Photo: Next Shares, at 23-1, beats Great Wide Open (81-1) to win Keeneland's $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile, producing a $984 Kentucky Downs exacta. Coady Photography)
Old Friends winner Next Shares and Tourist Mile runner-up Great Wide Open made it a lucrative Kentucky Downs exacta ($984 for $1) in Saturday’s $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Next Shares went off at 23-1 odds when he defeated 81-1 shot Great Wide Open by 3 1/4 lengths.
Both could make their next start in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs. If all goes well, Next Shares will take advantage of his getting an entry fees-paid berth in the Breeders' Cup for winning the Challenge Series race. Great Wide Open will be considered, said trainer and co-owner Conor Murphy.
Though he had a close second and third in previous Grade 1 races, Next Shares hadn’t won a stakes of any type until he took Kentucky Downs’ $250,000 Old Friends Stakes, which was for horses who hadn’t won a stakes race in 2018. That earned him a shot at the Shadwell, where his victory gives him an entry fees-paid spot in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf at Churchill Downs Nov. 3.
“He won pretty nicely, hopefully he can do it again,” said trainer Richard Baltas, who got Next Shares after his owners purchased him for $190,000 at Keeneland’s 2017 November sale. “He’s a gelding, so we’ll probably race him one more time, put him away and get him ready for next year. He might like a little more ‘cut’ in the ground, the way he ran at Kentucky Downs and the way he ran here. We had a lot of rain Thursday, but it dried out nicely and the turf course was perfect.
“I had a lot of confidence in this horse. He had his career-best (handicapping number at Kentucky Downs). And his best number was as good as anybody else in the race. The way he was training, I had a little bit of confidence. But I’m not a betting man. I let the owners do that.”
Great Wide Open was a good second in Kentucky Downs’ Tourist Mile, finishing a length behind the talented turf sprinter Bound for Nowhere. (Bound for Nowhere faded to 11th in the Shadwell).
Great Wide Open was part of a legitimate pace set by top turf miler Heart to Heart in the Shadwell. But unlike the other leaders, Great Wide Open kept going under James Graham until passed in upper stretch by Next Shares.
“He ran a big race,” said Murphy. “The winner won fair and square, no excuses. We were hoping for a top six finish, and to be second was great.”
Murphy said the Breeders’ Cup will be considered. “Possibly,” he said. “He ran the best race of his life at Kentucky Downs and he improved off that again. He seems pretty happy with himself. We’ll see how he is over the next couple of weeks. But that was as good (a field) as the Breeders’ Cup, in my opinion, as deep a field as I can remember in the Shadwell. To finish second, you’d have to have it under consideration.
“Next Shares, I was there the day he won the Old Friends,” said the Irish-born Murphy. “He won like a good horse. I definitely thought he was one of the horses to beat. Kentucky Downs, I love it. It’s like home for me. I wish I had more horses to run there. It’s great for Kentucky Downs to have horses like that.”
The $1 exacta with the two Kentucky Downs horses returned $984.10. Next Shares paid $48.80, $22.20 and $13, while Great Wide Open returned $58.60 to place and $26.60 to show, with the top three favorites all off the board.
The victory helped ease the sting for Baltas and jockey Tyler Gaffalione for Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf winner Insta Erma falling literally to her knees out of the gate in the Grade 1 First Lady Saturday at Keeneland. Gaffalione did an amazing job to stay on the mare, who got back up, regrouped and looked like she might hit the board but weakened to sixth while losing by only a total of 3 1/4 lengths.
“It’s horse racing,” Baltas said. “Thank god she looks like she’s cooling out good. She really went to her knees, kind of jumped at the start. She still ran a game race, which I was very proud of her effort. Proud of my team, it was a great day.”