The FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs, 2023 edition: seven days, $24 million in purses, 11 of 17 stakes worth at least $1 million apiece — and three dozen sponsors.
FanDuel leads the way, returning as the meet’s title sponsor but also assuming sponsorship of the $1.7 million, Grade 2 FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup, the 1 1/2-mile stakes that anchors the six pack of graded stakes each worth at least $1 million for Kentucky-breds on Sept. 9. The sponsorship includes the Aug. 31 opening-day $500,000 FanDuel TV Tapit Stakes for 3-year-olds & up that have not won a stakes in 2023 and the FanDuel VIP Chalet, which provides air-conditioning in an upscale environment with a spectacular view of the races.
“The FanDuel Group is excited to sponsor the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs for the third consecutive year,” said Andrew Moore, General Manager of Racing, FanDuel Group. “This unique meet has gained momentum and popularity with horseplayers each year and, thanks to Ron Winchell, Marc Falcone and their team, they continue to put on a top-class meeting with horsemen and women from across the globe.
“The FanDuel Group has an ongoing commitment to promoting and covering horse racing, and we are looking forward to showcasing every race, every day from the meet on FanDuel TV, including the $1.7 million FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, and the FanDuel Tapit Stakes.”
From gaming vendors to prominent breeding and stallion farms to boutique bourbons to products ranging from eclectic to iconic, each of the meet’s seven days is packed with corporate support.
“How do you measure the upward trajectory of a race meet?” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ Vice President for Racing. “There’s obviously record purses, record betting and among the largest fields in America. But there’s also the response from sponsors — not just our marquee industry entities but corporate America. The names and numbers speak for themselves, and we couldn’t be more proud and appreciative of the companies and product owners who want to be associated with America’s most unique race meet.”
The FanDuel Turf Cup carries a base purse of $1.3 million, with the additional $400,000 from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF). A registered Kentucky-bred winner will earn more than $1 million; even a winner born outside the commonwealth will reap almost $800,000.
The only stakes that is more lucrative is the $2 million, Grade 3 Mint Millions, which has a base purse of $1 million and another $1 million in KTDF money and is sponsored by The Mint Gaming Hall.
Kentucky Downs’ nine stakes worth $1 million carry base purses of $600,000 with another $400,000 for registered Kentucky-breds.
The five $1 million graded stakes on the super-sized Sept. 9 card are sponsored by the companies who create the historical horse racing gaming terminals used at Kentucky Downs’ The Mint Gaming Hall properties in Franklin, Bowling Green, Williamsburg and Corbin, Ky. Those HHR-sponsored stakes in 2023 are:
- $1 million Castle Hill Gaming Ladies Turf (G3) at a mile
- $1 million Aristocrat Ladies Marathon (G3) at 1 5/16 miles
- $1 million Exacta Systems Franklin-Simpson (G2) for 3-year-olds at 6 1/2 furlongs
- $1 million AGS Ladies Sprint (G2) at 6 1/2 furlongs
- $1 million Ainsworth Turf Sprint (G2) at six furlongs
The new National Thoroughbred League — an evolving concept designed to create a glamorous lifestyle experience at the track and beyond — kicks off its season at Kentucky Downs on Sunday Sept. 3. As such, the NTL is the day sponsor, including the $1 million National Thoroughbred League Dueling Grounds Derby (G3) and the $500,000 NTL Handicap.
Another new day sponsor is Jeff Ruby’s, the renowned steakhouse whose locations include nearby Nashville and the Kentucky thoroughbred markets of Louisville, Lexington and Greater Cincinnati. Jeff Ruby’s Day is Sept. 7, headlined by the $500,000 Jeff Ruby’s One Dreamer for fillies and mares that have not won a stakes in 2023. Jeff Ruby’s also sponsors the meet’s leading jockey award.
Returning day sponsors:
- Sept. 2: Lexington-based Big Ass Fans, the world’s best-selling big fans, sponsor of the $1 million Big Ass Fans Music City (G3) and a major Breeders’ Cup sponsor.
- Sept. 10: Global Tote/BetMakers, sponsor of the $500,000 Global Tote Juvenile Fillies. Global Tote, which provides pari-mutuel technology and services to horse-race betting operators around the world (including Kentucky Downs), is owned by BetMakers, Kentucky Downs’ official morning-line odds-maker and presenter of the “King of the Turf” handicapping tournament and trophy.
- Sept. 13: PepsiCo products are enjoyed more than a billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world — including at Kentucky Downs. The track’s official soft drink brand is sponsor of the $500,000 Pepsi Juvenile Sprint and the $500,000 Pepsi Untapable for 2-year-old fillies.
Featured bourbons of the day include newcomers Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon (Sept. 2), Kentucky Senator (Sept. 3), Heaven’s Door (Sept. 7) and Blackwood Toasted Bourbon (Sept. 13).
Produced at Buffalo Trace’s distillery in Frankfort, Ky. Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon created a genre after being launched in 1984 by legendary Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee, who started his career in the 1940s under Col. Albert B. Blanton. Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon also is distinguished by its eight trademarked versions of a horse and jockey atop its bottle stoppers.
The Kentucky Senator brand, whose most recent bottle honors the revered U.S. Senator John Sherman Cooper of Somerset, was first distilled by Crigler & Crigler in Covington and revived in 2019 by Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer and equine lawyer Andre Regard.
Heaven’s Door is a trio of American whiskeys developed in collaboration with famed singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, hence the name. The Heaven’s Door Distillery, which has been producing small batches of bourbon since 2018, is scheduled to open in September in Pleasureville, Ky., in Henry County on property once owned by Squire Boone, brother of another legendary figure: frontiersman Daniel Boone.
Three years after he won the 2019 Kentucky Derby as a partner in Country House, Woodford County horseman Guinness McFadden launched Blackwood Toasted Bourbon, named after his Blackwood Stables and Blackwood Training Center.
Back to be celebrated at Kentucky Downs are Louisville-based Jefferson’s Ocean (Sept. 9), a very small-batch bourbon aged at sea and its sister bourbon Jefferson’s Reserve(Sept. 10). Trey Zoeller co-founded the Jefferson’s brands in 1997 with his father, Chet, a famed bourbon historian. The family whiskey tradition goes back to Trey’s eighth-generation grandmother who was arrested in 1799 for the “production and sales of spiritous liquors.”
Also back is as a bourbon of the day is Angel’s Envy (Aug. 31), aged in hand-selected port-wine barrels by three generations of Louisville’s Henderson family.
Other sponsors include:
- Wright Implement — established in 1936 on a farm in Harned, Ky., and with 15 locations throughout Kentucky and Indiana — is the “Official Track Conditions” sponsor. Kentucky Downs uses Wright Implement’s John Deere tractors and other equipment to keep the turf course in peak condition.
- Clark Distributing is the “Official Beer, Cider & Seltzer” sponsor. Since 1903, C.C. Clark Inc. has represented the best beverage products available throughout Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.
- Also: Grey Goose vodka, used in Kentucky Downs’ signature drink, The Mint Millions; the international stallion, breeding and racing concern Coolmore joins iconic Central Kentucky farms Claiborne, Darby Dan, Gainesway and Three Chimneys as a sponsor; Foundation Risk Partners; Franklin-Simpson Tourism; J&M Digital Print; National Thoroughbred Racing Association; and Racing Expressions, which makes the hand-decorated bottles of the meet’s bourbon of the day to go to winning connections.
In other partnerships:
- Keeneland sponsors a pair of $250,000 allowance races on opening day, Aug. 31, for 2-year-olds that were offered for sale at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Last year’s race for 2-year-old males produced the winner of this year’s G1 Arkansas Derby (Angel of Empire) and G3 Transylvania (Mo Stash).
- The Breeders’ Cup made the FanDuel Turf Cup and the $1 million FanDuel Turf Sprint on Sept. 9 “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series qualifiers for their corresponding races on Nov. 4 at Santa Anita.
- The Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund is providing more than $10 million in supplemental purse money for registered Kentucky-breds, making it possible for Kentucky Downs to offer among the richest purses on the planet, including a world-best $150,000 for maiden races.
- The Kentucky HBPA, which represents thoroughbred owners and trainers at the commonwealth’s five racetracks, underwrites food and beverages for horsemen.