09/03/2013 3:49PM

Kentucky Downs, Churchill Downs make for in-state doubleheader

Barbara D. Livingston
Mystical Star will start in the Ladies Marathon at Kentucky Downs for trainer Christophe Clement, with Brice Blanc riding.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Three of the seven stakes that will be run Saturday in the state of Kentucky were drawn Tuesday at Kentucky Downs, where a trio of $150,000 stakes anchor a 10-race opening-day card.

Purses total more than $1 million on the opener at Kentucky Downs, the turf-only track where a five-day meet opens Saturday afternoon, although a fair percentage of that purse money will be paid out only to horses eligible to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.

Later Saturday, Churchill Downs will run its second of 12 September programs, a Downs After Dark card featuring four stakes. Churchill opens Friday with a 10-race card, for which entries also were drawn Tuesday.

The Saturday cards will overlap slightly, with the last three races at Kentucky Downs scheduled to run almost concurrently with the first three at Churchill.

This is the first September for such an arrangement involving Churchill and Kentucky Downs. In prior years, it was Turfway Park and Kentucky Downs with dovetailing schedules. On only one other date, Sept. 14, will the tracks overlap this month, and that will involve an afternoon card at Churchill. The other three Kentucky Downs cards are Wednesdays (Sept. 11, 18, 25), while Churchill will be running Fridays to Sundays on four consecutive weekends.

Three filly-mare stakes, each worth $150,000, will help open the Kentucky Downs meet Saturday. One-third of the purses for those races are restricted to KTDF runners. Here’s a quick rundown:

◗ Ladies Sprint (race 7): Soft Whisper, Magical Moon, and the recent Saratoga allowance winner To My Valentine look like the main contenders in a field of 11 entered in this six-furlong dash. Soft Whisper, stakes-placed on several occasions, will be wearing blinkers after two races without them.

◗ Ladies Turf (race 8): Sisterhood, with circuit newcomer David Flores riding for Wesley Ward, figures as a slight favorite among 12 in this one-mile race. Other players include Dancing to Town, Run a Risk, Awesome Flower, Dame Marie, and an unbeaten Jonathan Sheppard filly, Nashindy.

◗ Ladies Marathon (race 9): Christophe Clement is shipping in the Grade 2 winner Mystical Star for this 1 5/16-mile race and has given the call to his fellow Frenchman, Brice Blanc, who rode regularly on the Kentucky circuit years ago. This, too, is a full and competitive field, with another half-dozen or so likely to attract major mutuel respect.

Fields for all 10 races are very big, and understandably so. Allowances are worth as much as $96,000 (including KTDF money), while maiden races for 2-year-olds are worth as much as $90,000. Purses have been greatly enhanced by revenue from the Instant Racing machines in place at Kentucky Downs for the last two years.

Churchill fields smaller

At Churchill, the new September meet starts Friday at 1:45 p.m. Eastern with fields not nearly as sizable as those at Kentucky Downs, although there are three allowances on tap.

The fourth race serves as the nominal feature, with Ghost Is Clear the likely favorite in a field of six for owner-trainer Mike Maker and jockey Rosie Napravnik. It’s a $53,000, third-level allowance sprint with an $80,000 claiming option.

Entries for the Saturday night program were to be drawn Wednesday. The four stakes on a program that starts at 6 p.m. Eastern are the Grade 2 Pocahontas, Grade 3 Iroquois, Grade 3 Ack Ack, and the newly restored Locust Grove.