The flagship racing day at Kentucky Downs is upon us on Saturday with five graded stakes races totaling nearly $4 million dollars in purses. Within those stakes events there are two Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In races with the Turf Sprint Stakes and the Turf Cup providing the winning connections an expense-paid trip to Del Mar in November.
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- Race 1: 2-10-11-4
- Race 2: 5-11-9-2
- Race 3: 8-9-1-5
- Race 4: 8-5-10-11
- Race 5: 10-3-11-8
- Race 6: 10-12-4-3
- Race 7: 2-8-5-6
- Race 8: 3-12-7-5
- Race 9: 7-9-1-3
- Race 10: 2-7-5-3
- Race 11: 9-7-6-8
Kentucky Downs Race 4: Cleat (#8)
Another maiden special weight with a lucrative purse is on tap early in this Saturday card and I think it features a runner that you can build wagers around. To me Cleat (#8) has the looks of a likely winner going second time out for Bill Mott. This son of War Front got a little headstrong in his first start at Ellis and understandably tired at the end of the nine furlong affair. He now gets to cut back to a mile and looks to have continued to work well coming into this. He also has the pedigree to be a good one as he’s kin to Penalty who ran in a stakes race at this Kentucky Downs meet. As far as longshots to try to link him up to in verticals, I’d try Vancouver Moon (#5) and Unembellished (#11). The former gets to try turf for the first time with the addition of Lasix for connections that can fire fresh and the latter comes in from Ellis where the form has been translating and Jack Sisterson has been hitting with longshots all year long.
Kentucky Downs Race 8: Bombard (#3)
The G3-Turf Sprint Stakes came up as tough of a non-Breeders’ Cup turf sprint as we’ve seen in years and I guess that’s what you can expect when a cool million is up for grabs. The race centers around Casa Creed (#7) and Got Stormy (#9) who are both cutting back in distance from the mile of the G1-Fourstardave at Saratoga. While Got Stormy got the better of him that day, I prefer Casa Creed to her in this spot as I think he’ll be better suited for the cutback to six furlongs as evidenced by his facile Jaipur score. However, I think there are other ways to go besides the two favorites. Imprimis (#12) is the defending champion of this race and certainly has a very good chance of repeating. He had a nightmare trip in the Breeders’ Cup last year and I thought he’d be in line for a big year, but he hasn’t seemed to be quite the same horse. I wish he’d have shown more in the Troy at Saratoga last time, but the return to Kentucky Downs might be just what the doctor ordered. My top pick is going to be Bombard (#3) for Richard Mandella. Now, I’m normally not a fan of turf horses shipping east, but he proved he could do it with his second in this race last year when setting a grueling pace. The dynamics might be different today as I don’t foresee any other front runners in this spot that can push him early and he could get a similar trip as the one he just received when wiring the G3-Daytona last time albeit over a weaker bunch. The one other price I’d throw into the mix would be Born Great (#5) for Brendan Walsh. It’s true he got a set up last time winning the prep for this race at Ellis, but the form from that preview day has been very productive at the Kentucky Downs meet and this runner ran his lifetime best figure over this track last year. I’d like to see if he can get forward position in a race that might hold together and he has the potential to be an improving type as a half brother to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Four Wheel Drive.
Kentucky Downs Race 9: Fantasioso (Arg) (#7)
The G2-Calumet Turf Cup features some hard-knocking veterans that have been around the turf marathon scene over the past few years. Although we got news yesterday of the retirement of Zulu Alpha (#11), the field still contains representation from the old guard in Channel Cat (#3) and Arklow (#5). Of those two, I prefer the former since he’s rediscovered that his best chance is wheeling and dealing on the front end, although there should be company with him on the lead. Arklow, however, seems to have tailed off a bit in his last two races and as the morning line favorite, I’m willing to shop for some prices. I’m looking for more of an up and coming type in this race and think you can center the play around three horses that will be longer prices on the tote. Imperador (#1) has yet to win since coming to North America last year, but ran a strong race in the G1-United Nations last time, a race that has proven to be productive, and Paulo Lobo already sent out a stakes winner at this meet. Glynn County (#9) seems to be an improving type for Mike Maker and may be the heir to Zulu Alpha’s throne in that barn. He ran deceptively well in the G1-Mr. D Stakes last time at Arlington joining top turf horse Domestic Spending as the only ones really closing into a pace that can only be described as glacial. I like the way he looked in his allowance win at the distance at Churchill and it’s good to see a win over the local course on his form when he broke his maiden here last year. I’ll be using him prominently, but my top pick is Fantasioso (Arg) (#7) for “Nacho” Correas. Similar to Imperador, he hasn’t won since getting over to the states, but I think today can be the day. The John’s Call at Saratoga was run over 13 furlongs and that’s what this 12 furlongs at Kentucky Downs can play like. He got a big figure in that race behind the promising Serve the King and had significant trouble in the aforementioned United Nations. He gets the ultimate positive rider switch to Umberto Rispoli who showed a knack for guiding runners over this course in the meet here last year and this one seems like one who may still have a forward move left in him.
Kentucky Downs Race 10: The Lir Jet (Ire) (#2)
I think the way to play the G2-Franklin-Simpson Stakes is by fading the horses coming out of Bruce D. Stakes at Arlington which, by both figures and form, will prove to be a G1 by name only. That includes the morning line favorite Point Me By (#10) who will be shortening up against some proven turf sprinters and doesn’t really possess any sort of figure edge. Of the Americans, I think Annex (#7) actually rates the best chance. The hype train got a bit out of control on this stunning chestnut colt after he rattled off three victories to start his career with some favorable set ups. But, I think his form since then is dirtied up with the slow-paced Manila, an off-the-turf race, and a strong field in the Derby Day undercard stakes. The horse he was defeated by in his last, Public Sector, is among the best turf colts of his generation and Annex possesses a potent turn of foot that might be suited to this sharper 6.5 furlong trip. However, I think both the European shippers rate a huge chance in this spot and are juicy prices on the morning line. Miss Amulet (#5) showed promise in her juvenile season winning a Group 2 at York and showing she could ship to the states with a solid third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Her last two running lines certainly leave something to be desired, but if on the ship over she can get back to the form as a two-year-old she’s right on par with these. My top pick, though, is going to be the other European shipper The Lir Jet (#2). He shows up in a new barn with Brendan Walsh who’s proven to be capable with runners like these in the past. His claim to fame is a spine-tingling win at Ascot over Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Golden Pal last year, but the form over his career has been inconsistent. His three-year-old return was his best race of the year so it’s proven he can run well fresh and I think the fact he’s a first-time gelding could help him retain his best form.