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.
Not only did trainer Wesley Ward continue his domination of the $500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint Saturday, he saddled the exacta finish, Outadore and Fauci. Ward won the first two editions of the 6 ½-furlong race, beating males with fillies, Moonlight Romance in 2018 and Cambria last year. With Kentucky Downs now offering a sprint stake for juvenile fillies, Ward turned to his colts and they delivered for him. Breeze Easy’s Outadore stayed perfect in his second career start with a 1¾ lengths victory under Irad Ortiz, Jr. in 1:17.31. Fauci and jockey Tyler Gaffalione were 3 ¼ lengths ahead of the third-place horse, Cowan.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s 4-year-old Ramsey Solution won Wednesday’s $300,000 Tapit Stakes by a length over Midnight Tea Time in the gelding’s first attempt in a stakes. It capped a huge day for trainer Wesley Ward and jockey Gerardo Corrales, who combined to win three races: the second (Infinite), third (Royal Approval) and then the stakes.
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.
Thursday’s featured $250,000 Old Friends Stakes at Kentucky Downs is for horses who haven’t won a stakes race in 2018. That doesn’t mean the horses in the overflow field of 15 don’t possess talent. The Old Friends, conducted at a mile and 70 yards, attracted an excellent field whose entries include a Grade 1 winner (Undrafted), a Grade 1-placed horse (Next Share), Grade 2 winners (Conquest Panthera, Dimension), Grade 3 winner (Cowboy Culture) and multiple stakes-winners (Master Merion).
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.
It’s post time for the Fastest Five Days in Racing as Kentucky Downs kicks off America’s most unique race meet Saturday with a 10-race card featuring four stakes worth $1.8 million, including purse supplements for Kentucky-born and -sired horses. “The enthusiasm and buzz going into this meet is unprecedented in Kentucky Downs’ 26 seasons of conducting live racing,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs senior vice president and general manager.
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?