HISTORIC LINKS REINFORCED AS THE JOCKEY CLUB AND ASCOT RACECOURSE PARTNER WITH CHURCHILL DOWNS IN EXCITING NEW RUNNERS INITIATIVE
It was back in 1872 that Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark from Kentucky visited Epsom Downs to witness The Derby won by Cremorne. When he returned to Louisville, he made plans to create a race along the lines of the one he had witnessed and so the Kentucky Derby was born in 1875.
That historic link will be reinforced in 2024, when a runner from each of two turf contests staged at the 150th Kentucky Derby Meeting at Churchill Downs in May will receive a “wild card” entry for the two Classics staged at Epsom Downs four weeks’ later – the Betfred Derby and Betfred Oaks. Last Wednesday (December 6th) marked 150 days until the 150th Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs.
For three-year-old fillies, a runner from the Edgewood Stakes, (Grade 2, 1m 0.5f, $500,000), run on Kentucky Oaks Day (Friday 3rd May) will receive an entry and a travel incentive to run in the Betfred Oaks (Group 1, 1m 4f, £500,000) at Epsom Downs on Ladies Day (Friday 31st May).
Similarly for three-year-old colts, a runner from the American Turf Stakes, (Grade 2, 1m 0.5f. $500,000), run on Kentucky Derby Day (Saturday 4th May), will receive an entry and a travel incentive to run in The Betfred Derby at Epsom Downs (Group 1, 1m 4f, £1,500,000) on Derby Day (Saturday 1st June).
Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR) and Ascot Racecourse have been coordinating with Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) to create links between historic races in the UK and high-profile, top quality turf races in the USA. The ultimate aim is to build the international profile of these races by increasing the number of runners travelling from the US to the UK and vice versa.
To that aim, two races at the 150th Kentucky Derby meeting will also offer ‘wild card’ entries for three races at Royal Ascot. A runner from the Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes, (Grade 2, 3yo+, 5.5f, $500,000), run on Kentucky Derby Day, will receive an entry and a travel incentive to run in the King Charles III Stakes (formerly the King’s Stand Stakes, Group 1, 3yo+ 5f, £650,000) at Royal Ascot (Tuesday 18th June).
A runner from the Old Forester Turf Classic Stakes, (Group 1, 4yo+, 1m1f $1,000,000), run on Kentucky Derby Day, will receive an entry and a travel incentive to run in either of the Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1, 4yo+. 1m, £750,000, Tuesday 18th June) or the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Group 1, 4yo+, 1m2f, £1,000,000, Wednesday 19th June) at Royal Ascot.
In return for the above incentives for USA-based runners, a runner from both the Queen Anne Stakes and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes will receive an entry and a travel incentive to run in the Colonial Downs’ Arlington Million Stakes (Group 1, 3yo+, 1m2f, $1,000,000) in mid-August.
In addition, a runner from the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket’s July Festival (Group 1, 3yo+ fillies & mares, 1m, £275,000, Friday 12th July) will also receive an entry and travel incentive to run in the Beverly D Stakes (Grade 1, 3yo+ fillies & mares, 1m 1.5f, $500,000) on the same day as the Colonial Downs Arlington Million.
Winners of the above races will receive the invite to run in the corresponding races across the Atlantic. In the event that the winners aren’t able to take up that invite, racecourses may then also invite placed horses. The elimination procedures in these races will remain as they are now.
Matt Woolston, Assistant Racing and International Racing Director at The Jockey Club, said: “We’re delighted to develop these links with races at the Kentucky Derby Meeting in its 150th year.
“A trip to Churchill Downs is one that should be on the bucket list for every racing fan, the world over. The Kentucky Derby itself can trace its origin back to Epsom Downs in 1780 when Diomed won the very first Derby and we are proud to reinforce this historic link.
“We look forward to welcoming American runners to the Betfred Oaks and Betfred Derby. Runners who perform well in the Edgewood Stakes and the American Turf will come to Epsom Downs with a fighting chance and it will be fascinating to see how they fare.
“These historic races already have an international reputation and we want to welcome more and more international runners in the years to come.”
Nick Smith, Director of Racing and Public Affairs at Ascot Racecourse, said: “We are very excited to be working with Churchill Downs and the UK Jockey Club on this exciting new initiative.
“We were very pleased to play our part hosting the Churchill team at Royal Ascot last year, with the Kentucky Derby trophy on display as they built up to this important 150th running of the world’s greatest dirt race.
“We have a rich modern history of American runners at Royal Ascot and their success always adds hugely to the meeting - with NBC covering the event all week, the Saturday on the main network channel, hopefully this innovative link up of races will add a new dimension to their and ITV’s coverage.”