Photo: Zulu Alpha winning last year's $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup. Grace Clark photo
FRANKLIN, Ky. (Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2020) — The fields are set for America’s biggest day of turf racing this year outside the Breeders’ Cup, with a sensational stakes quintet on tap Saturday at the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs.
Each stakes on the Calumet Farm Day program is worth at least $500,000, with the four Grade 3 stakes highlighted by the $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles. The other graded stakes are the $700,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint at six furlongs, whose winner will receive a fees-paid spot in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Nov. 7 at Keeneland as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series’ “Win and You’re In” program, along with the $500,000 English Channel Ladies Turf at a mile, the $500,000 Real Solution Ladies Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs and the $500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs.
The Kentucky Turf Cup is headed by Michael Hui's 2019 winner Zulu Alpha and Donegal Racing's 2018 winner Arklow. Both became Grade 1 winners after their 1-2 finish a year ago at Kentucky Downs, with Arklow winning Belmont Park’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in his next start and Zulu Alpha taking Gulfstream Park’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf in January.
Zulu Alpha will try to join Rochester and Da Big Hoss as the only repeat winners in Kentucky Turf Cup history, which dates to the first year the track opened in 1990.
"He had a maintenance work on Monday, and I'm marking the days off on the calendar to race day," said trainer Mike Maker. "I've got to say he's coming into the race this year even better than last, because he's had such a great year."
Said Hui: "I spoke with Mike, obviously about Zulu, because I always ask about him first. He says he's never been better and expects him to have his usual performance where he always shows up. He loves Kentucky Downs. As far as the post (10), I'm glad he drew outside rather than the inside, and he'll get a good look at Arklow (post 5) in his new blinkers."
Here’s a closer look on the Calumet Farm Day Stakes:
$500,000, Grade 3 English Channel Ladies Turf at a mile (7th race, 3:27 p.m. Central): Chad Brown, the future Hall of Famer who is a presence at this meet for the first time, already has one stakes win with Flavius in Monday’s $750,000 Tourist Mile. Now he’s got 9-5 favorite Regal Glory in this race for fillies and mares. Regal Glory is a multiple graded-stakes winner, taking last year’s Grade 2 Lake Placid and Grade 3 Lake George at Saratoga, along with two other stakes at age 3. In two starts this year she was second to her talented stablemate Newspaperofrecord in Belmont’s Grade 3 Intercontinental and fourth to her in the Grade 1 Just a Game. Brown also entered 5-1 Tapit Today, who finished most recently was a good fourth in Monmouth Park’s Grade 3 Matchmaker.
Secret Message won Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Mint Julep for trainer Graham Motion, whose horses always must be respected. A Grade 2 winner in Woodbine’s Nassau Stakes last year, Secret Message was a decent sixth in Keeneland’s very tough edition of the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley, then a good third in Saratoga’s Perfect Sting.
English Affair earned a free spot in this race by virtue of taking Ellis Park’s Kentucky Downs Ladies Preview at 14-1 odds over soft turf. English Affair was to be cross-entered in Sunday’s $500,000 TVG Stakes (formerly the Ladies Marathon). Trainer Rusty Arnold last year won two stakes, including the RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint with Totally Boss, who is back this year.
Lady Apple certainly has the back class but has been off form this year in four races since taking the Grade 3 Houston Ladies Classic. If the surface change does the trick, she could be formidable at a price. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Lady Apple is a multiple graded-stakes winner who finished third in last year’s Kentucky Oaks. She’s also the only millionaire in the field of 12, with one also-eligible.
Mitchell Road is out of the same mare as 2019 adjudged Kentucky Derby winner Country House. She got back in the win column in taking the Ellis Park Turf but struggled over soft turf in the Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf. The firm turf should suit her much better.
Ask Bailey is 20-1 in the morning line and could provide value in the exotic wagers as she figures to come flying late. The Mike Maker-trained Ask Bailey was second in last year’s 2-year-old filly stakes at a mile.
Here is the field in post position order with jockey/trainer and morning-line odds: Mitchell Road (Luis Saez/Bill Mott 8-1), Princess Causeway (Chris Landeros/Ian Wilkes 15-1), Tapit Today (Javier Castellano/Chad Brown 5-1), English Affair (Rafael Bejarano/Rusty Arnold 6-1), Frond (Gerardo Corrales/Ben Colebrook 20-1), Regal Glory (Jose Ortiz/Chad Brown 9-5), Lady Apple (Ricardo Santana/Steve Asmussen 6-1), Secret Message (John Velazquez/Graham Motion 4-1).
