FRANKLIN, Ky. (Saturday, September 9, 2017) — On a record-shattering day Saturday at Kentucky Downs, Mike Maker became the first trainer to win the signature $600,000 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup three times as Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Oscar Nominated closed under Julien Leparoux to wear down favored Postulation by a head.
Muqtaser was another half-length back in the Grade 3 stakes’ field of 12 older horses.
Maker’s three-peat — having won the past two years with the sidelined Da Big Hoss — capped a day when a total of $8,487,232 was wagered on Kentucky Downs’ 10-race card. To say it shattered the track record is an understatement, as betting was up 47 percent over the prior record of $5,769,505 bet on the same Saturday last year. Kentucky Downs doesn’t charge admission and as such doesn’t have a turnstile count for admission. But the eyeball test suggested it was a track-record crown on a glorious, sun-kissed day that wagered a record $347,002 on track, or up 62 percent over a year ago.
"After the entries came out, I was hoping for a big day,” said Kentucky Downs senior vice president and general manager Ted Nicholson. “But I never could have imagined us handling nearly $8.5 million today. Wow!”
Speaking of wow: It was Maker’s third stakes victory of the meet, as the two-time defending track training champ also took Saturday’s $400,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint with Hogy and Thursday’s $150,000 Old Friends with the Ramseys’ 2016 Queen's Plate winner Sir Dudley Digges. In fact, Oscar Nominated had also been entered in the Old Friends, for horses which had not won a stakes in 2017, but was scratched as his camp felt they had a shot to win both races.
Oscar Nominated last won a year ago in Kentucky Downs’ Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby. But he’d been running well while often beaten by stablemates such as Enterprising, the Kentucky Turf Cup’s program favorite who finished ninth.
“He’s never had a bad day in his life,” said Maker, who now has won eight stakes here over the past two years, all but Sir Dudley Digges having been acquired through the claiming ranks. “Unfortunately it’s taken this long this year to get his first victory.”
Julien Leparoux, who leads the jockey standings for the five-day meet with two days go to at 5-4 in wins over Florent Geroux, settled Oscar Nominated into seventh behind a dawdling pace before kicking into gear on the far turn and reeling in the leaders through the stretch to nip a gritty Postulation.
“It’s a fun track to ride, a little bit technical,” said Leparoux, who tied Rosie Napravnik for the 2014 riding title based on wins, with Geroux winning the past two crowns. “We saved ground around the first turn, which going that far is a big key. You have to have your horse very relaxed during the race. And you also have to be able to handle up and down the hill. He won last year, so I was confident he was going to handle it. But he actually really loved it.”
Oscar Nominated covered 1 1/2 miles 2:31.37, paying $9.40 as the second choice. Calculating his time considering that he was four lengths back in seventh at the quarter pole, Oscar Nominated covered his final quarter mile in well under 44 seconds.
Postulation pressured the early pace before giving way late. “He ran hard,” said jockey Jorge Vargas. “Good training job. He kind of went for it, then he kind of hung. Then he saw the horse on the outside and tried to come again. But second best.”
Said trainer Eddie Graham: “He ran a good race. I mean, Oscar Nominated has won on this course before. He got out-footed at the end. It was our horse’s first time here, running him back after Arlington (a win in American St. Leger on Aug. 12). But when you get a beat like that … Another time.”
Muqtaser, trained by Lexington product Kiaran McLaughlin, ran well in his American stakes debut.
“He ran a great race,” said jockey Joe Bravo. “He was keen on it, in position wherever I wanted him to be. I really thought at the eighth pole, when I could kind of tuck in that I could split horses. And he punched through there. (But) he kind of hung a little bit like he never has. But you know what? There were some good horses in there. They were all running.”
