The 129th running of Churchill Downs' historic Clark Handicap (gr. II) will also be its richest as the track has raised the purse for this year's renewal by $100,000 to $500,000-added. The increase for the Clark and $50,000 hikes in the purse values of the Falls City (gr. II) and Ack Ack (gr. III) Handicaps will boost total stakes purses for the track's upcoming 2003 fall meet to a record $2.2 million. The Oct. 26 through Nov. 29 fall meet at Churchill Downs is scheduled to include 11 stakes races, 10 of which are graded events.
The Falls City Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares ages 3-and-up run on Thanksgiving Day, will carry a record purse of $300,000-added for its 88th renewal. The Ack Ack Handicap, a 7 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up, features a record purse of $150,000-added for its 11th running on Oct. 26, the meet's opening day. The added purse money for the Clark and Falls City Handicaps will raise total purses for Churchill Downs' series of four stakes events scheduled over three days of the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend to a record $1.2 million. That series of races also includes Churchill Downs' major fall races for juveniles, the $200,000-added Golden Rod (gr. II) for fillies and the $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II). Those races are scheduled on the meet's closing day program on Nov. 29.
"The increase in purses for the Clark Handicap and Falls City Handicap should further strengthen our exciting Thanksgiving weekend stakes schedule, which we believe is the strongest stakes competition in North America in the weeks after the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships," said Don Richardson, senior vice president of racing for Churchill Downs Inc. "The complete stakes program in the fall meet is the finest in the history our track. We thank the horsemen across North America who have supported our fall meet stakes schedule through the years, and we invite them to participate again this year."
"The impressive fall meet stakes schedule developed by Don Richardson and racing secretary Doug Bredar sends a strong signal to horsemen and racing fans that a very exciting racing program awaits them in our 2003 fall meet," said Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs. "Although our clubhouse renovation will be ongoing, we will have plenty of seats for our patrons that include exciting new seating options in our Jockey Club Suites. We pledge to work hard to ensure that our guests' fall meet racing experience at Churchill Downs will equal the excellence they will witness on the track."
The Clark Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up, was won last year by multiple grade I winner Lido Palace and other recent winners of the race include Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Silver Charm in 1998 and the champion filly Surfside in 2000. The latter secured an Eclipse Award as the champion 3-year-old filly of 2000 with her victory over males in the Clark. The fall meet's marquee race dates to the first race meet at Churchill Downs in 1875 and, like the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, has been renewed annually without interruption since its inaugural running. The Falls City Handicap also had its inaugural running in 1875 and its 2002 renewal saw Allamerican Bertie edge Take Charge Lady in a memorable battle between two of America's finest 3-year-old fillies. Other recent Falls City winners have included Forest Secrets, Tomisue's Delight, Halo America, and Mariah's Storm and Alcovy.
Churchill Downs 2003 Fall Meet Stakes Schedule
Date, Race, Distance, Age
Oct. 26, $150,000-added Ack Ack (gr. III), 7 1/2 furlongs 3&up
Nov. 1, $100,000-added Pocahontas, Mile, 2 YO fillies
Nov. 2, $100,000-added Iroquois (gr. III), Mile, 2 YO
Nov. 8, $200,000-added Churchill Downs Distaff (gr. II) Mile, F&M 3&up
Nov. 15, $150,000-added Mrs. Revere (gr. II), 1 1/16 m (T), 3 YOfillies
Nov. 16, $150,000-added River City (gr. III), 1 1/8 m (T) 3&up
Nov. 22, $150,000-added Cardinal (gr. III), 1 1/8 m (T), F&M 3&up
Nov. 27, $300,000-added Falls City (gr. II), 1 1/8 m F&M 3&up
Nov. 28, $500,000-added Clark Handicap (gr. II) 1 1/8 m 3&up
Nov. 29, $200,000-added Golden Rod (gr. II), 1 1/16 m 2YO fillies
Nov. 29, $200,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) 1 1/16m 2YO
F&M=Fillies and Mares