Racing Returns To Churchill Downs For Twilight Thursday Program - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Racing Returns To Churchill Downs For Twilight Thursday Program

Horse racing on the Kentucky circuit shifts to Churchill Downs on Thursday, Sept. 15 with the first of three Twilight Thursday programs at 5 p.m. (all times Eastern) as the famed Louisville racetrack opens its 10th annual September Meet for an action-packed 14-date run through Sunday, Oct. 2.

Thursday's eight-race opener lured 93 entries (87 in the body plus six also eligible runners) for an average of 10.9 horses per race. A field of 10 older horses was entered for the featured seventh race, a $141,000 second-level allowance/optional claiming event at seven furlongs. Familiar entries include the regally-bred Gun It, the well-backed Hidden Scroll and 2020 Kentucky Derby participant Major Fed.

The opening day program also has a $134,000 second-level allowance/optional claimer for fillies and mares at one mile (Race 2); a first-level allowance/optional claimer for 2-year-old fillies at seven furlongs (Race 6); and a $120,000 maiden special weight for 2-year-olds at one mile (Race 5) headlined by the Todd Pletcher-trained Summonyourcourage, who finished second to impressive maiden winner Echo Again last month at Saratoga.

Each of the September Meet's 135 scheduled races will be contested on the main dirt track to allow the new Bermuda-hybrid turf course to continue to mature to its ultimate potential. Turf racing is projected to return for the Fall Meet (Oct. 30-Nov. 27).

Horsemen will compete for a record $13.791 million (all purses include prize money from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund) offered in Vice President of Racing Ben Huffman's September Meet condition book, including an 11-race stakes schedule cumulatively worth $3.36 million.

Average daily purses are $985,071. Maiden special weight races have a $120,000 purse while allowance races range from $127,000 to $141,000.

Both barn areas – Churchill Downs (1,325 stalls) and Trackside Louisville (490 stalls) – are at full capacity, according to Huffman. New additions to the Trackside Louisville barn area include trainers Ricky Courville, Kelsey Danner, Carlos Santamaria and Carlo Vaccarezza.

Five stakes races, including two important fixtures for juveniles that could produce starters in this year's Breeders' Cup and next spring's Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade 1) and the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), will be showcased Saturday afternoon.

The $300,000 Iroquois (G3) kicks off the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, while the $300,000 Pocahontas (G3) starts the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.

Meanwhile Distaff and Filly & Mare Sprint prospects may surface in a pair of Saturday stakes for fillies and mares, the $400,000 Locust Grove (G3) over 1 1/16 miles and the $300,000 Open Mind (Listed) at six furlongs.

The $275,000 Louisville Thoroughbred Society, an open sprint for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs, wraps the stakes-laden program.

Entries for Saturday's 11-race card will be taken Wednesday morning.

Other marque events during the September Meet include a stakes quartet in primetime under the light for the final Downs After Dark of the year on Saturday, Sept. 24: the $275,000 Dogwood (G3) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs; $275,000 Bourbon Trail for 3-year-olds at 1 3/16 miles; $275,000 Harrods Creek for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs; and $160,000 Seneca Overnight Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

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