Today's RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs barn notes:
'It’s easy to stay awake at night just reflecting on how fortunate the situation is' -- Jeff Bloom, owner of Snapper Sinclair
Story by Alicia Hughes, director of NTRA Communications
(Photo: Snapper Sinclair winning the Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile in 2017. Grace Clark)
FRANKLIN, Ky. (Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019) — If there is one thing Snapper Sinclair has provided his connections throughout his 17-race career, it is the luxury of being able to lay out any number of options for the son of City Zip and have them all make sense.
As a 2-year-old, his aptitude on the grass was enough to earn him a spot in the starting gate for the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. His sophomore year saw him fall about a millimeter short of Bravazo at the wire in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes and his seven starts on the main track this season have yielded two victories and a third-place effort in the Grade 3 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes on August 3 where he was beaten just 1 ¼-lengths for the win.
In the wake of that outing, owner Jeff Bloom could have taken his striking-looking colt in any number of directions for his next start. But as the old adage says, money talks — and far be it for the managing partner of Bloom Racing Stable to not listen.
“$750,000,” Bloom deadpanned, referencing both the purse of the August 31 Tourist Mile Stakes that Snapper Sinclair is set to start in this Saturday and the reasoning behind the decision to put the 4-year-old bay back on the turf.
The presence of fan-favorite Snapper Sinclair on its opening-day card is just the latest evidence of the lure of the 2019 RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs. Though he has acquitted himself well on the dirt this season, the Steve Asmussen trainee will be returning the site of his lone stakes win and making his first try on turf since October 2018 when he breaks from the rail in the 12-horse Tourist Mile field.
The only other time Snapper Sinclair has stuck his big, white face into the Kentucky Downs starting gate, he exited with a 1 ¾-length victory in the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile Stakes and a subsequent trip to Del Mar for that year’s Breeders’ Cup, where he finished off the board. If he had to choose, Bloom believes his colt might be a tick better on the dirt. Nonetheless, a return trip to Franklin, Ky., has had a standing place on the books for Snapper Sinclair this season.
“Obviously, one of his better races was on the turf at (Kentucky Downs),” Bloom said. “We ran in the West Virginia Governor’s Cup thinking that regardless of the outcome of that race we’d be coming to Kentucky Downs for this race.
“If you look at the body of his work and some of his better races, they’ve come on both turf and dirt. His heartbreaking whisker of a loss in the Risen Star….that one will forever hurt just because he would be a Grade 2 winner. And yet, his early turf races were pretty impressive as well. I think he probably is a little bit better on dirt believe it or not, but at the same time he’s really only had limited opportunities on the turf. His best (handicapping) sheet number came out of his last race….so we’re pretty excited about how he’s coming into this race and the fact that is maybe his cross-over opportunity to really move forward.”
Snapper Sinclair has two wins from four career starts on the turf including his maiden triumph at Saratoga in August 2017 in which he bested future multiple stakes winner Gidu. If he adds to that total this weekend, he would also slap a dose of icing on what has already been a season for the ages for his owners.
His stablemate Midnight Bisou, who is owned by Bloom Racing in partnership with Madaket Stables and Allen Racing, collected her fifth career Grade 1 triumph and remained unbeaten in six starts this year when she edged rival Elate by a nose in a stirring edition of the Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga on August 24. Bloom purchased both Midnight Bisou and Snapper Sinclair out of the 2017 OBS April 2-year-olds in training auction, paying $80,000 and $180,000, respectively.
Each has paid him back in spades by reminding him why all the hard hours are worth it.
“It’s easy to stay awake at night just reflecting on how fortunate the situation is,” Bloom said. “You’re constantly working like right now, I’m doing all the pre-work for the Keeneland sale as well as making arrangements for a number of our horses going to the Fasig-Tipton October sale. So in the middle of it, you just try and step back and enjoy the parts that make it so much fun.
“The fact that you get to have those experiences remind you of why you’re in this and why you do the work. It’s just been a magical run for us lately and you just hope you can continue to have the same experiences as much as possible while recognizing that they don’t come easy.”
Kenneally hoping Tourist Mile runs into a Parlor game
The 5-year-old Parlor will run at Kentucky Downs for the fourth straight year in Saturday’s $750,000 Tourist Mile.
Now a gelding, Parlor won his debut at Ellis Park, then finished second by a neck in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile. He returned at 3 to take second again, this time by three-quarters of a length after 1 5/16 miles, in the Dueling Grounds Derby. And last year he was third, a respectable 1 3/4 lengths behind triumphant Next Shares in the Old Friends. Next Shares, who also is in the Tourist Mile, won Keeneland’s Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in his subsequent start.
The Old Friends is for horses that have not won a stakes on the year. Parlor made sure he wasn’t eligible this year by winning a $100,000 stakes at Delaware Park in his last start. It was his first stakes victory of his 19-race career, of which 13 have been in stakes. That includes a tremendous effort in Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Wise Dan two races back, in which he was bottled up in traffic but still finished fourth, losing by a total of a half-length.
“He’s been placed in three stakes down there at 2, 3, and 4 and now we’ll see how he does at 5,” said trainer Eddie Kenneally. “But he’s doing well. It’s a big purse, and he’s coming into the race in good form.
“He hasn’t run very many bad races,” Kenneally said. “He shows up every time. You’re going for a big purse; hopefully it will be his turn to come up with a big effort and get it done. He likes the track. He hasn’t been beaten very far in those races he ran in and wracked up quite a bit of money. It would be nice to win one at that track. There are other horses in that race who have run well there, including a stakes-winner (Next Shares) at the meet last year. It’s a solid group.”
