Gaffalione, Maker, Three Diamonds Farm win meet titles

Jennie Rees

(Photos: Tyler Gaffalione earned his first jockey title at Kentucky Downs (Grace Clark photo), while Mike Maker won a record fifth training title (Coady Photography), with Kentucky Downs marketing director John Wholihan presenting the trophies.

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020) — Jockey Tyler Gaffalione and owner Three Diamonds Farm earned their first meet titles at Kentucky Downs, with Mike Maker — who trains for Three Diamonds and frequently uses Gaffalione — winning a record fifth crown at America’s most unique race meet.

Wagering on the final day of the six-date meet totaled $9,487,705 on the 10-race card. That brought totaling wagering over the meet’s 62 races (with another race ruled a no-contest) to $59,828,444, smashing last year’s record $41,239,699 over 50 races and five days.

The RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs paid out $12,337,000 in purses to horse owners.

Gaffalione earned his first Kentucky Downs riding title with 11 victories at the six-date meet that concluded Wednesday. That was five wins more than two-time defending titlist Jose Ortiz and his brother, reigning Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz.

Gaffalione ended the meet with a bang, his three wins Wednesday capped by Guildsman’s victory in the Grade 3 Franklin-Simpson Stakes in his final mount of the meet.

“This was incredible. This is such a fun place to ride,” said Gaffalione, the 2015 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey. “I always enjoy coming here every year. All the credit goes to my agent (Matt Muzikar). He’s really done a great job getting ready for this meet. He told me we were really loaded. I just had to show up and get the job done. A lot of credit goes to all the horsemen who got the horses ready. It was a lot of fun. Hopefully we can do it again next year.”

Maker, already the track’s all-time win leader, earned a record fifth meet training crown with eight victories out of a meet-high 56 starters, including four wins last Saturday. That nipped Wesley Ward’s seven wins out of 31 starts, denying Ward his own fifth title.

Owner Kirk Wycoff’s Three Diamonds Farm earned its first Kentucky Downs owners title with four wins, all trained by Maker.

“It was a good meet, deep and competitive,” Maker said. “Like everything else, wish we’d won a few more but that’s racing. Always fun to come here and to do well. We have so many turf horses. It’s nice that when we can get an abundance of them in on any given day and know we’re coming over here live.”

Maker acknowledged his biggest disappointment was favored Zulu Alpha finishing a rallying third in defense of last year’s triumph in the $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, which was won by Zulu Alpha’s nemesis and 2018 winner Arklow. Both horses now are being pointed to the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 7 at Keeneland.

Maker now has won 63 races in his career at Kentucky Downs. His four-year streak of meet titles ended last year when his three wins were one shy of sharing the crown with Ward, Joe Sharp and Ian Wilkes. But even last year, when he had a track-record 15 seconds, he won the money title at $1.4 million.

Noting that the seconds and thirds can be lucrative at Kentucky Downs, Maker said, “For sure. Pays a lot of bills.”

This year Maker finished fourth in money ($823,321), with that title won by four-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown at $980,375. Until this meet, Brown had run only one horse at Kentucky Downs.

Gaffalione, who turned 26 on Sept. 12, also earned the jockey money title at $1,619,461, including capturing the $500,000, Grade 3 Real Solution Ladies Sprint on Got Stormy and the $500,000 The Mint Juvenile Fillies on Plum Ali. He won at least one race on five of the meet’s six days.

“We always want to be leading rider, but the main thing is they give away so much money so you try to get the money title here more than anything,” Gaffalione said. “But it’s always great to get as many wins as possible. Great venue, great racing here. Lot of class horses showed up. Plum Ali really stands out. Got Stormy ran huge. The other day Miss J McKay (second in Tuesday’s Music City at 11-1) ran a bang-up race in finishing second. It’s been a great meet.”

Kentucky Downs’ top six betting days

$17,437,731 — Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020
$11,321,492 — Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019
$10,039,008 — Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018
$9,487,705 -- Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020
$8,983,981 — Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020
$8,950,973 — Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020