Turfway Park has announced the elimination of all stakes, including Kentucky Cup Day of Champions, from the schedule for its 16-day fall meet that begins Sept. 6 and concludes Sept. 30.
Kentucky Cup Day, consisting of five stakes, three graded, that served as Breeders’ Cup World Championships preps, had been resumed in 2011 under sponsorship of WinStar Farm after a one-year hiatus. While the day’s featured WinStar Kentucky Cup (gr. II) was won by 7-year-old Future Prospect, 2011 Kentucky Cup Day was highlighted by the emergence of eventual 2-year-old champion Hansen as a superstar, with the Tapit colt winning the Kentucky Cup Juvenile by 13 1/4 lengths.
A release from the northern Kentucky track said the stakes were being eliminated from the fall racing schedule so the funds could be used for overnight purses.
“While WinStar remained ready to continue its sponsorship this year, Turfway has elected to shift the track’s share of the series’ funding to the overnight purse account,” the release said. “Daily purses are expected to average $110,000, including $18,000 from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.”
According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, purses averaged $139,443 during the 16-day Turfway Park meet in 2011, with the WinStar Kentucky Cup Day stakes purses totaling $600,000.
David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association, said Turfway’s decision is “disappointing” but understandable.
“It will allow them to be able to divert that money into their overnight purse money, which will allow them to be a little closer to competitiveness with surrounding states,” Switzer said.
In recent years, Kentucky tracks have faced stiff competition for horses and horsemen from surrounding states where purses are enhanced by alternative gaming at the racetracks.
Earlier this year, casino operator Rock Ohio Ventures purchased a 40% stake in Turfway Park, in which another casino company, Caesars Entertainment Corp., owns a 50% interest. The remaining 10% of Turfway is owned by Keeneland, which previously owned 50% of the track before selling part of its interest to Rock Ohio Ventures. Rock Ohio Ventures and Caesars are also partners in a new casino being constructed in Cincinnati, Ohio, across the state border from Turfway Park’s location.
“The new ownership is not willing to subsidize purses (at Turfway Park),” Switzer said. “From a business standpoint, I can’t argue with that point. It is unfortunate, since Kentucky is known for producing quality horses and by not having these stakes races we have reduced the opportunities for those horses to run in quality races, i.e., stakes races."