A maximum field of 14 has been entered for the inaugural running of the Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes at England’s Kempton Park racecourse on Wednesday March 18. The race offers an automatic berth in this year’s May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) for the winner of the Challenge Stakes.
Carded as the third race on the night card, the race is worth £80,000 and will be run at 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather surface. In addition to the winner being guaranteed a starting spot in the Derby, the Challenge includes a bonus of $100,000 to the connections of the winning horse if it runs in the American classic.
“I am thrilled by the quantity and quality of the horses that have been declared for the race, which has taken two years of planning,” said Brian Clifford, director of racing at Kempton Park. “The race is unique and is the first step between establishing a long term link between European and American racing and I am very much looking forward to Wednesday.”
Trainer John Gosden has two entrants in the race -- Close Alliance and Mafaaz. Close Alliance has one win in his only start on the all-weather in October, and Mafaaz broke his maiden at Kempton Park in his career debut. He subsequently finished fifth in the Tattersalls Millions Race, four places in front of Sohcahtoa, who is one of two Challenge entries for trainer Richard Hannon in the race, along with Weald Park.
One Challenge horse with racing experience in the U.S. is Deposer, who made two starts for trainer John Best at Keeneland last October. Among other starters, Spring Of Fame and Akhenaten have both been recent winners on the all-weather surface this month for Mikael Magnusson and Mick Channon respectively. Trainer Karl Burke saddles two in the race -- Markyg, who has two Kempton wins in his last two starts, and Keeptheboatafloat, who has recently been running in Dubai. Mark Johnston also has two in the Challenge -- Haashed, unbeaten on his only start at Lingfield in November, and Mastery, winner of his career debut.
In addition to the unique conditions of the race with its Derby tie-in, Kempton is offering free admission for the Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes, provided customers visit the Kempton Park website, www.kempton.co.uk, and register for the voucher. Amy Starkey, managing director of Kempton Park explained, “We are offering free entry to everyone who wants to come and watch this unique race as an extra incentive to give everyone, both fans of racing and new people to the sport, a taster of how exhilarating a visit to the races can be.”
Entries for the Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes, March 18, Kempton Park, £80,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles, in alphabetical order, with trainer and jockey:
1—Agente Parmigiano, G. A. Butler, Shane Kelly
2—Akhenaten, M. R. Channon, Tony Culhane
3—Close Alliance, J. H. M. Gosden, Jimmy Fortune
4—Depose, J. R. Best, Steve Drowne
5—Haashed, M. Johnston, Jamie Spencer
6—Keeptheboatafloat, K. R. Burke, Darren Williams
7—Mafaaz, J. H. M. Gosden, R. Hills
8—Markyg, K. R. Burke, Fergus Sweeney
9—Mastery, M. Johnston, Joe Fanning
10—Shampagne, P. F. I. Cole, Martin Dwyer
11—Sohcahtoa, R. Hannon, Ryan Moore
12—Spring Of Fame, M. A. Magnusson, Chris Catlin
13—Talking Hands, S. Kirk, George Baker
14—Weald Park, R. Hannon, Richard Hughes