Photos: Arklow, with Florent Geroux, won the Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup for the second time in three years. Coady Photography
FRANKLIN, Ky. (Monday, Sept. 14, 2020) — Donegal Racing founder Jerry Crawford considered Zulu Alpha the top distance turf horse in at least America heading into last Saturday’s $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup. After Donegal's Arklow upset his old rival to win the Grade 3, 1 1/2-mile stakes for the second time in the three years, Crawford slightly amended his assessment.
Wearing blinkers for the first time in 29 career races, the 6-year-old Arklow laid up close to the pace under Florent Geroux and took command through the long stretch for a 1 1/4-length victory over Red Knight. Zulu Alpha was another length back in third after coming from near-last.
“We have nothing but respect for Zulu Alpha,” Crawford said of the 2019 Kentucky Turf Cup winner to whom Arklow was second in last year’s running of the track’s richest race. “He was the best mile-and-a-half turf horse in the world coming into the Kentucky Turf Cup. But if you beat the best, then you’re in the conversation.”
Crawford won’t get any disagreement from Michael Hui, who claimed Zulu Alpha for $80,000 two years ago with the 2019 Kentucky Turf Cup in mind and now has earned more than $2 million with the gelding.
“I think he was in the conversation anyway, just because of his trainer,” Hui said of Arklow’s trainer, Brad Cox.
The Mike Maker-trained Zulu Alpha started his 7-year-old season with a victory over an international field in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 1, $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf, in which Arklow was fifth. Saturday marked the 10th time the horses had squared off, the two evenly split 5-5 for number of times finishing in front of the other.
Now the focus for both horses is squarely on the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 7 at Keeneland. Arklow won a maiden race at Keeneland and was second in the 2018 Grade 2 Sycamore, won by Zulu Alpha in the gelding’s first race for Hui. Zulu Alpha also won Keeneland’s July 12 Elkhorn in his last start before Saturday’s race.
“Zulu is good, he was bouncing around the barn cooling out, had a lot of energy,” Hui said of the defeat. “You could tell he knew he didn’t win. It’s onward; we’ll move on. We’re just going to stick with the playbook we laid out after he won the Pegasus.”
Both horses have been fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf; Arklow in 2018 at Churchill Downs and Zulu Alpha last year at Santa Anita.
Zulu Alpha will train up to this Breeders’ Cup, Hui said. Arklow could run back in New York’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, which the horse won last year to become a Grade 1 winner.
“Our next decision is: Do we go to the Joe Hirsch in three weeks and then give him five weeks to the Breeders’ Cup? Do we just train him up to the Breeders’ Cup?” Crawford said. “Brad is very, very pleased with the way he came out of the race. You want him to be fresh going into the Breeders’ Cup, but you don’t want him to be stale. To figure that out is the next challenge.”
Arklow crashed through the $2 million mark for earnings and now has made $2,446,116, the vast majority in his 24 turf starts spanning seven wins, six seconds and a third.
“I have a lot of confidence going forward with the equipment change that we’re going to see more of the old Arklow,” Crawford said.
Crawford said that as much as bragging on Arklow, he wanted to praise stakes-sponsor Calumet Farm, Calumet owner Brad Kelley and Kentucky Downs. Crawford said that they make it possible “so that we can brag on horses like him.
“Kentucky Downs is one of the niftiest racetracks anywhere. What they do to make it so lucrative, the sport would be nowhere without them.”
Orseno shooting for a second stakes victory of meet
Four days after winning the $700,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint with Imprimis, trainer Joe Orseno will try to win another Grade 3 sprint stakes with 15-1 shot Another Miracle in Wednesday’s closing-day $500,000 Franklin-Simpson for 3-year-olds.
This will be Another Miracle’s third start for Orseno, who received the colt from longtime clients Leonard and Jon Green upon the retirement of Gary Contessa. Another Miracle won a stakes at Saratoga as a 2-year-old and was third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
“Believe it or not, I got Another Miracle because of Imprimis,” Orseno said. “They were talking about where the horses should go. Jon said to his dad, ‘Listen, Joe knows what to do. He campaigned Imprimis flawlessly. He knows horses like this.’ I think I can campaign any horse, but that was nice and I got him because of that, and I’m OK with that.”
Orseno only had Another Miracle 12 days when he ran in Gulfstream Park’s March 21 Texas Glitter Stakes, when Another Miracle missed the break, then hit the gate and generally had a bad trip the rest of the way in finishing seventh.
“It was just a throwout race,” he said. “I told Jon, ‘I think I just need to regroup with this horse and get to know him.’ We dropped back and gelded the horse, which he needed tremendously.”
Back in July 12 at Monmouth Park, Another Miracle won the $80,000 My Frenchman Stakes.
"He’s a different horse,” Orseno said of the son of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. “He’s very happy now. Listen, he was third in the Breeders’ Cup last year so he doesn’t have to get too much better to have a good campaign. I’m expecting a big race from him. He loves where he’s at at Kentucky Downs. He’s a horse who is really thriving.
“He’s 15-1 for a reason. There are some quality horses in there. But they’re all 3-year-olds. This is the time of the year where some get better. I like to think my horse will get better off one race for me.”
