01/05/2016 1:29PM

Churchill: Firecracker renamed for Wise Dan

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Wisee Dan winning the second of his two Firecracker Handicaps, in 2013.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Churchill Downs officials on Tuesday released the stakes schedule for their 2016 spring meet, with the most notable change being the renaming of the former Firecracker Handicap in honor of Wise Dan, the Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

The Wise Dan remains a Grade 2, $200,000 race for 3-year-olds and upward on the turf, with its distance now lengthened from a mile to 1 1/16 miles. It has been moved from closing weekend of the meet to the June 18 Stephen Foster card.

Wise Dan won the 2011 and 2013 renewals of the Firecracker during a career in which he earned $7.55 million. The 9-year-old gelding was retired last fall to trainer Charlie LoPresti’s Forest Lane Farm just outside of Lexington, Ky. LoPresti said in a Churchill release thar having a race named for Wise Dan “means so much to us.”

Except for a few other minor changes, the stakes schedule for a 38-day spring meet that runs April 30 through July 2 remains essentially the same, with a 26-race schedule being highlighted, as always, by the Kentucky Derby. The 142nd running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby is set for May 7, when six other graded races will be run.

Derby eve, May 6, also will be huge as usual, with the 142nd running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks anchoring a card with five other graded races.

The Grade 1, $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap, the annual highlight of the post-Derby segment of the meet, is one of five graded races on June 18.

Total purse projections for the stakes schedule is $8.25 million, up $200,000 over 2015. Other scheduling tweaks include restoration of the $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile to Thursday of Derby week,May 5, following a six-year hiatus, and purse increases of $50,000 for the Grade 2 American Turf (to $300,000) and Grade 3 Pat Day Mile (to $250,000).

Three Downs After Dark program are on tap: opening night (April 30), Foster night (June 18), and closing night (July 2). The opening-night feature is the $100,000 William Walker, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds.