Hard to believe it is already closing day at Kentucky Downs on Sunday. There were a bunch of exciting performances on display at the Franklin, KY track on Saturday when featured on the Road to the Breeders Cup coverage on NBC. However, I was partial to the performance put forth by The Lir Jet in the Franklin-Simpson stakes as he was tabbed in these pages and how cool were those silks! You can catch even more coverage on this card with a podcast on the home page where Nick Tammaro and I break down the late pick five sequence.
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- Race 1: 14-10-8-7
- Race 2: 4-6-5-9
- Race 3: 4-11-6-7
- Race 4: 1-10-5-11
- Race 5: 12-3-13-11
- Race 6: 9-8-2-11
- Race 7: 12-8-11-5
- Race 8: 6-7-5-9
- Race 9: 7-10-3-4
- Race 10: 6-8-4-10
Kentucky Downs Race 1: Degree of Love (#14)
There are some eye-catching pedigrees in this two year old maiden race to kick off the closing day card led by the morning line favorite Carioquinha (#8) for Steve Asmussen and Three Diamonds Farm. Sired by Asmussen’s charge Gun Runner out of G1 winner Pure Clan, this filly is worthy of her nearly half a million dollar purchase price. The negative is that Asmussen is just 1/15 with debut runners at Kentucky Downs and she’ll be bet off her pedigree. Of the firsters I prefer Mission Belle (#10) for Brad Cox and Joel Rosario. Not a ton of turf in the pedigree but she seems to be working well at Turfway for the debut over their synthetic surface. However, I landed on a runner that will get in off the also-eligible list in Degree of Love (#14) for Mike Maker. She’s one of only a few runners with experience and that lends itself favorably especially over this grueling configuration. She caught a bog in her debut race at Saratoga won by the creatively named Frankel filly Fortineno and could take a step forward second out. We’ve seen two AE’s win this meet and pay elevated prices due in part to being overlooked as part of the race by handicappers so here’s hoping the same is the case here.
Kentucky Downs Race 8: Tobys Heart (#6)
The penultimate stakes event of the season is the Music City Stakes offering $500k for three year old fillies going the roughly six and a half furlongs. There is plenty of speed signed on for this race and I have to believe it will set it up for a closer. Due to those circumstances, I think this race suits itself to a very likely winner in Tobys Heart (#6). This distance at Kentucky Downs really suits itself to those turf horses that are “tweeners” meaning they are equally proficient at sprints and routes and that’s certainly the case with this filly for Bryan Lynch. She was the talk of the town in Saratoga when making an eye-catching rally down the lane to take the Bolton Landing in her 2yo year. Unfortunately, that’s where her promising juvenile campaign ended, but she’s come back at three and shown flashes of that talent throughout this year. The one mile distance that she ran in her last two starts is probably pushing the limits of her scope, so I like the cutback here, but it’s not as if she ran poorly in either of those efforts. Two back in the Tepin, she was caught behind a slow pace set by today’s rival Navratilova (#5) and last out ran into Technical Analysis who could be the best 3yo turf filly in the country. She seems to be working well since that race and all signs point to her being aimed for this spot. I also love the rider upgrade to Joel Rosario who specializes with these closing turf sprinters. The primary back-ups would be from the Galway Stakes. First is Illegal Smile (#7) for Wesley Ward since she’s run well in each of her three starts this year, but especially last time when forced to rally on the inside of eventual winner Star Devine and finishing ahead of the talented Bye Bye. The other is Alwayz Late (#9) who was a longshot that day and figures to be again but was forced to hinder her rally late in the stretch that day.
Kentucky Downs Race 9: Family Way (#7)
The Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon concludes the stakes action at the Kentucky Downs meet and features some familiar names from the graded stakes ranks. Micheline (#3) may well wind up as the favorite in this spot, but she’s tough to trust off her current form. While it’s a feather in her cap that she has a win over the course and distance from last year, but it doesn’t seem like she has the same punch as she did then when she was knocking heads with Harvey’s Lil Goil. I’ll use her defensively, but am looking for different options. It would be fitting for Blame Debbie (#10) to notch this stakes event after being on the wrong end of a questionable disqualification at this meet last year. That affinity for today’s turf course will suit her well and while the form tail off isn’t as pronounced with her as it is with Micheline, I still wonder if she’s moved forward from 3 to 4. That said I’m taking a shot with Family Way (#7) for Brendan Walsh. The Walsh barn always is live at this meet hitting at 17% with a $3.46 ROI in the last five years including 3 winners on yesterday’s card at odds of 8-1, 9-1, and 18-1. I think the momentum can continue with this Uncle Mo filly who returns to facing fillies after a hard-knocking effort in the Turf Cup Preview at Ellis. That race featured four horses amongst the leading group for most of the race and Family Way was the only one around at the finish. I like the rider switch to Tyler Gaffalione who is also coming off a three-bagger and can likely work out a nice stalking trip. If she’s able to navigate the 10.5 furlongs, I think she can spring the upset on the favorites who might not be in their peak form.
Kentucky Downs Race 10: Zanesville (#6)
The Kentucky Downs meet closes out the way it began with a 12 furlong turf race with this one being a starter allowance event. The morning line favorite Artemus Eagle (#12) will scratch after running in the Turf Cup Stakes yesterday, and that leaves a relative dearth of early pace. I’m excited to see what we’ll get from Vincent Van Gogo (#4) who returns to the flat after alternating between that configuration and the hurdles over the last three races all of which were wins. He’ll need to find a few points on the speed figure scale to be on par with likely favorite Yamato (#10), but Reylu Gutierrez may notice the lack of early zip and send him to the front. Another one I’m interested in is Time For Trouble (#8) who seemed to really take a step forward when they stretched him way out in distance last time at Belterra and as only a four-year-old he may have more upside left in him than some of his rivals. However, my top pick is going to be Zanesville (#6). This gelding has had the unfortunate luck of six races being washed off the turf in his last twelve races and I think he’s a much better turf horse. This is evidenced by the fact that he won a race at this level to close out the 2020 Kentucky Downs meet at the same 12f distance. His last race is better than it looks on paper at a distance probably short of his best since the top two runners ran one-two around the track. Furthermore, midwest based trainer George Leonard has been live this meet including a firster that won at 28-1. Let’s hope history repeats itself and it’s Zanesville to close out the Kentucky Downs meet.