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he fields are set for America’s biggest day of turf racing this year outside the Breeders’ Cup, with a sensational stakes quintet on tap Saturday at the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs.
Each stakes on the Calumet Farm Day program is worth at least $500,000, with the four Grade 3 stakes highlighted by the $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles. The other graded stakes are the $700,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint at six furlongs, whose winner will receive a fees-paid spot in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Nov. 7 at Keeneland as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series’ “Win and You’re In” program, along with the $500,000 English Channel Ladies Turf at a mile, the $500,000 Real Solution Ladies Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs and the $500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs.
Peace Achieved is unbeaten in three starts with blinkers and jockey Miguel Mena, a streak his team hopes to continue in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. "You almost feel like he’s holding something back as well, that there’s a bit more in the tank if you dig down," says assistant trainer David Carroll. "So we’re excited about him.”
It took Gentle Ruler 12 starts and more than a year and a half of competition to win her first race, but relatively little time to rise to the level of becoming a stakes winner at the $500,000 purse level. Thursday on closing day of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs, the filly did just that, winning the most lucrative race of her career, the $500,000 Ramsey Farm Stakes by a half-length over longshot Lantiz. The victory, her fifth of 2019, marked her third stakes triumph of the year, following earlier victories in the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park and the Keertana Stakes at Churchill Downs.
After a quiet first four days of the Kentucky Downs meet, two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill waited until closing day and the meet’s final stakes race, to announce his stable’s presence. And did he ever. O’Neill-trained runners Legends of War and Stubbins finished one-two in the Thursday’s Grade 3, $500,000 Nevada State Bank Franklin-Simpson Stakes, generating a handsome reward for his stable and those that backed his runners at the mutuel windows. 23-1 longshot Legends of War paid $49.40 to a $2 win ticket, and a $1 exacta with 10-1 Stubbins delivered a $218 return.
Jack Sisterson, the former University of Louisville soccer player turned horseman, could have his biggest day as a trainer on Thursday’s closing card of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs. As private trainer for Calumet Farm, Sisterson is running Coachwhip in the $500,000 Ramsey Farm Stakes, followed by Lexitonian in the $500,000, Grade 3 Nevada State Bank Franklin-Simpson Stakes.
It’s already been a banner meet for 26-year-old jockey Adam Beschizza, who also has a second and four thirds in 31 starts. “We were ultra unlucky last year,” Beschizza said. “We’ve probably had as many wins so far as we had seconds last year. We’ve sort of made amends this year.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz missed opening day of the five-date RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs, but the track’s 2018 riding champion has made the most of the three days he has ridden, including sweeping Sunday’s $600,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby under Social Paranoia and the $348,250 Fifth Third Insurance Dueling Grounds Oaks with Princesa Carolina.
Ortiz won three races Sunday, seven over the weekend and a meet-leading eighth overall while scheduled to ride all 10 races on Thursday’s closing card of America’s most unique race meet. Last year, Ortiz won nine races, the most in a single meet since Florent Geroux won 12 in 2016.
Whether a 2-year-old sprint race is in Europe, or over a European-style course like Kentucky Downs, trainer Wesley Ward and owner Stonestreet Farm mean business. The trainer-owner combination, who teamed a few years ago with multiple overseas Group 1 winner and European juvenile champion Lady Aurelia, struck again Saturday at Kentucky Downs when Cambria scored a gutty head victory over Chimney Rock in the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint. The win gave Ward back-to-back winners in the race with fillies beating the boys, following Moonlight Romance’s triumph last year.
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.
The one time underachieving Totally Boss is now a graded stakes winner and Breeders’ Cup contender after running off to a 1 ¼-length victory over Smart Remark in the Grade 3, $700,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs on Saturday. The six-furlong Turf Sprint was a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) and one of five stakes races – four of which were graded – on the Kentucky Downs lineup.
