The gray Harvey's Lil Goil beat Micheline to take Keeneland's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup after being second to Micheline in Kentucky Downs' Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks. Bodenheimer, with Brian Hernandez Jr. up, won Keeneland's Indian Summer after finishing fifth in Kentucky Downs' Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint. Coady Photography photos
FRANKLIN, Ky. (Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020) — With the Breeders’ Cup World Championships less than a month away, horses coming out of races at Kentucky Downs were in the spotlight the past two weekends while taking prep races at Breeders’ Cup host site Keeneland, Belmont Park and Pimlico.
Kentucky Downs’ racing program produced its two latest Grade 1 winners with Harvey’s Lil Goil taking Keeneland’s $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup this past Saturday, a week after Ivar captured Keeneland’s $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile. Harvey’s Lil Goil, with Martin Garcia riding for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, turned the tables on Micheline in the QEII, reversing the 1-2 finish in Kentucky Downs’ $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks.
The Brazilian-bred Ivar, a Grade 1 winner on turf and dirt last year in Argentina, finished a competitive third in Kentucky Downs’ $750,000 Tourist Mile but was an authoritative winner of the Shadwell, for which trainer Paulo Lobo took off the blinkers. Ivar was Lobo’s only starter at Kentucky Downs this year after racing two horses last year in his first time at the track. He said Kentucky Downs seems to set horses up well for their next start.
“Racing at Kentucky Downs doesn’t take anything away from them,” Lobo said. “It had (Ivar) at 100-percent peak for the Shadwell Mile…. I haven’t won there yet (at Kentucky Downs), but I love it.”
Because the Shadwell is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series event, Ivar earned a fees-paid spot in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Fanduel Mile (G1) on turf Nov. 7.
“That was a remarkable performance, and Paulo knew he had that in him,” said jockey Joe Talamo, who rode Ivar for the third straight race, a sequence that started with a front-running Churchill Downs allowance win before the Tourist Mile. “At Kentucky Downs, I was very impressed he stayed on to run third that day because he was pressed the whole way through some pretty quick fractions. At Keeneland with the blinkers off, he was able to settle nice. He finished with authority. If he replicates that same race, he should have a real good shot in the Breeders’ Cup.
“I think you’re just going to see better and better quality horses run there and come out of those races and do some big things,” said Talamo, who this year rode at Kentucky Downs for the first time. “I imagine quite a few more of those races are going to be graded or upgraded in a short period of time. Not only are the purses so big, but that’s drawing really high-quality horses that are eventually going to win Grade 1 and Grade 2 races.”
Other Kentucky Downs “graduates” in the news:
Got Stormy, emphatic winner of Kentucky Downs’ Grade 3, $500,000 Real Solution Ladies Sprint on soft turf in her first time sprinting, further enhanced her bona fides for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) against males on Nov. 7 by taking this past Friday’s Buffalo Trace Franklin County (G3) by a nose over Into Mystic, the third-place finisher in the Ladies Sprint. Rounding out the trifecta was Jakarta, who won a $25,000 starter-allowance race carrying a $100,000 at Kentucky Downs.
“Obviously the caliber of horses that have run down there and gone on to do so well, it just shows you the strength of the racing,” said David Carroll, who runs trainer Mark Casse’s Churchill Downs division where Got Stormy is stabled.
Casse has not discounted running Got Stormy in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, in which she finished second last year, if the weather forecast would seem to indicate firm turf.
The Christophe Clement-trained Plum Ali, winner of Kentucky Downs’ $500,000 The Mint Juvenile Fillies, ran her record to 3 for 3 by taking Belmont Park’s Grade 2 Miss Grillo by 2 1/4 lengths on Oct. 4. The performance further enhanced her claim as one of the favorites, if not the favorite, for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) on Nov. 6.
"Christophe always said to me she was the nicest 2-year-old turf filly in the barn,” co-owner Michael Dubb said after the Miss Grillo. “We knew this winter when was she on the farm that she was above average, but we didn't know how good she was.”
Bodenheimer earned a free roll in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) on Nov. 6 by taking Keeneland’s $150,000 Indian Summer in stakes-record time (1:02.70 for 5 1/2 furlongs) by a length over Cowan on Oct. 4. The speedy Bodenheimer had finished fifth while seeming to struggle over the soft turf in Kentucky Downs’ $500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint, a race in which Cowan was third. Now 3 for 4, the Washington-bred Bodenheimer is a son of trainer Valorie Lund’s former Washington-bred sprint star Atta Boy Roy.
"This is a really nice 2-year-old," Lund said, adding of the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland, "He's already been on the course, he showed tremendous speed, handled the course. Basically it's the exact same race we're going to be running. Every good juvenile turf sprinter in the country will be in there, but he is legitimate. I think he has a very, very live shot to win."
Bodenheimer was the first starter at Kentucky Downs for Lund, who is moving her main base from Arizona and Minnesota to Kentucky. Even if she didn't get the outcome she'd hoped for with Bodeheimer, she said she's looking forward to running more at Kentucky Downs.
"I thought it was a really fun atmosphere," Lund said. "It was really neat, other than the fact that it poured rain on us. But the place is adorable. The good horses, the best horses are going to go where they have the chance to earn the most money, and Kentucky Downs certainly is that."
Three Chimneys’ Royal Approval, winner of a Kentucky Downs maiden race by 6 1/4 lengths, captured Belmont Park’s $100,000, Grade 3 Matron on Sunday by three-quarters of a length over Union Gables. Trainer Wesley Ward, who ranks second all-time in wins at Kentucky Downs, said Royal Approval will target the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf at a mile Nov. 6.
Ward also finished second by a half-length Sunday in Belmont’s Grade 3 Futurity with After Five, who lost his debut at Kentucky Downs by a nose. He's hoping he can get After Five in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
Ward says Kentucky Downs is both a major objective for his horses but also a great launching pad to other stakes.
“It’s a very safe track -- a big, wide track," he said. "The horses, especially the 2-year-olds, they learn a lot being down there with the undulating surface they have. You kind of go right and left. It’s like a county fair, but a very tranquil setting for a racehorse. It’s just a great place, and they give away a lot of money.
"..After Five is a very nice horse. He was unlucky not to win the other day (in New York); he got in all kinds of trouble. But I think that run at Kentucky Downs helped him to where he wasn't so anxious, that he was able to settle a little bit more. If he'd been a half-length better, I think he'd be one of the top few choices for the Breeders' Cup."
Mike Maker, Kentucky Downs’ all-time win leader who earned a fifth training crown this meet, won a pair of stakes on the Oct. 3 Preakness undercard with horses coming out of Kentucky Downs. Catman, off of a second in a maiden race, won Pimlico’s $150,000 Laurel Futurity and now is being pointed for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Evil Lyn won the $100,000 Hilltop after taking eighth in the Music City for 3-year-old filly sprinters.
Fluffy Socks, who in a maiden race gave four-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown his first career victory at Kentucky Downs, won right back in Pimlico’s $150,000 Selima Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.