Photo: Bound for Nowhere winning Keeneland's April 7 Shakertown (G2) under Julio Garcia. Coady Photography
FRANKLIN, Ky. (Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018) -- 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?
Ward, a three-time Kentucky Downs training champion, entered two horses in Saturday’s $750,000 Tourist Mile, presented by WinStar Farm: Master Merion, last year’s Franklin-Simpson Stakes winner over the course, and the sprinter Bound for Nowhere, last seen racing when a very close third in Royal Ascot’s Group 1 Diamond Jubilee in June.
Except for Ascot’s Royal Hunt Cup, when Master Merion finished 12th of 30 while losing by a total of only 6 1/2 lengths, the 4-year-old gelding has a terrific record at a mile. Bound for Nowhere has never raced beyond six furlongs and next week’s $500,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Turf Sprint might seem made to order.
Other trainers in the Tourist Mile have speculated that Bound for Nowhere -- romping winner of Keeneland's Grade 2 Shakertown in April before heading to England and unbeaten in four U.S. sprint races -- will be scratched. Those trainers are following conventional wisdom.
“We’re going to scratch Master Merion,” Ward said by phone Thursday. I’ve been wanting to stretch Bound for Nowhere out for some time, and he’s been training great here at Keeneland since he came back from England. My plan was always to run him in the Tourist Mile. I was going back and forth whether or not I should run him in the Sprint or this race. My plan was to enter in this race and see if it’s the spot I wanted to try him out going a mile. After drawing the outside (No. 8) post, and going over it with Julio Garcia, who is undefeated on him and gets on him every day, we decided to run here.
“He’s a lovely horse to train," continued Ward, who also owns Bound for Nowhere. "He’s a sprinter, but you’d never know it if you were around him. Julio gallops him with one hand, and he’s like a pony. And he’s a big horse, too. Very intelligent and really, really laid-back dude. When he drew that outside post, Julio can do whatever he wants from there…. That race at Royal Ascot, it’s a six-furlong race, but you really need a miler to win a race like that. It’s a slight uphill, but it’s a straight course. Horses will go a little farther if they go around turns, so you really need a miler. ”
Ward said Master Merion would run in either next Thursday’s $250,000 Old Friends Stakes for horses that haven’t won a stakes in 2018 or the $500,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint on Sept. 8. “I may be leaning toward the Sprint,” he said.
Ward has horses in both $400,000, mile 2-year-old stakes Saturday, with Two Shakes in the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies and Dragic — also a filly — taking on the boys in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile.
After all, why put two fillies in one race when you can try to win them both? Ward’s reasoning is that if a horse is doing well, why not take a shot? It paid dividends last year when Ultima D won the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies rather than going in one of Kentucky Downs’ $135,000 maiden races.
“It really doesn’t bother me as much as it does some trainers and owners,” he said of running a filly against the boys. “I’ve had a lot of success running fillies against the colts. You get a little weight break, but I just think they are a little more forward the first part of the year as 2-year-olds. I think the colts catch up with them in the fall. But this time of the year, I think it’s an advantage.”
Dragic won her debut at Keeneland and then was fourth in Del Mar’s Grade 2 Sorrento. The Kentucky Downs stakes will be her grass debut.
“Her breeding does not suggest she’s a grass horse,” Ward said. “But when you see her breeze on on grass, she floats over it. She definitely likes it, and I’m really looking forward to running her there.”
When cheerfully asked why he didn’t run Dragic in next week’s new $500,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint, also against boys, Ward didn’t hesitate: “I’ve got a couple others for that one as well,” he said with a laugh. Two fillies in fact: Moonlight Romance and Monmouth Park’s Colleen winner Mae Never No.
Two Shakes is a full sister to the Ward-trained Sunset Glow, winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante on dirt and second to Lady Eli in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Two Shakes has raced once, winning at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf at Saratoga by a nose.
“This filly is much better on the grass than dirt,” Ward said. “She ran well at Saratoga, but I think there’s much more to her than that.”
Ward also entered Con Te Partiro in Saturday’s $250,000 One Dreamer for fillies and mares that haven’t won a stakes in 2018. That filly last won seven races ago, at the 2017 Royal Ascot meet, at 20-1 odds. The trainer said she’ll be back in the entries in the $450,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint, one of four Grade 3 races on Sept. 8.
Dubara has success by just getting in the race
After Dubara finished a very close third in the $50,000 Ellis Park Turf Stakes in her U.S. debut after racing in England and off a nine-month layoff, trainer Brendan Walsh was looking forward to running her back in Ellis’ $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf. But when that Aug. 5 race overfilled, Dubara didn’t get in; the small purses for which she ran in England working against her on the preference system.
