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Almost $5M up for grabs at Turfway’s holiday meet

A Churchill Downs/Turfway Park press release (above: rendering of Turfway Park’s future grandstand/gaming facility, which won’t be open for this meet):

FLORENCE, Ky. (Monday, Nov. 29, 2021) – Thoroughbred racing on the Kentucky circuit shifts from Churchill Downs in Louisville to its sister track Turfway Park Racing & Gaming, 94 miles to the northeast in Florence, on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 6:15 p.m. (all times Eastern) for the 16-day Holiday Meet.

The Holiday Meet covers a five-week stretch every Thursday-Sunday through Friday, Dec. 31 with the exception of no racing on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) or Christmas Day (Dec. 25). The first of eight races every Thursday-Saturday is 6:15 p.m. Sunday’s eight-race programs will start at 1 p.m. Only seven races will be staged on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31).

Following the Holiday Meet, Turfway will commence its 38-day Winter Meet on Jan. 1, which will continue for 14 weeks through Saturday, April 2 – the new date for its marquee race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the Jeff Ruby Steaks (Grade III) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles now worth $600,000, a $350,000 boost from the 2021 renewal.

The Jeff Ruby Steaks, which offers 170 qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby (Top 4 Points: 100-40-20-10), is the centerpiece of a revitalized stakes program thanks to increased interest by Kentucky horsemen and Churchill Downs Incorporated’s investment and redevelopment of Turfway Park, which is scheduled for completion and to reopen next summer.

Turfway Park will present 24 stakes events – four during the Holiday Meet and 20 during the Winter Meet – that total $3.55 million. Four stakes are scheduled for the Holiday Meet and another 20 will be run during the Winter Meet. Each is worth a minimum $100,000 and there will be at least one stakes race carded weekly. Fourteen of the stakes have been brought back from an extended hiatus.

In addition to the Jeff Ruby Steaks, the $125,000 John Battaglia Memorial at 1 1/16 miles on March 5 will offer 17 “Prep Season” points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby (Top 4 Points: 10-4-2-1). The $250,000 Bourbonette (Listed) on April 2, now 1 1/16 miles, and $125,000 Cincinnati Trophy, now one mile, on March 5 will offer qualifying points for 3-year-old fillies on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks (Top 4 Points: 100-40-20-10 and 10-4-2-1, respectively).

A total of six stakes cumulatively worth $1.7 million highlights the Jeff Ruby Steaks Day card on closing day, which falls five weeks in advance of the Kentucky Derby.

Horsemen will compete for $4.974 million (all purses include prize money from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund) offered in Director of Racing Tyler Picklesimer’s 127-race Holiday Meet condition book. Maiden special weight races are worth $62,000 and allowance races range from $63,000 to $68,000.

The average starters per race during last year’s Holiday Meet was a strong 10.5, which produced highly competitive racing over the track’s Tapeta synthetic surface. Installed during the summer of 2020, the Tapeta surface has received positive reviews from horsemen and jockeys alike and has proven to be a fair and rewarding surface for horseplayers.

Gerardo Corrales, who has ridden in the U.S. since 2015 after graduating from the Laffit Pincay Jockey Training Academy in his native Panama, is back to defend his Holiday Meet and Winter Meet riding titles from a year ago. He won 15 races during the Holiday Meet and another 40 at the Winter Meet.

There will be several new additions to the jockey colony including journeyman riders Joe Rocco Jr. and Joe Talamo.

“I’m excited to stay home this winter,” said Talamo, who shifted his tack from California to Kentucky in 2020. “I’ve been trying out different winter gloves and scarves to get ready for the winter in Kentucky. With the purse money that keeps going up at Turfway, I think it was a good decision to stay home.”

Rocco, who’s been a fixture on the Kentucky circuit since 2012, typically spent his winter at Oaklawn but will stay “home” for the Turfway meet.

“As your kids start to get older, it gets harder leaving each winter,” Rocco said. “I think it’ll be a good change staying at Turfway.”

Other Kentucky riders that are scheduled to be in the Turfway jocks room include Rafael Bejarano and Chris Landeros.

Bill Morey was the 2020 Holiday Meet leading trainer with six wins, while Wesley Ward dominated the 2021 Winter Meet trainer standings with 21 wins, nine more than Morey. In addition to Morey and Ward, trainers Brad Cox, Tommy Drury Jr., Mike Maker, Michael McCarthy and Mike Tomlinson are slated to have Turfway divisions this year.

“We’ll mainly be based at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn this winter but we’ll have a few horses that we keep in Kentucky to run at Turfway,” Cox said.

