(Photo: Lighthouse won the inaugural $400,000 Music City Stakes to send Kentucky Downs rookie Umberto Rispoli home to California a winner. Grace Clark photo)
FRANKLIN, Ky. (Tuesday, Sept. 15) — Kentucky Downs moved its Sunday card to Tuesday after heavy rain pelted the area over the weekend. All the same, horseplayers responded enthusiastically with a total of $8,950,973 wagered on the 11-race card, fifth-highest in track history. The card was highlighted by three stakes for fillies and mares.
The six-date meet closes Wednesday’s with 10 races, headlined by the $500,000, Grade 3 Franklin-Simpson Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters. Here’s a look at Tuesday’s stakes:
Lighthouse sends Kentucky Downs rookie Rispoli home a winner
LNJ Foxwoods' Lighthouse showed them the way home in the $400,000 Music City Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs, becoming the first runner to win at the current meet after shipping in from California. The 1 1/2-length victory over Miss J McKay sent burgeoning superstar jockey Umberto Rispoli home with a winner out of only two mounts after spending most of a week in town.
But Rispoli came — and wanted to stay — for the Simon Callaghan-trained Lighthouse, who in her last race was second by only a neck against older fillies and mares.
“When they postponed the races, I could have traveled back for the meeting at Santa Anita,” said the Italian-born Rispoli, who rode in Hong Kong before relocating to Southern California, where he lost the Del Mar riding title on the last day by one win to his close friend Flavien Prat. “I decided to stay. I knew she was going to have a chance. She probably could have won last time as well, but the distance was too short at Del Mar. So I knew she might handle the track. When Simon ships a horse, he’s always confident. This was good. It was a nice experience. The track is a funny track. But being around Europe, I’ve been riding many times on tracks like that so it doesn’t bother me at all. I waited three more days and I’m so happy to go back home with a winner. So that’s perfect.”
Evil Lyn and Bredenbury (IRE) led through the first quarter-mile in a swift 21.87 seconds while Rispoli kept Lighthouse in striking distance, just 1 1/2 lengths off the pace.
With a half-mile booked in 45.27 seconds, Lighthouse was about to roll by Evil Lyn, and the eventual winner led by a quickly-widening three lengths with a furlong remaining. Lighthouse easily held safe Miss J McKay, who was fourth by two lengths during the first four furlongs and gamely stayed on to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner. The time for 6 1/2 furlongs was 1:14.99 over a course rated good.
“We were surprised because there wasn’t much speed in the race,” Rispoli said. “When I looked around and nobody wants to go, I say, ‘Well, I’ll take it.’ I knew she was good enough to win from the front… I decided to run away, and she ran very good to the line. So I’m very pleased and happy with her.
“I’ve been riding around the world, and even in Italy we have a few up and down tracks. Not like this. But in England and France too. But I love the grass, so I can adapt myself anywhere, no matter what.”
Lighthouse, who had previously run six times exclusively at Santa Anita and Del Mar, has failed to hit the board only once in seven starts. With her victory at Kentucky Downs, she has three wins, two seconds and a third combined with earnings of $335,171 after today's payday of $233,120. Available money in the Music City was $360,385.
“She’s been incredibly consistent,” Callaghan said by phone. “I’ve been on a really progressive path, and I think her best race of her life time was against older fillies. I think that’s when she really showed she’s really improving. We felt it warranted the trip. We thought it’s good timing, it’s a big pot and makes sense. It was great that she got the win.
“She was in a good spot. But you’re always cognizant on that track that you don’t want to go too early. You just want to be patient. She was just loaded the whole way. Umberto hasn’t ridden much at this track but is a world-class rider. I said ‘Just don’t take anything away from her. But certainly don’t be too aggressive.’ She just placed herself there. He sat as as long as he could, and she was loaded and he went on and got the job done.”
Even-money favorite Kimari was another length-and-a-quarter back in third, and Outburst was fourth, an additional 2 3/4 lengths back.
Trainer Wesley Ward — who settled on the Music City after entering Kimari in three stakes this meet, including in Wednesday’s closing-day Grade 3 Franklin-Simpson against males, joked afterward, “Maybe I’ll run tomorrow, too.” More seriously he said, “She ran well.”