$500,000, G3 Real Solution Ladies Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs (8th race 3:59 p.m. Central): The Ladies Sprint provides a scintillating showdown among Got Stormy, the 2-1 favorite in the overflow field of 15, and Into Mystic and Kimari. The Mark Casse-trained Got Stormy has consistently been tough competing against males in Grade 1 races, including winning last year’s Fourstardave at Saratoga and finishing second in her title defense this year, along with a second in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile. Now she'll sprint for the first time in her glorious career that has seen her earn $1.6 million to date. Kimari, trained by Wesley Ward, has only been beaten once in the United States, and that was when a good fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Santa Anita. Whether intended as a prep or not, Ward has effectively used England’s Royal Ascot meet, where Kimari was second for the second time in a prestigious race this year, as a stepping stone to Kentucky Downs victory. Into Mystic was sent to trainer Brendan Walsh in Kentucky with the Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Sprint (check off win) and this stakes in mind. She’s a very fast horse who in May was a good fourth in Santa Anita’s Grade 2 Monrovia, whose 1-2 finishers were the talented Jolie Olimpica and Oleksandra. That effort came after she won a 3 1/2-furlong allowance race in a mixed-breed race against quarter horses on dirt at Los Alamitos.
The rest of the field isn’t shabby, including Intuicao making her first U.S. start after racing in Brazil, and stakes-winners Cariba, Mentality, I’llhandalthecash, Winning Envelope, Quebec and Jakarta. (A note on Jolie Olimpica: She was to run in this race but spiked a temperature before she was scheduled to fly out from California.)
Here is the field in post position order with jockey/trainer and morning-line odds: Intuicao (Florent Geroux, Paulo Lobo 20-1), I’llhandalthecash (Jose Ortiz/Raymond Handal 20-1), Winning Envelope (Julien Leparoux/Chris Block 20-1), Quebec (Adam Beschizza/Joe Sharp 30-1), Change of Control (Colby Hernandez/Michelle Lovell 15-1), Mentality (Gerardo Corrales/Wesley Ward 15-1), Cariba (Irad Ortiz/Christophe Clement 8-1), Got Stormy (Tyler Gaffalione/Mark Casse 2-1), Into Mystic (Joe Talamo/Brendan Walsh 6-1), Jakarta (Luis Saez/Mike Maker 10-1), Kimari (Julio Garcia/Wesley Ward 4-1), Surrender Now (Ricardo Santana/Steve Asmussen 15-1). Also eligible: Dixieincandyland (Javier Castellano/Eddie Kenneally 30-1), Lady Lawyer (Joel Rosario/Chad Brown) 15-1, Bohemian Bourbon (Julien Leparoux/Ian Wilkes 20-1)
$500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs (ninth race, 4:32 p.m. Central): A good way to bet is trainer Wesley Ward, who won the first two runnings of this stakes with fillies. With 2-year-old fillies now having their stakes on Sunday, Ward has only colts in this spot this year but they are the two favorites in Saratoga turf debut winner Outadore (2-1) and Fauci (5-2), who won a Keeneland maiden race on turf and was second in Saratoga’s Skidmore on grass.
Another interesting horse is 9-2 third choice County Final, who won his debut on grass at Churchill Downs then was second in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor on dirt. Transferred to Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, County Final romped in Monmouth Park’s off-the-turf Tyro Stakes. Asmussen also entered Cowan, who will try turf for the first time.
Trainer Valerie Lund brings Bodenheimer in from Minnesota, where he won his first start on turf by 11 1/4 lengths and then took Iowa’s Prairie Gold Juvenile on dirt by a neck.
Here is the field in post position order with jockey/trainer and morning-line odds: Baytown Bear (Jack Gilligan/Paul McEntee 50-1), Perfect Mistake (Jack Gilligan, Paul McEntee 50-1), Perfect Mistake (Rafael Bejarano/John Ortiz 20-1), Petit Verdot (Joe Talamo/John Ennis 15-1), County Five (Jose Ortiz/Steve Asmussen 9-2), Boss Bear (Luis Saez/Mike Maker 20-1), Bodenheimer (Brian Hernandez/Valorie Lund 6-1), Scorsese (Tyler Baze/James Chapman 50-1), Cowan (Ricardo Santana/Steve Asmussen 8-1), Outadore (Irad Ortiz/Wesley Ward 2-1), Fauci (Tyler Gaffalione/Wesley Ward 5-2).
Grade 3, $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles (10th race, post time 5:04 p.m. Central): Zulu Alpha, a very good fourth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, has made a claim as being America’s best distance turf horse after winning the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf and tacking on Grade 2 victories in Gulfstream Park’s Mac Diarmida and Keeneland’s Elkhorn. His only defeat in four starts was by a neck to stablemate Bemma’s Boy in Gulfstream’s Pan American (G2).
Arklow is trying to regain his 2019 form, and trainer Brad Cox has been pleased how the 6-year-old horse has responded in training to the addition of blinkers.
While Zulu Alpha and Arklow’s rematch is the main story line, the supporting cast is solid in the field of 12, with four other horses needing scratches to run. Others in the race include stakes-winners Postulation, the 2017 Kentucky Turf Cup runner-up; Eons, Red Knight, He’s No Lemon and stakes sponsor Calumet Farm’s American Tattoo.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the New York-bred 12-1 shot Red Knight is making his first start since January.