Turfway Park’s wagering menu will feature a 15-percent takeout, 50-cent Pick 5 that starts in Race 1 each night as well as the 15-percent takeout 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot on Races 3-8. Also, there are two 14-percent takeout, 50-cent Pick 4 sequences on each card with the first offered on Races 2-5 and the second on Races 5-8.

The Single 6 jackpot will be paid only if there is a single winning wager with six winners placed at the required minimum bet value. If there are multiple winning wagers with six winners in the six-race sequence, 90 percent of the net money wagering into the pool will be paid, and the remaining 10 percent will carry to the Single 6 jackpot. If there are no tickets will all six winners, 100 percent of the pool will carry to the Single 6 jackpot.

Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Daily Double and Pick 3 wagers will be offered every race (on all races that qualify under Kentucky statutes for minimum field size) and the $1 Super Hi-5 will once again be offered in the last race.

Racing fans can wager on racing from Churchill Downs via www.TwinSpires.com, the official advance-deposit wagering service for Churchill Downs Incorporated and its family of racetracks. Also, fans of Turfway Park racing are encouraged to download the Churchill Downs LIVE app. The Churchill Downs LIVE app is available free of charge on streaming services such as Amazon, Apple TV and Roku. Fans can download the Churchill Downs LIVE app for full access to a free HD live stream of the simulcast signal for all Churchill Downs Incorporated-owned racetracks, including Turfway Park.

Jimmy McNerney will describe the racing action throughout the Holiday and Winter Meet.

For more information, visit www.turfway.com.


4 stakes cumulatively worth $400,000

Saturday, Dec. 435thBlack Type$100,000Holiday Inaugural3&up, f&m6 FTapeta
Saturday, Dec. 1133rd(2011)Black Type$100,000My Charmer3&up, f&m1 1/16 MTapeta
Saturday, Dec. 1826th(2019)Black Type$100,000Prairie Bayou3&up1 1/16 MTapeta
Sunday, Dec. 2628th(2011)Black Type$100,000Gowell2yo f6 FTapeta

* All purses include prize money from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund


20 stakes cumulatively worth $3.15 million

Saturday, Jan. 124th(2012)Black Type$100,000Holiday Cheer3&up6 FTapeta
Saturday, Jan. 829th(2013)Black Type$100,000Turfway Prevue3yo6 ½ FTapeta
Saturday, Jan. 1523rd(2013)Black Type$100,000Likely Exchange4&up, f&m1 MTapeta
Saturday, Jan. 2231st(2013)Black Type$100,000Leonatus (formerly the Presidents)3yo1 MTapeta
Saturday, Jan. 2928th(2012)Black Type$100,000Wishing Well4&up, f&m6 ½ FTapeta
Saturday, Feb. 538thBlack Type$100,000Forego4&up6 ½ FTapeta
Saturday, Feb. 1235th(2012)Black Type$100,000Valdale3yo f6 ½ FTapeta
Saturday, Feb. 1931st(2012)Black Type$100,000Dust Commander4&up1 1/16 MTapeta
Saturday, Feb. 2638th(2011)Black Type$100,000Wintergreen (formerly the Fairway Fun)4&up, f&m1 MTapeta
Saturday, March 541stBlack Type$125,000John Battaglia MemorialRoad to the Kentucky Derby Points: 10-4-2-13yo1 1/16 MTapeta
Saturday, March 536thBlack Type$125,000Cincinnati TrophyRoad to the Kentucky Oaks Points: 10-4-2-13yo f1 MTapeta
Friday, March 123rd(1990)Black Type$100,000Big Daddy (formerly the Daniel Boone)4&up6 FTapeta
Saturday, March 1926th(2011)Black Type$100,000Queen4&up, f&m6 FTapeta
Saturday, March 262nd(1988)Black Type$100,000Serena’s Song (formerly the Tea House)3yo f6 FTapeta
Saturday, April 251stIII$600,000Jeff Ruby SteaksRoad to Kentucky Derby Points: 100-40-20-103yo1 1/8 MTapeta
Saturday, April 240thListed$250,000Bourbonette OaksRoad to Kentucky Oaks Points: 50-20-10-53yo f1 1/16 MTapeta
Saturday, April 221stListed$250,000TwinSpires Kentucky Cup Classic4&up1 1/8 MTapeta
Saturday, April 235thBlack Type$200,000Latonia4&up, f&m1 1/16 MTapeta
Saturday, April 235thBlack Type$200,000Rushaway3yo1 1/16 MTapeta
Saturday, April 28thBlack Type$200,000Animal Kingdom3yo6 F 

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.