Racetracks across the country delay opening stables

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Churchill Downs has delayed reopening stables at the track and training center to April 28 and postponed its spring meet that was scheduled to open April 25.

The track last month postponed the 146th Kentucky Derby from May 2 to Sept. 5, the first time since 1945 the race will not be run on the first Saturday in May.

Churchill Downs’ stables have been closed since Dec. 31 for winter renovations and were originally scheduled to open March 17 before being delayed in response to executive orders from Gov. Andy Beshear to contain and limit the spread of COVID-19.

Track president Kevin Flanery said in a statement that Churchill Downs is following the lead of the governor and public health officials and added, “Our team will be ready to open under the relevant guidance we are given when the time is right.”

The opening of the stable area and training track at Saratoga in upstate New York and barn area at Monmouth Park in New Jersey is also being delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Oklahoma training track at Saratoga was set to open April 15. The New York Racing Association says it has yet to decide an appropriate date to safely open.

The delay does not impact the start of the Saratoga racing season which is scheduled to begin on July 16 and run through Sept. 7. The meet will be highlighted by the Travers and Whitney.

In New Jersey, Monmouth Park has pushed back the opening of its stable area until June 1. That’s a month later than the planned opening. Live racing is set to start the Fourth of July weekend.

The centerpiece of Monmouth Park’s summer season is the $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 18. The winner of the 1 1/8 mile race earns a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It also will serve as a prep race for the Kentucky Derby, now slated for Sept. 5.

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.

Bob Baffert wins record 16th Del Mar Futurity with Cave Rock

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Cave Rock won the $302,000 Del Mar Futurity by 5 1/4 lengths, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record 16th victory in the Grade 1 race in which he finished 1-2.

Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Cave Rock ran seven furlongs in a stakes-record time of 1:20.99 on closing day at the seaside track north of San Diego. He lowered the old mark of 1:21.29 set by Declan’s Moon in 2004.

Baffert tied Phil D’Amato for the trainers’ title with 19 wins each at the 31-day summer meet. It was Baffert’s eighth title at Del Mar, but his first since 2003.

Hernandez won the jockeys’ title.

Havnameltdown, also trained by Baffert, finished second in the race for 2-year-olds. Skinner was another 4 1/4 lengths back in third.

Longtime Baffert clients Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman own the first and second-place finishers.

Cave Rock paid $2.80 to win as the 2/5 favorite. He earned $180,000 for the win.