That comet you just saw streaking across the sports sky was the 2021 Kentucky Downs meet. Indeed a bright shining light, here are a few take outs from a spectacular six days in the sport of Kings.
As has been the case over the past few years, one of the September centers of the Thoroughbred racing universe has been Franklin, Kentucky. Nestled just north of the Tennessee line, the only European style race course in these United States has welcomed some of the best horsemen in the game. Chasing the money, the top trainers, jockeys, and turf runners all take a swing at the enormous purse money offered.
The 2021 meet offered up just over $15.9 million in prize money during the six day racing festival. Three of the stakes races were run for $1 million (Mint Million, Turf Sprint, Turf Cup). Those types of purses mean large fields which in turn makes things very attractive for the horse players. During these six days over $74 million (new record) was wagered which was over $15 million more than last year. Just to give you a sampling of why handicappers love Kentucky Downs, the average payout on the 50 cent late pick four was $3037.60.
The competition was once again top notch as full fields made for excitement galore. Joel Rosario put on a riding clinic in earning his first jockey crown as the leading rider. With a record setting 17 wins and almost $3 million in purse earnings, Rosario showed his prowess as one of the game’s leading riders against some of the best the sport has to offer.
“I owe a lot of thanks for the opportunity people have given me here”, says a humble Rosario. “I was able to get on a lot of horses that really got over the ground well. I love Kentucky Downs.”
Trainer Brendan Walsh tied with Steve Asmussen and Mike Maker for the training title with four wins. Two of Walsh’s wins came in Stakes races (Franklin-Simpson, Ladies Marathon) and he too showed plenty of love for Kentucky Downs.
“I think the European horses may have a bit of an advantage here because the horses that just run over here don’t experience a course like this any where else”, says Walsh, a native of Cork, Ireland. “Some horses like it and others do not. But with the purse money offered, those that do take to it are really rewarded.”
Two berths into the Breeders’ Cup were obtained as Calumet Farm’s Gear Jockey took the FanDuel Turf Sprint with a very impressive effort while Imperador captured the Calumet Farms Turf Cup for trainer Paulo Lobo.
The fan experience was taken to an all new level as more venues and exclusive areas were introduced. With viewing opportunities stretching throughout the entire home stretch, more folks flocked to this blossoming facility. With a hotel currently in the works, things appear to only be getting better.
Perhaps the only negative after this wonderful comet crossed the sky…we have to wait about 365 days until we can do it again.