The top two finishers were each sent off at 11-1 odds, producing a $2 exacta worth $206.40. Mutuels paid $24.00, $10.40 and $6.80 to win, place and show on $2 tickets with Lighthouse on them. Miss J McKay produced payoffs of $10.00 and $5.60 to place and show, and Kimari paid $3.20 to show.
After the four best runners, rounding out the order of finish were Lucrezia and Bredenbury who dead-heated for fifth, She's My Type (FR), Evil Lyn, Enola Gay, She's So Special and Finite. Scratched were Hear My Prayer, Mom's Red Lipstick and also-eligibles Fashionable Lady, Poseidon's Passion and Lucky Jingle.
Bridgmohan guides Emro to 2-for-2 in $400K Untapable
Kueber Racing's Emro, who won her debut at Ellis Park, ran her record to 2-for-2 in taking the $400,000 Untapable Stakes for 2-year-old fillies in dominant fashion by 2 3/4 lengths over Taylor’s Tourist after a strong stretch run from off the pace under Shaun Bridgmohan.
“I was very proud of her,” said winning trainer Brad Cox. “She’s been training well, obviously. She got it done first time out, and we’ve been pointing for this since she broke her maiden. Very, very happy with the performance and Shaun did a good job.”
After breaking cleanly from the far outside post 11 in the 6 1/2-furlong race, Emro was reserved in sixth position by Bridgmohan down the hill, 7 1/2 lengths from the front, into the sweeping turn. As the bunched field turned for home, Emro was six wide and 4 1/2 lengths off the pace but made short work of her competition from there. She narrowly led with an eighth-mile remaining and prevailed by 2 3/4 lengths going away over a course rated good.
“They looked like they were going a little quick and they were spread out around the turn,” said Cox, who on Saturday won the $1 million, Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup with Arklow. “So I thought, well, they were going quick enough and we were laying in the middle of the pack, so I thought we were in a good spot. Then when she came off the turn, it looked like when Shaun asked her to pick it up, she wanted to duck in behind a horse. He straightened her up. She ran on, looks like she was clearing off and then she dropped back in. Obviously still green and has a lot to learn, but very talented filly that we think has a big future.”
The 7-1 fourth betting choice, Emro was timed in 1:16.31. Emro rocketed her earnings from $25,800 to $261,400 after adding the winner's share of $235,600. The final value of the race was $398,500.
“She ran very well, very talented filly,” Bridgmohan said. “She’s 2 for 2. Last time she went to the lead. Today she came from off it. It shows her versatility. She ran a nice race.”
Taylor's Tourist, who was 10th and last at the first call under Florent Geroux, proceeded to pass every horse in the field but one. Behind her at the finish in third, beaten 5 3/4 lengths, was early pacesetter Fouzia, who was a neck better than Mad Maddy in fourth. Initial fractions were a torrid 21.48 seconds for the first quarter-mile and 45.15 seconds for four furlongs.
“She ran big,” Geroux said of Taylor’s Tourist, who had won her debut by 9 3/4 lengths at Louisiana’s Evangeline Downs. “She ran a pretty fast race first time out. But that was dirt. Now she switched to the turf, nobody really knew if she was going to like it. She’s a very nice filly, galloped out strong. She was a little bit lost the first quarter-mile, couldn’t get out and involved in the race. But she finished very nice.”
The top four were followed in order by Lady Edith, Lady Goldstart, 9-5 favorite Red Ghost, Herald Angel, Kewpie Doll and Becca's Bouquet. The field of 11 was effectively reduced to 10 when La Libertee stumbled badly leaving the gate, unseating Adam Beschizza.
“I’m fine,” Beschizza said back at the jockeys’ room. As far as what happened, “I have no idea. Sometimes they don’t catch themselves properly. She’s a 2-year-old. She’s a very sharp 2-year-old. She’s always ready at any given moment. She probably rushed the start a little bit and couldn’t catch any of her legs. Listen, she’s got a bright little year ahead of her, what’s left of it. She seemed to be unscathed, touch wood. She didn’t go crazy running loose by herself.”
