08/09/2009 11:00PM

Juvenile stakes cut from Kentucky Cup

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Turfway Park officials announced Monday that its premier fall event, the Kentucky Cup series, has undergone drastic cuts for the 16th running on Sept. 25, with both 2-year-old stakes being eliminated and the purse for the Kentucky Cup Classic being slashed from $350,000 to $200,000.

Only three races, all of them graded, remain in the Kentucky Cup series: the Grade 2 Classic, which at its peak was worth $500,000, along with the Grade 3, $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint and Grade 3, $100,000 Kentucky Cup Distaff. The Kentucky Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies are gone from what had been a five-race series.

The announcement comes at a time when Turfway is battling for its financial survival. Bob Elliston, president of the Florence, Ky., track, has said for years that Turfway desperately needs alternative gaming to compete with the riverboat casinos in neighboring Indiana. Twice this year, the Kentucky General Assembly rebuffed attempts for such gaming.

"It is difficult to set aside decades of tradition, but the cuts were inevitable, given our inability to match the purses offered by surrounding states that support their racing industries with gaming revenue," Elliston said in a release. "If the Kentucky legislature allows us to level the playing field, we hope to return these races to our schedule."

The Kentucky Cup series was an instant success when inaugurated in 1994, with standouts such as Tabasco Cat, Thunder Gulch, Serena's Song, and Point Given participating. Only the Lane's End Stakes, run every March as a Kentucky Derby prep, has surpassed the Kentucky Cup as a more important event held at the northern Kentucky track.

The Kentucky Cup Juvenile had been a Grade 3 event until losing its grade for this year, which was one factor in its elimination. The Juvenile previously had been run as the In Memoriam and Alysheba before being renamed and assimilated into the Kentucky Cup series. The Juvenile Fillies, formerly the Clipsetta, was held as early as 1883 and had been run continuously since 1964. It had not been a graded race in recent years.

The $200,000 purse for the 2009 Classic will include $50,000 in bonus money for horses eligible to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund. In recent years, the KTDF made up $150,000 of the $350,000 purse.

The Turfway fall meet runs Sept. 9 to Oct. 8. Only one other stakes will be run during the meet: the Grade 3, $100,000 Turfway Park Fall Championship on Sept. 12. Neither the Weekend Delight Stakes nor the Marfa Stakes, both worth $75,000 in recent years, will be run this fall.

The 1 1/2-mile Fall Championship is a "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup Marathon.