Oscar Nominated, a son of the Ramseys’ stallion Kitten’s Joy, was bred by Jerry Amerman, with the Ramseys snapping him up when presented in a $75,000 maiden-claiming race early in his career. He won Turfway Park’s 2016 Spiral Stakes (G3) on Polytrack and after finishing 17th in the Kentucky Derby found his best stride back on turf, including a romp in the Dueling Grounds Derby. The Kentucky Turf Cup ended an eight-race drought in which he had three seconds and two thirds. He became a millionaire at $1,168,155 with the $345,960 payday.
“Mike really liked him. He was doing well,” said Jeff Ramsey, son of Ken and Sarah Ramsey. “We scratched him out of the race the other day (the Old Friends) because we thought he could win. So it was great. We knew he liked this course.
“Julien gave him a perfect ride. We were talking about it as he was coming around, that he seemed he was in a perfect spot — unless he was still half-way in the pack when we ended the race. But we thought he had him placed perfect, was patient with him and let him hang in there but didn’t let him get too far back. Very excited.”
Maker also finished fourth with 42-1 St. Louie, who pushed the early pace, as well as fifth with grade-stakes winner Taghleeb. Bullards Alley, Nessy, pacesetting One Go All Go, Enterprising, Zulu Alpha, Lucky Ramsey and Crescent Drive rounded out the capacity field.
Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (Grade 3)
Exhibiting the class that has made her a multiple Grade 1 winner in the U.S., a regular at Royal Ascot, and arguably the most accomplished mare to ever run in Franklin, Ky., even-money favorite Miss Temple City overtook a stubborn Zipessa in the final eighth to win Saturday’s Grade 3, $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Presented by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association by a neck.
With regular rider Edgar Prado aboard, Miss Temple City broke alertly and sat just off Zipessa, who held a comfortable lead through fractions of 26.42 and 48.96 seconds. Into the undulating stretch, Miss Temple City made her move and closed the gap on Zipessa – a solid fifth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf -- but the early leader dug in gamely. Prado thought Miss Temple City may have made it closer than it should have been by waiting once she hit the lead and had to ask her a second time before stopping the timer in 1:36.91 for one mile over a firm course.
“She settled off the pace nice and relaxed, and when I asked her, she gave me that kick,” Prado said. “When I turned her loose she went by that horse easy and she thought it was all over; she tried to slow down a bit. But she got the job done and everybody is happy.”
Miss Temple City was winless in her two prior starts this year and both times had trouble relaxing before the race.
“At Ascot she was very nervous in the post parade and even when I took her to the gate she was anxious,” Prado said. “She lost the race there in the post parade, and she was nervous at Monmouth, too. But today she was relaxed, walked, stood for me. She was much better.”
Trainer Graham Motion was more relieved than elated to get a win from what he called “the best filly I’ve ever trained.”
“I’m always nervous when I run her,” he said. “Obviously I’m very attached to her and just want to see her run well. You get much more nervous about these deals when you’re a favorite. There’s a lot more riding on it, and I’m just glad it worked out.”
Miss Temple City will be pointed to the Keeneland’s Fall Meet, with a decision still to come between a try at repeating in the Shadwell Turf Mile against males or the First Lady versus fillies and mares. Both are Grade 1 stakes on Oct. 7.
Zipessa fought on for second, with the top two finishing three lengths clear of the rest of the field.
“She didn’t want to get beat today,” jockey Joe Bravo said. “She fought hard and she wanted to win. She went around there really nice. Her ears were up listening and breathing. Two good horses matched up, and let the fireworks begin.”
Linda got third and the order was completed by Beauly, Susie Bee, and Seeking Paradise. Hone In and Majestic Angel scratched.
Miss Temple City, by Temple City, earned her fourth graded stakes win while running her overall record to 19-7-3-3 with earnings of $1,677,868 for owners The Club Racing LLC, Needle In A Haystack, LLC and Sagamore Farm. A $2 win bet returned $3.60.
Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (Grade 3)
In his first try since being claimed for $80,000 at Saratoga last month, 8-year-old gelding Hogy earned the biggest payday of his life while winning the Grade 3, $400,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint by a half-length over Commend. Hogy completed 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.88, just off the course record of 1:16.51.
Hogy relaxed toward the real of a tightly bunched field early under jockey Florent Geroux, as longshot Indy Hill set early fractions of 23.87 and 48.37 seconds. Coming out of the sweeping bend that makes up the first half-mile of the 6 ½-furlong distance, Hogy fanned five-wide and took aim on the leaders. Indy Hill held a one-length lead into the stretch before ceding to Commend approaching the eighth-pole. Hogy, however, was finding his best stride outside and hit the front in the final sixteenth, fending off both Commend and a final surge from millionaire Group 1 winner Undrafted, who was a nose back in third.
Winning trainer Mike Maker had long been a fan of Hogy’s and had hoped to claim the gelding earlier this year when he was entered for a tag but scratched.
“I’m a novice and I rely on Mike,” said owner Michael Hui of Little Rock, Ark., who has found success in the transportation business. “I asked him if anyone claims an 8-year-old horse for 80 and Mike’s a man of few words but he just said, ‘I like him,’ and that was really all I needed to hear. I have a lot of faith in my trainer.”
Pacesetter Indy Hill held on for fourth, followed by Crewman, Bondurant, Dimension, Wyeth, Mikes the Man and Black Bear. Tell All You Know was scratched.
Hogy, by Offlee Wild, improved his record to 45-17-11-6 and surpassed the million-dollar mark with earnings of $1,131,927. A $2 win bet on the favorite returned $7.
Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint
The 3-year-old filly Lull took command in the stretch and kept late-running 20-1 shot Happy Mesa at bay for a two-length victory against older fillies and mares in the $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint. The daughter of the popular Claiborne Farm stallion War Front covered 6 1/2 miles in 1:17.22 and paid $8 to win as the co-favorite with third-place Morticia.
It was Lull’s first victory in seventh starts since taking Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies last year, though she’s had three seconds in stakes and was a good fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
“I think War Fronts like to hear their feet rattle, and this turf probably suits her really well,” said Dell Hancock of Claiborne Farm, which bred and races Lull with Adele Dilschneider. Referring to the presence of the Breeders’ Cup president at the track, she added, “I asked Craig Fravel when they’re going to run the Breeders’ Cup here.”
Winning jockey Brian Hernandez also rode Lull last year at Kentucky Downs.
“Horses like her who are athletic, they tend to like this place,” he said. “Makes my job a lot easier. I can stay out of her way and let her do her thing. Her trip worked out perfect today, like I kind of scripted on paper.”
Said Rudy Nerbonne, assistant to winning trainer Christophe Clement: “She likes the course, she likes the distance, too — 6 1/2 furlongs. Today she relaxed perfect, and she made good run. Congratulations to Claiborne Farm and everybody.”
Claiborne president Walker Hancock said it’s up to Clement where the filly runs next, but said it could be at Keeneland or Belmont Park.
“We got her stakes win this year now, so maybe we’ll get a little more aggressive and see if we can shoot for something big,” he said. “We’ll talk to Christophe about it, Ms. (Adele) Dilschneider and everybody else.”
Happy Mesa (20-1 odds) closed well to be second under Tyler Gaffalione, nipping Morticia, who took the lead at the eighth pole.
“She ran great. Second best,” said trainer Mike Maker. “On the turn I thought, ‘Boy, if she gets out, she’s going to be right there.’ And she got in the clear. Obviously the other horse was loaded for bear.”
Fair Point, Corby, 2016 winner Mississippi Delta, Miss Gossip, Sea Cloud, Scatter Gun and Marquee Miss completed the field of 10.
Lull now is 3-3-0 in nine starts, earning $598,057 with the $206,105 first-place check. She is from the female family of Horse of the Year Saint Liam as well as leading 2017 handicap horse Gun Runner.