Great Wide Open gets another crack at Tourist Mile

Jennie Rees

Co-owner and trainer Conor Murphy has learned that 2018 Tourist Mile runner-up Great Wide Open does not do well in the summer. Hence the 7-year-old gelding comes into this year’s $750,000 edition of the stakes on Saturday’s opening card at the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs off of a five-month layoff since finishing sixth in Keeneland’s Grade Maker’s 46 Mile. Murphy said his objective is the Tourist Mile and Keeneland’s $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile a month later, a Grade 1 race in which Great Wide Open was second last year at 81-1 odds behind Kentucky Downs’ Old Friends Stakes winner Next Shares. Next Shares also is scheduled to contest the Tourist Mile.

“He does well fresh,” said Murphy, who has gotten his wish for some rain in advance of the meet. “He doesn’t need it soft. He just doesn’t like it rock hard. That’s why I gave him the summer off. He had a busy year last year. The race at Ellis is an ideal prep, but it’s rock hard. So we just kept him fresh for this.”

Great Wide Open comes into this year’s Tourist Mile a stakes-winner, having concluded 2018 with victory in the Fair Grounds’ $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial.

“We learned a lot about him last year,” Murphy said. “We learned what he likes and what he doesn’t like. The idea was to run him through the winter. Even though we were running a mile and an eighth in the Fair Grounds Handicap (in which he was fourth) and he doesn’t want to go that far, we were keeping him going for the race at Keeneland. I actually think he was over the top at Keeneland, so in hindsight, I probably ran him a bit too much over the winter. But we know he doesn’t like firm, firm turf. Now he’s won on firm turf. But against the highest level (of competition), he likes a bit of give.”

Murphy said he’d also consider the $750,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs a week later on the off chance that the grass seems too firm Saturday.

“He’s not a true sprinter, but Kentucky Downs is a unique track obviously,” he said. “Look, the Tourist Mile is the main objective. But I don’t want the ground really firm.”

Photo: Great Wide Open, with James Graham aboard, won the Fair Grounds' Buddy Diliberto Stakes in December. Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir