mandate) went to the lead and I wanted to give him a target.”

Smokey Mandate led into the stretch but Ortiz knew he had horse.

Talk of the Nation overtook the pacesetter and then led everyone else home. Wadsworth, the 5-2 second choice trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Florent Geroux, won the race for second as he also overtook Smokey Mandate and finished 2 ½ lengths in front of him.

The final time for the race was 1:32.93. Talk of the Nation returned $4.74, $3.06 and $2.62.

Talk of the Nation is owned by Joseph Allen, LLC and CHC, Inc. (Kit Ng).

“We were confident (going into the Gun Runner),” Reeve McGaughey said. “They freshened him up in New York and have been pointing for this all summer. We figured he would probably like this turf course, and, luckily, he did.”

Gaslight Dancer finished fourth and was followed by Highway Robber, Major Dude, Escape Artist and Communication Memo.

Below: Coady Photography photos of Talk of the Nation winning the $1 million Gun Runner under Jose Ortiz.

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