Kenneally also is running Fenwick Station, winner of his only start at Indiana Grand, in Saturday’s $500,000 Gainesway Farm Juvenile, as the 2-year-old stakes is now named.
“He won at a mile on the grass,” Kenneally said. “I don’t know if there are any in there who have won more than one race, so it’s a $500,000 pot for a lot of untried horses. That’s one of the reason we’re in there; we’re taking a shot.”
Of course, that was Parlor three years in the Juvenile.
“That’s the thing with Kentucky Downs,” Kenneally said. “You have to take a shot. If you’re horse is doing well and you think they might like the track, you run. Because the money is so good. And it’s not the end of the world if you’re not successful. You can go back to a conventional track afterward.”
Kenneally thinks Fenwick Station is one who will handle the course. “You need a horse that is well-balanced, an athlete, agile,” he said. “Those types of horses tend to handle that track.”
Fenwick Station won his Aug. 7 race, at the Juvenile’s mile distance on turf, at Indiana Grand by a nose. But jockey Declan Cannon was most impressed.
“I was inside the whole race, and I think he didn’t like it,” Cannon said. “I’ve worked him back and he’s improved from his race. He looks better on paper than what people might think, because he ran at Indiana.”
It’s worth noting that champion Monomoy Girl and reigning Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress both started their careers with victories at Indiana Grand.
Mena looking forward to returning to Kentucky Downs
Miguel Mena missed riding at Kentucky Downs (as well as Keeneland and Churchill’s spring meets and Ellis Park’s summer meet) last year while recovering from injuries incurred in a mid-March spill at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Now he can't wait to return to the distinctive all-turf track.
Mena suffered a crushed heel and ankle fracture when his mount tripped over a leader who fell without warning at the Fair Grounds. Mena was unable to have surgery that would have hastened the healing because he developed fracture blisters on his foot. Such blisters are huge and make surgery perilous because of the high risk of infection.
With the multiple fractures having to heel on their own, Mena didn’t resume riding races until last October at Keeneland. He won 37 races at the Fair Grounds but really got clicking at Churchill Downs, where his 29 victories last spring trailed only perennial meet-leader Corey Lanerie. He’s won 13 races so far at Ellis Park.
“I’m really looking forward to Kentucky Downs, especially after missing it last year,” Mena said. “Some big opportunities and big money. This year hopefully is my year and I can get a few wins.
“One a day would be nice,” he added cheerfully. “The money is unbelievable.”
Mena’s four mounts on Saturday’s opening card of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs includes First Premio in the $750,000 Tourist Mile and Peace Achieved in the $500,000 Gainesway Farm Juvenile, both for trainer Mark Casse.
Mena says riding Kentucky Downs “is totally different” from other American tracks and their flat, oval configurations. “Up hills, up and down. But it’s fun,” he said. “You basically let the horse do the work: Throw their head away; they know where they’re going. They might bobble once or twice, but some horses enjoy it there, they get better. You stay out of their way, stay out of their mouth and kind of just guide them a little bit. For instance, if you go a mile, you have to go right and then a sharp left. But they know what they’re doing.”
Mena said the atmosphere only gets better at Kentucky Downs.
“They’re getting more people and more fans,” he said. “A lot of people around the country are looking forward to watching the races over there.
“I can’t wait to be there Saturday.”
Some of the biggest names in racing are coming to ride at least part of the meet. Jose Ortiz, the 2018 Kentucky Downs riding champion in his second season there, again will miss opening day but be there for the final four days. Joel Rosario is expected for three days. After Del Mar closes, Drayden Van Dyke, Flavien Prat and Rafael Bejarano are expected from California. Aaron Gryder also is coming from the West Coast in the dual role of riding races and serving as a Kentucky Downs paddock analyst with Caton Bredar.
“The money brings the big boys,” Mena said. “But we’re ready. We know the track, too. We just need to be there on the right day and get lucky. Certain riders like it better than others. But I’m comfortable with it. I like riding there, so hopefully I can have some success there this meet.”
Apprentice Declan Carroll prepares for first Kentucky Downs meet
Declan Carroll, the red-hot apprentice who has won 17 races at Ellis Park, has been to Kentucky Downs many times with his dad, David Carroll, a long-time trainer who now is one of Mark Casse’s key assistants. But now the younger Carroll is facing his first opportunity to ride in a race over America’s most unique turf course.
“They say it’s an interesting course to ride but that it’s a blast,” Declan Carroll said at Churchill Downs, where he was working horses Thursday. “I’m looking forward to it and we’ll see how it goes. I’m going to run the course a couple of times. Any course, you want to know how it feels and where you’re going. Especially at a course like that, I want to feel like I’ve ridden it before. Obviously I won’t know until I ride my first race on it, but I want to get a good feel for it and just where to place myself.”
Carroll also is asking his veteran colleagues about the track, whose unusual traits include the need to be on the outside rather than the inside heading into the far turn of the kidney-shaped course, which features a rare right-hand turn in American racing before it takes a sharp left.
“I’ve talked to Florent a lot about it,” he said of two-time riding champ Florent Geroux. “He’s an excellent rider there and knows that course very well. He’s given me a lot of tips about it.
“Going down there with my dad, it’s a fun track to go to and watch races. All systems go and it seems like people enjoy it.”
Carroll not only has three mounts on Saturday’s opening card, one is in a stakes: Secretly Wicked, who runs in the $500,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies for owner-trainer Jack Hancock. Secretly Wicked won her debut at Keeneland and most recently was fifth in the TwinSpires Ellis Park Debutante.
“I’m very fortunate and very lucky,” said Carroll, who has won for Jack’s brother John, at Ellis Park. “The Hancocks have been great to me.”