(Photo: Cullum Road, in turquoise and gold silks and blinkers, narrowly lost last year's Dueling Grounds Derby to Channel Cat. Cullum Road is Byron King's pick in the Old Friends Stakes.)
Editor’s note: Byron King is a freelance turf writer, publicist and handicapper based in Louisville who is creating the Kentucky Downs’ morning-line odds and analyzing the stakes races as part of the RUNHAPPY Meet’s publicity team. Horseplayers and racing enthusiasts across the country are well familiar with King’s writing, reporting and wagering acumen from his years of work for Daily Racing Form, including covering and handicapping Kentucky Downs for the past two decades. He also brings in the knowledge of being a horse owner with extensive bloodstock experience.
Revised Old Friends Stakes Analysis
By Byron King
Scratches from several key entrants have changed the complexion of Thursday’s renewal of the Old Friends Stakes at Kentucky Downs. These scratches did allow a couple of “also eligibles” to move into the field, though these horses, Space Mountain and Zero Gravity, are outsiders.
The value-based choice is CULLUM ROAD (#2, 6-1 on my revised morning line). He narrowly missed over the Kentucky Downs turf course last year when second, beaten a head, in the Dueling Grounds Derby to eventual Bowling Green winner Channel Cat. That day he outran the public’s expectations at odds in excess of 19-1, finishing 3 ¼ lengths clear of the third-place finisher.
The affinity he displayed for the course suggests the horse could bounce back from a couple of disappointing efforts in his last two races. He picks up Saratoga’s leading rider, Jose Ortiz, who topped the Kentucky Downs standings in 2018.
Those strengths noted, his last couple of races have been disappointing, a ninth in the Grade 2 Wise Dan and a sixth in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap but neither race seemed to set up to his liking, particularly the Arlington Handicap, when he was hung wide when racing close to a slow pace.
MULTIPLIER (#4, 4-1) was sixth in a prior appearance at Kentucky Downs last year, though in the signature race of the meet, the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup, and after being too aggressive early going 1 ½ miles. The mile-and-70-yards distance of the Old Friends seems to better suit him. His finest efforts this year have come between a mile and a mile and sixteenth.
MR. MISUNDERSTOOD (#3, 2-1) is 11 for 18 on grass but is winless in both of his races in 2019, both times as the favorite. A wide trip likely cost him last out when third at Ellis Park Aug. 4 in the Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile, and he may be ready to improve upon that effort in the third start of his current form cycle.
One concern for those backing him as the likely favorite is that he was an even-paced third over this turf course last year when racing in the Tourist Mile.
FLIGHT TIME (#9, 15-1) was a star in Brazil, winning all of his five races there, including a Group 1, before a dull eighth in his U.S. bow. He adds blinkers, a good statistical angle for trainer Kenny McPeek. He should also benefit from some acclimation to U.S. racing.
Thursday’s early scratches
1st race: #13 Big Egypt, #13 Hard Count
2nd race: #5 Get Em Up Scout; #14 Vedelago, #15 Sparky’s Surprise, #16, Lieutenant Colonel. Note: #13 Mongol Bull will run.
3rd race: #13 Falkirk, #14 Gold Czar, #15 Most Sandisfactory, #16 Invader
4th race: #6, Breezy Bee, #14 Artistic. Note: #13 Rushingirl will run.
5th race: #11 Silver Prospector, #13 Cruel Summer, #15 Da Gold Room, #16 Blackberry Wine. Note: #14 Hansens Mischief will run.
6th race: #13 Violation, #14 Angel Alessandra
7th race: #13 Citrus Bloom, #14 Craft Woods, #15 Urban Fairytale, #16 Mom’s Pass
8th race: #4 Aquaphobia, #9 Penalty, #14 Lusitano, #15, El Rubio, #16 Sailing Solo. Note: #13 Tigers Rule will run.
9th race (Old Friends Stakes): #5 Catapult, #8 Master Merion, #12 Undrafted. Note: #13 Space Mountain, #14 Zero Gravity will run
Byron King's revised morning-line for the $250,000 Old Friends Stakes
pp horse odds
1 Hot Springs 12-1
2 Cullum Road 6-1
3 Mr. Misunderstood 2-1
4 Multiplier 4-1
5 Catapult SCRATCH
6 Get Western 10-1
7 Lamartine 12-1
8 Master Merion SCRATCH
9 Flight Time 15-1
10 Choo Choo 15-1
11 The Tabulator 12-1
12 Undrafted SCRATCH
13 Space Mountain 15-1
14 Zero Gravity 15-1