Mike Maker, the winningest trainer in Kentucky Downs history, experienced a frustrating first two days of the current Kentucky Downs meet, going winless with his first 19 starters and feeling unlucky with seven of his horses running second. Saturday during the highlight day of racing during the RUNHAPPY meet at Kentucky Downs, that frustration was put aside when Zulu Alpha rolled to an authoritative 3 1/4-length victory for the trainer in the Grade 3, $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup. The score gave Maker his fourth victory in the race after Da Big Hoss won it twice for him in 2015-’16, followed by Oscar Nominated in 2017.
Updated scratches for Saturday's 10-race, five-stakes, $3.88 million extravaganza, with Sunday's scratches at the bottom.
Who does Byron King like in Saturday's five stakes at Kentucky Downs? Find out here!
Get Western secured a home for life upon his retirement by winning Thursday's $250,000 Old Friends Stakes in front-running style. “He’s one of those horses where he’s so athletic today he was there for me every pole, every step of the way,” said winning jockey Brian Hernandez. “He never traveled like he was going to get beat."
Arklow on Saturday tries to become only the third horse to win the Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup twice. Happily for owner Donegal Racing, trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux, the most lucrative race of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs this year now carries a $1 million purse. That and more in today's barn notes.
We've got your early scratches for Thursday's 10-race card, the big one being that 2018 Breeders' Cup Mile runner-up Catapult has come out of the featured $250,000 Old Friends Stakes.
The scratch of program favorite Catapult, who was second in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile, didn't impact the top choice of Byron King in Thursday's $250,000 Old Friends Stakes on the second day of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs. See who Byron has on top.
Saturday in the richest race of the opening day of the RUNHAPPY meet at Kentucky Downs, the $749,000 Tourist Mile, Snapper Sinclair rallied to catch pacesetting Real Story in the shadow of the wire to score by a half-length, pushing his local record to two-for-two. In 2017 during his 2-year-old season, he won the Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile Stakes with aplomb. Snapper Sinclair is not alone in being perfect at Kentucky Downs. So, too, is his owner, Bloom Racing, now four-for-four at the all-turf kidney-shaped oval in southern Kentucky.
Check out the opening day picks by our analysts Caton Bredar and Dick Downey.
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.
Bentley Combs hasn’t been training even two years but figures to have a starter in the $1 million, Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup on Sept. 7 with Botswana at Kentucky Downs. Combs, a graduate of the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program, certainly wasn’t thinking he’d be in a graded stakes, let alone one with a seven-figure purse, when he claimed Botswana last year for himself as owner for $30,000 out of the gelding’s first race: a 12th-place finish and 30-length drubbing.
Co-owner and trainer Conor Murphy has learned that 2018 Tourist Mile runner-up Great Wide Open does not do well in the summer. Hence the 7-year-old gelding comes into this year’s $750,000 edition of the stakes on Saturday’s opening card at the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs off of a five-month layoff since finishing sixth in Keeneland’s Grade Maker’s 46 Mile.
A total of 75 horses have been nominated for the $700,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint, a Grade 3 race at six furlongs that is Kentucky Downs’ first race to be included in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. Combined nominations for all 14 stakes at the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs, of which five enjoy graded status, totaled 887, up from 719 a year ago. The increase of 168 nominations reflects a 23-percent jump.
Kentucky Downs’ four opening-day stakes attracted a total of 236 nominations, ranging from 53 for the $750,000 Tourist Mile to 70 for the $500,000 Gainesway Farm Juvenile. “While nominations aren’t the same as entries, the enthusiasm with which horsemen across the country made their horses eligible for our stakes foreshadows very strong races and full fields,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager.
Stormy Liberal, the two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, is scheduled to run in the $700,000, Grade 3 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint, one of five graded stakes to be held at the upcoming RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs. “Big purse and it fits into his schedule,” said trainer Peter Miller. “The ‘Win and You’re In’ is always a factor, sure."