First Grade I Race Elevates Kentucky Downs Program

Private Creed | Coady

Kentucky Downs will host the first Grade I event in its history next year with the elevation of the GI Franklin-Simpson S. announced Saturday by the American Graded Stakes Committee.

“Ownership is laser-focused on the continued elevation of the racing product at their track, and we're appreciative of the recognition by the American Graded Stakes Committee,” Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs' Vice President for Racing, said in a press release Sunday. “As delighted as we are about finally getting a Grade I stakes, it's more about the ascent of our entire racing program, with the Franklin-Simpson an exciting result. While we have offered among the highest purses in the world for several years, bringing it all together is the way the horsemen–owners and trainers–have embraced us.”

Under the ownership headed by Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone the past four years, Kentucky Downs has added four Grade III stakes, its first (now at four) Grade II races and its first Grade I.

“Kentucky Downs was a strong regional track when we took over ownership, and our immediate focus was to try to make it more national,” Winchell said. “With our first Grade I and with four Grade II races among our nine graded stakes, we've become entrenched in the national conversation. Our goal now is to make Kentucky Downs an international destination. Part of that is working hard to continue the upward migration of our stakes. We want the Franklin-Simpson to be our first–but not only–Grade I.”

Kentucky Downs' first graded stakes was the Kentucky Turf Cup, back in 2001. The track did not receive another graded stakes until 2017, when it added two. The Franklin-Simpson earned its first grading for 2019, advancing to a Grade II for 2021. The Music City S., run for the first time in 2020, was conducted as a Grade III for the first time this year and will be a Grade II event in 2024.

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