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.
Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Flavius surged to the lead at midstretch and held off a late charge from defending champion Snapper Sinclair by three-quarters of a length to win the 23rd running of the $645,700 Tourist Mile to cap the WinStar Farm opening-day program of the six-day RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bound for Nowhere had never been beyond six furlongs, but owner-trainer Wesley Ward was more than willing to take a shot. And now he’s bound for the bank after Bound For Nowhere and jockey Julio Garcia defeated Great Wide Open by a length in Saturday’s featured $681,400 Tourist Mile, presented by WinStar Farm, on opening day Kentucky Downs.
Wesley Ward has become as much a part of Kentucky Downs as grass racing. You know he’s going to be well-represented at America’s most unique race meet. The question often is: where?
Kentucky Downs will offer a record $10 million in purses and Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund supplements at its five-date meet Sept. 1-13, with all 13 existing stakes getting increases and the creation of the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint. The Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup and Tourist Mile had their purses raised to $750,000.
"We came to the home straight and he was finishing strong. At that moment I thought, ‘Man, I can win the whole thing.’ He was traveling good underneath me." -- Jose Valdivia
Youngsters are in the spotlight Wednesday, and what’s arguably the day’s most compelling race, the $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Showcase Juvenile, has attracted a full field of 2-year-olds that bulges with potential.