With jockey Paco Lopez serving a suspension, Gerardo Corrales has picked up the mount on Another Miracle. Corrales, in his first year riding at Kentucky Downs, has won four of 13 starts.
Meanwhile, Orseno said he’s delighted with how Imprimis came out of his victory. The 6-year-old gelding earned a fees-paid spot in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland with his neck victory over Bombard and Front Run the Fed, who dead-heated for second. Imprimis won last year’s Grade 2 Shakertown and was third in last fall’s Grade 2 Woodford at Keeneland. He came in sixth in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.
Imprimis had surgery for correct a breathing obstruction and didn’t start his 2020 season until Saratoga’s Grade 3 Troy Stakes, in which he was disqualified from first to third. The RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint was his second start of the year.
“He looks fantastic,” Orseno said. “Everything says we’re leaning and pushing toward the Breeders’ Cup. So we’ll start to get him ready. He likes Keeneland, and if it’s a little soft, it doesn’t bother him. And it could be soft on Nov. 7.
“Last year his first race in the Silks Run (at Gulfstream) was just phenomenal, and he came back and won the Shakertown at Keeneland,” Orseno said. “It looked like he was on his way. We got a little sidetracked, took him to Royal Ascot. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best thing for the horse, but we wanted to try it. It just didn’t work. Getting him back off of that was the tough part. So it’s really gratifying, especially knowing some of the work we did to him and bringing him back. You never know when you do all that with a horse. You hope and pray he’s the same horse. But a lot of them come back and they’re not.”
Orseno thinks Imprimis is a better horse this year “all the way around.
“His coat and his weight he’s carrying, he’s very happy,” he said. “I think it all goes with the time off, what we did and the horse was not getting all his air — and now he’s getting all his air and he’s very happy.”
Orseno said he’ll go into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with a good measure of confidence.
“I knew I won the race, but I didn’t realize the trip he got until I watched the replay a bunch of times,” he said of the RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint. “For him at the top of the stretch to be where he was and to swing out seven-wide — I know it’s a long stretch and you still have a quarter-mile to go — but I think he overcame a lot in that race in running them down. I was really pleased with that.”
Drury’s big year summer could get bigger with Lady Edith
Trainer Tommy Drury is preparing Kentucky Downs 2-year-old maiden winner Art Collector for the Preakness Stakes after having to miss the Kentucky Derby with a minor foot injury. Owned by Bruce Lunsford, Art Collector will come into the 1 3/16-mile Preakness off four straight wins, capped by Keeneland’s Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass and the $200,000 Ellis Park Derby. But in the interim, Drury will send out Ellis Park debut winner Lady Edith in Tuesday’s $400,000 Untapable Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, one of three stakes on tap after the entire 11-race card was moved from Sunday because of heavy rainfall.
Owned by Dr. David Richardson and Sandra New, Lady Edith won at Ellis Park eight days after Art Collector gave Drury his first graded-stakes victory. The Untapable has been the plan ever since.
“She seems like she’s really done well,” Drury said Monday at Churchill Downs. “Her first race was spectacular. She broke good and sharp that day and just kind of towed him around there. It looked like from the sixteenth pole to the wire it looked like she might have gotten a little bit lost, which first-timers will do. Brian (Hernandez) said she let off the accelerator a little bit, but she won the race. Her works since then have been spectacular. She seems like she’s put a little weight on. Everything about her says she’s a young horse going the right way right now.”
Lady Edith, a daughter of Street Boss, won her first start by 2 1/4 lengths.
“Looking at the race, it’s basically a ‘non-winners of two’ for $400,000,” Drury said of the Untapable. “For that kind of money, you have to take advantage of that. You’ve got to give her the opportunity; that’s what we’re trying to do. But I think we fit. I think there are a lot of horses who look similar to us. We certainly have respect for them, but I would guess they probably have just as much respect for us.
“That’s what it’s all about this time of year, the young horses and the 2-year-olds. People are getting excited and thinking about the future. A lot of us are wondering in the back of our minds if this could be the horse we’d been waiting on. Kentucky Downs is going to give us the opportunity to try to answer some of those questions.”
With Hernandez serving a suspension, Lady Edith will be ridden by Hernandez’ brother, Colby, who is riding full-time in Kentucky for the first year after previously being based in their native Louisiana.
“Colby is very capable, and I’m certainly happy to have him,” Drury said, joking of his pal, “He’s a little quieter than Brian is, so he’s easier to deal with. I said it for a long time that Brian was the best-kept secret in Kentucky and he was easy to get. You always felt good when you had him because he’s such a smart rider. Now I feel the same way about Colby. If you look at the guys using Colby, it’s Al Stall, some of the better trainers. They know. He just needs an opportunity. I’m more than confident having him on her.”
Galloping out ...
Heading into the final two days of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs, Tyler Gaffalione (8 for 31) has a three-win lead over Irad Ortiz (5 for 18) in the jockey standings. Ortiz, in his first meet at Kentucky Downs, won four races Saturday, including on Imprimis.
Mike Maker, the track’s all-time win leader, won four races Saturday to pull one win ahead of Wesley Ward, who then won the $500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Sprint with Outadore to even matters 6-6 atop the trainer standings. Brad Cox and Chad Brown are next with three wins apiece.
Three Diamonds Farms, with Maker their trainer, leads the owner standings with three wins.