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Horse Racing Exclusive – Kentucky Downs Breaks Records with Nearly $60 Million in Wagers for Six Days!

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I was born and raised in Simpson County, Kentucky, home of Kentucky Downs. In their short six day meet, the track awarded more than $12 million dollars in purses. That’s a cool $2 million a day in a county with less than 20,000 residents. As my favorite New York Racing expert said, “Tracks all around the country are looking at the Kentucky Downs operation trying to figure out how to emulate their success.”  Yes, I suppose they are! 

The meet also caught the eye of some international racing powerhouses. Qatar Racing won the Grade 3 Franklin Simpson, named for my high school. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who won the Kentucky Downs riding title, guided the French- bred Guildsman to victory for trainer Brendan Walsh. Apparently, the ownership was thrilled with the win and plans to send more horses to Simpson County next year! 
I look forward to this little boutique meet each year. And, invariably, I fall in love with a horse or two and follow them for the rest of their career. Last year, I became enamored with a first-time starter called Pass the Plate. I will never forget how that filly closed down the center of the track from dead last like a freight train…passing more than the plate! I knew she was going to be a lot of fun to follow. She won her next out at Keeneland, and has gone on to have a very nice year.  
This year, my new love is a first-time starter called Sir Roberto. The son of Temple City broke from the dreaded one post and was immediately slammed by the two horse. Sir Roberto went sideways and was left a long way behind the field. Most first-timers would be finished right there.  But not this guy. No “Sir.”  He and jockey Gabriel Saez played catch- up and then swung wide circling the entire field. They pulled along side the leader and dueled down the stretch to the wire. I yelled, “He won and he ran at least 50 yards more than any other horse in the race!” My husband agreed and we waited for the 18-1 shot to be declared the winner. He was not. They put the favorite, #8 Tiz Splendid News, on the board as the winner. No way! Finally – and I do not believe I have EVER seen this before – they acknowledged they had made an error and Sir Roberto was given his due. He was a fine looking specimen in the winner’s circle. 

And, I cashed a nice little ticket!

Sir Roberto’s Win
Speaking of rare and odd occurrences, the Kentucky Downs meet was fraught with them. In one race the gate malfunctioned, opening while two of the contenders were still waiting to be loaded. That entire race was declared a no contest. Mercifully for the starter, it was definitely determined to be an equipment error. Another day, there was a power outage, stopping racing for several minutes. And, on Sunday, the entire racing card was cancelled due to inclement weather and moved to Tuesday. All I can say, folks, is we should not be surprised. It’s 2020!
If you ever have a chance to attend a day or two of this meet, you will find the most unusual course in the country. It is a European-style turf course with an odd right hand turn and undulations. The course is one mile and five sixteenths and drop-dead gorgeous. The long stretch takes its toll on horses who have never run there, producing some large numbers at the betting window.
Two of my Franklin-Simpson high school classmates with claims to fame in the horseracing business are Brad Kelley, the Calumet Farms owner who won the Preakness with Oxbow in 2013, and Gary Drake, who won the Belmont with Sarava in 2002. 
Kelley is very active at the Kentucky Downs meet. Calumet Farms sponsors the $1 million dollar Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes which was won by Arklow this year. 
I am always a little sad when the Kentucky Downs meet ends. But, it is time to turn our attention back to Churchill Downs, Maryland for the Preakness,  and then to Keeneland. No spectators at tracks, but at least our sport lives on! 

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