"I'm actually a little worried about Red Knight," said Mike Maker, Zulu Alpha's trainer. "He had plenty of options up there (in New York) and they chose to come down here. You have to respect that. Look at the horses he's been running with."
Maker also is running Grand Journey, who has been training with Zulu Alpha. "I said that as good as he's working, there are not very many options for him so take a shot."
Here’s the field in post-position order with jockey, trainer and morning-line odds): Changi (Tyler Baze/Jeanne Dolan 50-1), Red Knight (Luis Saez, Bill Mott 12-1), Grand Journey (Irad Ortiz/Mike Maker 15-1), Eons (Flavien Prat/Arnaud Delacour 20-1), Arklow (Florent Geroux/Brad Cox 9-2), Postulation (Julien Leparoux/Michael Matz 8-1), He’s No Lemon (Javier Castellano, Graham Motion 10-1), Bundibunan (James Graham/Ignacio Correas 30-1), American Tattoo (Adam Beschizza/Jack Sisterson 30-1), Zulu Alpha (Tyler Gaffalione/Mike Maker 7-5), Standard Deviation (John Velazquez/Graham Motion 12-1), Hierarchy (Corey Lanerie/Joe Sharp 12-1). Also eligible: Celerity (Gabriel Saez/Waylon Cundiff 50-1), Tintoretto (Joe Talamo/Michael McCarthy 30-1), Perfect Tapatino (Adam Beschizza/Roger Attfield 50-1), Surprise Twist (Joel Rosario/Arnaud Delacour 50-1).
Grade 3, $700,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint at six furlongs (race 11, 5:36 p.m. Central): This is a fantastic betting race with 2019 winner Totally Boss a hefty 9-2 favorite over a trio of 5-1 choices in the intriguing Front Run the Fed, multiple graded-stakes winner Kanthaka and last year’s Tourist Mile winner Bound for Nowhere.
Totally Boss has raced only twice this year, most recently rallying strongly only to lose Keeneland’s Grade 2 Shakertown by a head to his Rusty Arnold-trained stablemate Leinster. Totally Boss could join Hold the Salt (2008-2009) as the only repeat winner of the stakes.
Bound for Nowhere scratched out of last Saturday’s $250,000 turf sprint at Churchill Downs to run for the bigger purse. He also has run twice this year, a pair of narrow losses that included third by a total of a neck in the Shakertown. Front Run the Fed, coming in off a Belmont Park allowance race, will be flying late as he seeks to win for the fifth time in his last seven starts. Kanthaka, who was briefly on the Kentucky Derby trail in 2018 while based in California, has raced just once this year, finishing second by a head to the classy mare Oleksandra in Belmont’s Grade 1 Jaipur in his first start for trainer Graham Motion.
Stubbins was second in last year’s Grade 3 Franklin-Simpson at Kentucky Downs behind his Doug O’Neill-trained stablemate Legends of War then beat older horses in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Woodford and finished a fast-flying fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Imprimis, fourth in last year’s RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint, has raced only once this year, finishing first in Saratoga’s Troy Stakes only to be disqualified to third.
Archidust is 2 for 2, in a pair of small stakes at Monmouth Park, since being sent to trainer Steve Asmussen. He was fourth in last year’s Grade 3 Franklin-Simpson in his only prior turf start.
American Anthem makes his first start for trainer Mike Maker and first start on turf. The 6-year-old horse was a two-time Grade 2 winner on dirt when trained by Bob Baffert and most recently was third in New York’s Grade 1 Carter for trainer Danny Gargan.
Chicago shipper Richiesinthehouse boasts 14 wins out of 21 starts, including going 12 for 16 on synthetic surfaces.
Here is the field in post position order with jockey/trainer and morning-line odds: Renaissance Frolic (James Graham/Saffie Joseph 50-1), Stubbins (Joel Rosario/Doug O’Neill 6-1), Front Run the Fed (Javier Castellano/Chad Brown 5-1), Totally Boss (Florent Geroux/Rusty Arnold 9-2), Bombard (Flavien Prat/Richard Mandella 20-1), Kanthaka (Jose Ortiz/Graham Motion 5-1), American Anthem (Tyler Gaffalione/Mike Maker 12-1), Bon Raison (Adam Beschizza/Jack Sisterson 30-1), Imprimis (Irad Ortiz/Joe Orseno 8-1), Richiesinthehouse (Brian Hernandez/Larry Rivelli 15-1), Archidust (Ricardo Santana/Steve Asmussen 12-1), Bound for Nowhere (Julio Garcia/Wesley Ward 5-1). Also eligible: Tiger Blood (Tyler Gaffalione/Mike Maker 20-1), Fast Boat (Adam Beschizza/Joe Sharp 15-1), Hollis (Gabriel Saez/John Ortiz 30-1), Admiral Lynch (Luis Saez/Mike Maker 15-1) .