The Kentucky Cup Day of Champions will be returning to Turfway Park this year after a one-year hiatus with Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm sponsoring the program.
All five Kentucky Cup races will be resurrected, including the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies, last run in 2008. The Day of Champions will be September 24 with a first post time of 1:10 p.m.
After the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies were cut two years ago, the entire Kentucky Cup program was dropped in 2010 to help maintain overnight purses. In addition to WinStar's sponsorship, some of the Kentucky Cup purses are being partially funded by a $100,000 allotment from its Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.
The $100,000, Grade III Turfway Park Fall Championship has been cut from this year's fall meet to facilitate the return of the Kentucky Cup card.
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"When we read the Kentucky Cup had to be canceled due to the economic conditions in our state last year we were deeply saddened," said Elliott Walden, president and CEO of WinStar Farm. "The Kentucky Cup has been an integral part of Kentucky racing calendar for the last 15 years. We are committed to helping this industry that gives Kentuckians so much."
In addition to the $100,000 Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies, the card will feature the Grade II, $200,000 Kentucky Cup Classic over 9 furlongs, the Grade III, $100,000 Distaff, and the Grade III, 6-furlong $100,000 Sprint.
Turfway Park president Bob Elliston said wagering increases both on-track and from all sources during the track's 2011 Winter/Spring meet helped bring back the Kentucky Cup's resurrection.
Had Turfway been unable to bring back the Kentucky Cup card this season, the Classic, Distaff and Sprint would have lost their graded stakes status because they would have not run for two consecutive years.
"Obviously when we had to make the decision last year to scrap the Kentucky Cup it was a function of lousy business that had accumulated over several years," Elliston said. "For the first six months of this year, we've seen some significant improvements after our Spring meet when we bucked the national trend and saw increases in our handle.
"You bring all those things together and it equates to revenues in excess of what we had last year and our ability to deploy them to a major stakes day without adversely affecting our overnight purses."
The return of the Kentucky Cup for 2011 is important considering the Breeders' Cup is being held at Churchill Downs this November. The Day of Champions has prepped the winners of seven Breeders' Cup races and this year's Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom used Turfway's Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes as his final prep.
Although the Kentucky Cup's return is good for the state's horsemen, Elliston warns Turfway is still battling to maintain its purses against tracks in neighboring states whose funds are supplemented by expanded gaming.
"Honestly, this is kind of a stop-gap measure. Our overnight purses are not as competitive as we want them to be," Elliston said. "This isn't that we're through the tunnel; we've still got critical issues. But it was critical to do this now and not lose the grades on those stakes."