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.
Kentucky Downs ranked among the big winners at Keeneland Race Course’s historic five-day meet that concluded Sunday with reigning $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup victor Zulu Alpha taking the $175,000 TVG Elkhorn Stakes. On Saturday, Art Collector won Keeneland’s $600,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on dirt, Leinster nipped stablemate Totally Boss in the $150,000 Shakertown at 5 1/2-furlongs on turf and Enola Gay took the $150,000 Appalachian at a mile on grass.
Next Shares, winner of Kentucky Downs' 2018 Old Friends Stakes, and jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. won the Grade II $200,000 Seabiscuit Handicap Saturday at Del Mar. Next Shares won Keeneland's Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in his next start after the Old Friends. This year he was seventh in Kentucky Downs' $750,000 Tourist Mile while dealing with firmer turf than the gelding prefers. "It was very rewarding. I never gave up on him," said trainer Richard Baltas.
Always consistent and never off the board on the turf in her home state of Kentucky, Morticia earned her second career graded stakes victory in decisive fashion Saturday when she headed every point of call to take the Grade 3, $500,000 Spendthrift Farm Ladies Sprint Stakes by 1 ¾-lengths over A Little Bit Me as part of Kentucky Downs’ blockbuster card featuring five stakes. The victory gave both trainer Rusty Arnold and jockey Tyler Gaffalione two stakes victories on the card.
Kentucky Downs' Old Friends winner Next Shares got up in the final stride for a nose victory in Santa Anita's $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes. Having won three of his last four starts, the gelding now is headed to the $7 million Pegasus World Cup.
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.
Record-setting Dueling Grounds Oaks winner Daddys Lil Darling finally got her Grade 1, but trainer Kenny McPeek doesn't discount that she'll back back at Kentucky Downs -- perhaps against males.
Morticia is the third Keeneland graded-stakes winner this meet who made her prior start at Kentucky Downs, joining Heavenly Love (Grade 1 Alcibiades) and Zipessa (Grade 1 First Lady).
'At this stage of her career, I don’t think we’re really going around to look for the easier spot. I think we’ve kind of got her back on track, and we’re looking to take on all challengers' -- trainer Graham Motion on Miss Temple City
“It just goes to show the caliber of horse that runs at Kentucky Downs. And more importantly, the horses come back well…. I don’t think it mattered what she ran on." -- David Carroll, assistant trainer to Mark Casse
"Kentucky Downs runs only five days and it’s an incredible amount of money. But their foresight by taking some of that income to make the circuit stronger I think has resulted in the rejuvenation of the Kentucky racing circuit.” - breeder Craig Bandoroff of Denali Stud
“I think the mile and a quarter was just a little too far for him,” trainer Ian Wilkes says of Franklin-Simpson favorite Sonic Boom. “I think he’s going to be a really good miler next year. He’s going to be a nice horse.”