Payoffs were ample, with Emro rewarding her $2 backers $16.80 to win, $9.00 to place and $7.40 to show. Taylor's Tourist paid $21.20 and $14.60 to place and show, and Fouzia returned $8.40 to show.
Theodora B. holds off favored Mrs. Sippy in $500K TVG Stakes
Augustin Stable's Theodora B. held off a late charge by favored Mrs. Sippy to win the $500,000 TVG Stakes for fillies and mares by three-quarters of length while never seriously over a course rated good.
“She’s a really incredible filly, a little on the quirky side,” said Fenella O’Flynn, who serves as an assistant trainer, van driver and whatever needs done for Maryland-based trainer Michael Dickinson. “But she’s a really, really nice filly. She trained lovely here the last couple of days. We had to stay the extra couple of days of course, but it was better for her. We traveled here and we’ll travel again tomorrow to Tapeta Farm.”
Guided by Irad Ortiz, Jr. while well off the rail, 3-1 second betting choice Theodora B. set the pace with slow fractions of 26.23 seconds for the first quarter-mile, 51.32 seconds for the half, and 1:15.85 for six furlongs. Mrs. Sippy, sent off as the 9-10 favorite under Joel Rosario, bided her time in fourth, fifth and then sixth of six starters while around four lengths back heading down the hill at the top of the backstretch.
Turning for home, Theodora B. had registered a mile in 1:39.78 and was still in front with Mrs. Sippy fifth by 2 1/2 lengths. Theodora B. dug in with gas still in the tank to hit the finish line first.
“She broke really good,” said Ortiz, the reigning Eclipse Award jockey who pulled within two wins of Tyler Gaffalione's meet-leading eight for the riding title with only Wednesday’s card remaining. “She broke in front. I didn’t want to fight with her too much. She relaxed going up the hill, going down the hill, waiting for me. When I called, she was there.”
Reached by phone, Dickinson said he was looking at three stakes for Theodora B. but opted for Kentucky Downs because of the 1 5/16-mile distance. In her last start, the 5-year-old mare led all the way to take Woodbine’s Grade 2 Dance Smartly. She could return to Woodbine for the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor, for which this stakes has produced three winners.
Theodora B. now has six wins from 18 starts with five seconds and three thirds. With $306,900 in purse money she collected, her career earnings stand at $647,911.
Delta's Kingdom, the longest-odds starter in the field at 15-1, was second until upper stretch and checked in third, another two lengths back. She was followed by English Affair, Siberian Iris and Over Thinking, who was unable to overcome a slow start. The winning time for 1 5/16 mile was 2:09.72 on a course rated good.
Theodora B. paid $8.20 to win, $3.20 to place and $2.80 to show. Mrs. Sippy returned $2.40 and $2.20, while Delta's Kingdom's $2 show tickets were worth $3.40.
Dickinson, who invented the Tapeta all-weather racing surface that is being installed at Turfway Park, was not at the track. The horseman whose reputation surged when called the Mad Genius by turf writer Bill Finley — and who became immortalized when Dickinson objected to being called a genius — is famous in racing circles for having a female associate walk the course in stiletto heels to check out the turf.
O’Flynn said she walked the course twice.
“The first time after the rain. It wasn’t so bad. I’m glad it stopped Sunday morning,” she said. “It had nearly two days to dry out. I walked it again yesterday it was better and today was perfect. The turns are just a little bit soft but we got over that.”
And no, she didn’t wear stilettos. “He (Dickinson) actually asked me if I had them with me,” she said. “I said I didn’t. He said he was going to overnight them to me. But I said I didn’t get them. But it was perfect, and she ran brilliant.”
Dickinson pointed out that Theodora B. was carrying four pounds more, 126-122, than her rivals.
“She was nervous as a young horse,” he said. “She lost a couple of races in the paddock in her younger days. So it’s taken her a bit of time to grow up.”
Asked if he was a great fit for a quirky horse, Dickinson paused and said, “Do I understand her? Well, does anybody really understand women and horses? Maybe there are some, but I’m not one of them.”
Kentucky Downs’ top five betting days
$17,437,731 — Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020
$11,321,492 — Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019
$10,039,008 — Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018
$8,983,981 — Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020
$8,950,973 — Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020