The most anticipated of the seven programs Kentucky Downs plans to run this year is on the docket for Saturday with six graded stakes races totaling over $5.5 million in purse money to be awarded. Included as part of the stakes-laden program is an all-graded stakes P5 to close the card.
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- Race 1: 7-5-2-4
- Race 2: 12-1-3-9
- Race 3: 2-10-6-11
- Race 4: 8-9-7-3
- Race 5: 5-10-2-4
- Race 6: 10-2-14-3
- Race 7: 7-5-6-15
- Race 8: 8-3-10-1
- Race 9: 5-11-12-8
- Race 10: 7-1-10-4
- Race 11: 6-10-3-9
- Race 12: 6-10-4-2
Kentucky Downs Race 5: Kentucky Ghost (#5)
The G3-Mint Million was canceled last Saturday after a downpour forced the track to forego the last four races on the card. It has been redrawn and Mike Maker has entered two new players to bring his total to three. However, I’m siding against all his runners in this spot. For as much success the Maker barn has had at Kentucky Downs, not much of it has come in their lucrative stakes program. In the last five years Maker is 3/71 (4%, $0.21 ROI) in stakes races at Kentucky Downs and 0/32 the last three years. The ML fav when this race was first drawn, Pixelate (#3) is now 5-1 on the line as he looks to defend his title in the Mint Million. However, he came into this race last year with plenty of seasoning under his belt and this year will attempt to win it second off a 180+ day layoff. His return was fine and he can easily move forward and win this, but I can’t stomach taking a short price on that. I actually think the horse to beat is Cavalry Charge (#10) for Dallas Stewart who is a ludicrous 12-1 on the ML. Going back to his win in an N2X over this strip last year, he’s really put together a string of solid performances. His claim to fame was a determined front-running score in the Fair Grounds Stakes in the winter, but he ran equally as well two back when second best to Breeders’ Cup Mile contender Ivar and gets a drop-in class coming out of the Arlington Million. While he’d be featured prominently on my tickets, I went to a runner with a bit dirtier form lines. Kentucky Ghost (#5) obviously didn’t care for the Churchill turf course when making his seasonal debut as had been the case with more than a handful of runners on Derby weekend. That is evidenced by the fact he came right back to win a stake at Monmouth in his next start over a decent field. They tried to stretch him out to three turns last time and it proved to sap his late kick. Now he gets back to his preferred distance over a course he run well over twice in his career and will surely be a square price.
Kentucky Downs Race 10: Admission Office (#7)
The G2-Kentucky Turf Cup got a surprise entrant when Gufo (#8) showed up in the field coming back on just two weeks rest from his triumphant defense of his G1-Sword Dancer title at Saratoga. While he might represent the most talented runner in the field, I have some questions about whether he’s the right play in this spot. First of all, he is not the most trustworthy type as a short price losing four of his last five tries when being bet below 3-1. Second, a lot of his best reaces have come around a three-turn configuration which is not the one he gets here. Finally, Kentucky Downs is a turf course where positive prior experience is a huge advantage, and this will be Gufo’s first try over this track. He can win, but I can’t stomach taking less than 2-1 on him given those question marks. Prior Kentucky Downs success is definitely a feather in the cap of Gufo’s main rival Arklow (#4) who has run in this race in four consecutive years with two wins and two seconds. It seems as if Brad Cox has been pointing this 8-year-old to this exact spot, skipping the Sword Dancer after a solid return in the Bowling Green. While he might have the best chance to upset the favorite, he’ll be no bargain at his expected odds either. I like both the horses exiting the Colonial Cup at this distance in Red Knight (#1) and Another Mystery (#10) as they finished 1-2 despite some early trouble when a horse lost his rider entering the first turn and both were forced to make wide bids around the final turn. However, I landed on a different runner who I expect to be a fair price. Admission Office (#7) holds back form where he defeated Arklow over this distance and I think his form from this year is better than it looks on paper. His victory in his return from a long layoff back in June was impressive over a distance that might be shorter than his best. Two back he had no chance behind a dawdling pace and then last time was too far back the Arlington Million which was a race dominated on the front end over a questionable turf course. I think he gets the right trip here for a trainer that has had plenty of success at this meet in the past.
Kentucky Downs Race 11: Tobys Heart (#6)
There is a very formidable favorite in the G3-Ladies Turf Sprint in Campanelle (Ire) (#10) who goes out for Wesley Ward. It was nice to see this four-year-old filly post a big performance on this side of the pond when she dominated a solid field in the Giant’s Causeway Stakes at Keeneland earlier this year. She defeated quite a few of these same rivals that day and then certainly didn’t disgrace herself against some of the best turf sprinters in the world at Royal Ascot. Wesley Ward has absurdly great numbers with these runners that he brings back from Ascot especially with his older runners. Over the last five years with 3+Y foreign shippers on the turf his barn is 9/20 (45%, $3.02 ROI). However, only 1/5 at Kentucky Downs. If there’s any knock on the favorite, it’s the fact that she has to stretch her speed over a course and distance that she’s unfamiliar with. The 6.5f at Kentucky Downs can often play even longer, and while Campanelle will be on plenty of my multi-race tickets, I’m willing to take a shot against her on the win end. I landed on a runner who has proven to relish the Kentucky Downs going in Tobys Heart (#6). After showing precocity as a juvenile, she got her signature win in the Music City Stakes over this course and distance last year. After two failed attempts routing, she turned her attention back to sprinting this calendar year. However, I’m not sure if any of those race configurations fit her as well as today’s does. She is often outfooted in the 5.5f dashes and she was wide in her 6f try on Belmont Eve which was a day that you wanted to be inside. With quite a few runners that like to wheel-and-deal on the front end, I’m hoping there’s enough pace to set up her closing kick.