But the 4-year-old field, sold for $253,000 at Tattersalls, did make the cut to get into Saturday’s $250,000 One Dreamer for fillies and mares who have not won a stakes in 2018.
“Praise the Lord, finally! Of all places, Kentucky Downs, where you’d think you have the least chance of getting in,” Walsh joked. “This or a (second-level allowance) were the races we were hoping to get in. It’s a good spot. Obviously Shug McGaughey’s filly (graded-stakes winner and near-millionaire On Leave) is the one with all the form. But outside of that, I don’t think there’s a whole lot (of difference) between the rest of them. You can’t worry about one filly.
“She ran great her first run in this country, and she’s done well since. She should be used to the undulations, having run in England a bunch of times. She’s a handy filly and I don’t see why she wouldn’t handle it. We’ve got a very European angle with Adam as well.”
That’s jockey Adam Beschizza, who came over to America from England. “Hopefully she can win it or at least get a piece of it,” Walsh said. “I like going down there to Kentucky Downs. Everybody likes going down there, especially with the way the money is now. It’s a fun place to go, anyway.”
Drury making most of opportunities I Remember Mama brings
Trainer Tommy Drury is based at Skylight Training Center in Oldham County. He has a thriving business getting young horses ready and bringing horses back from injuries or other layoffs but often it’s preparing those horses to go to, or return to, other trainers. So Drury is thrilled to have the chance to run Lewis Schaffel’s homebred 4-year-old filly I Remember Mama in Saturday’s $250,000 One Dreamer Stakes.
In her stakes debut, I Remember Mama closed well to finish second in the Ellis Park Turf Stakes, a half-length behind Bonnie Arch. The filly has never been worse than third in five starts, all on grass and at a mile or 1 1/16 miles. The One Dreamer, named for Glen Hill is a mile and 70 yards.
“She didn’t get the best trip that day,” Drury said of the Ellis stakes. “She didn’t get away that sharp and was kind of wide on both turns. Normally, she’s more of a typical ‘turfy’ kind of horse. She wants to close big…. She ran her race. I think she was probably a little better-suited if she’d had more pace and could have dropped back and made her one run. But boy, you’d sure think Kentucky Downs would give her the opportunity to do that with that stretch down there.
“We were thrilled (with second). Mr. Schaffel breeds his own horses, and it’s important to him and his program for his fillies to do well and get ‘black type.’ I was happy for him and happy for myself. Just an opportunity like this is big for me. Most of the horses I have in training, they come to me to try to get a maiden broke, or try to figure out what didn’t work in somebody else’s program. I’ve had this filly since Day One. Mr. Schaffel has given me a big opportunity with her, and we’re just trying to make the most of it.”
Jockey7 wager back for 2018
The Jockey7 — the innovative wager that allows horseplayers to bet on individual jockeys and their mounts over each card’s last seven races — returns to Kentucky Downs after last year’s debut.
The Jockey7 wager is conducted over Races 4 through 10 and based on a points system for top-four finishes. It will be listed as a special wagering event listed as the Kentucky Downs Jockey7 with mutuel tellers and at self-service machines. Win, place, show, exacta and trifecta will be offered on the Jockey7. Wagering closes with the start of Race 4.
The betting interests for Jockey7 will be established the day before a race card; for instance, this Friday for Saturday’s opener. After preliminary scratches, Kentucky Downs will establish 13 groupings of horses, each tied to an individual jockey and a “field” betting interest that covers all the other horses and riders. Each grouping will be assigned a betting number, with the final wagering fields and the Jockey7 morning line posted on kentuckydowns.com/jockey7, equibase.com and other websites.
Under the points system, a win is worth 25 points, second is 12, third is nine and fourth is five, with one point awarded for a late scratch or if a horse is declared a non-starter. Once the fields are set, the points are based on the finishes of the horses involved with each Jockey7 betting interest, regardless if there are rider changes. For instance, if a jockey who is listed as an individual betting interest is unable to ride a race and the horse wins with another rider, the winning points stay with the horse and don’t transfer to the jockey who picked up the mount.
In the event of a dead-heat, the horses equally split the points awarded for the involved placings. If there is a tie in the final points, the total $2 win, place and show payoffs for each entry in every race in the Jockey7 wager will be the tiebreaker.
The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund will receive a portion of Kentucky Downs’ commission for the Jockey7.