The first big stakes-laden card takes place Saturday at Kentucky Downs amidst a great day of racing from coast-to-coast. At the humble Franklin, KY track, there are three rich stakes races up for grabs including the G3-Mint Million Stakes.
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- Race 1: 8-12-4-2
- Race 2: 3-9-4-5
- Race 3: 5-8-12-6
- Race 4: 8-12-10-7
- Race 5: 12-9-8-5
- Race 6: 4-5-8-9
- Race 7: 8-4-5-6
- Race 8: 7-4-3-8
- Race 9: 4-3-8-12
- Race 10: 7-2-3-9
- Race 11: 7-11-2-12
Kentucky Downs Race 7: Callie’s Grit (#8)
The first of two rich juvenile stakes kicks off the late pick five and nine promising fillies are slated to go postward. Brad Cox ran 1-2 in this race last year with future graded stakes winner and Kentucky Oaks participant Turnerloose defeating Yin Yang for the top prize. Like both of those fillies his entrant this year is coming off a maiden score at Ellis Park. Chop Chop (#6) is super logical off that form, but the race came up slower than some others have run and I think she’ll be overbet based on her connections and eventually be an underserving favorite. I was very impressed with the maiden score from Knockyoursocksoff (#4) over at Colonial earlier in their meet. Despite not much pace on, she easily circled the field and drew off to win impressively. I do not foresee her taking as much money as she’s pegged to on the morning line and if she drifts up, she’s dangerous to win right back. Towhead (#5) will always be known for “winning” one of the more bizarre races of the Saratoga meet thus far, when her maiden score on July 24th was declared a no contest due to a perceived gate malfunction. In spite of all that, she was impressive that day and validated that good performance by pairing up her speed figure in her subsequent start even with trouble at the break. However, I landed on a different filly who is still eligible for the maiden ranks in Callie’s Grit (#8). She didn’t take much money in her debut, sent off at 18-1, but ran really well to be second, racing without cover for much of the journey. The winner of that event, Be Your Best, came back to validate the speed figure by winning the PG Johnson at Saratoga on Thursday. The Joe Sharp barn usually overperforms at Kentucky Downs and the meet’s perennial leading rider Tyler Gaffalione opts to ride her over the aforementioned Maker trainee Towhead.
Kentucky Downs Race 8: Laver (#7)
The likely favorite in the rich stakes race for juveniles is Really Good (#4) who rallied to comfortably win a maiden race at Saratoga back in July. While none of the five colts who have run back out of that race broke their maidens, each improved their speed figure indicating that there was some quality behind him that day. The 72 Beyer he received that day would already be good enough to win many editions of this race. He can certainly win, but I’m concerned the public will go overboard betting a flashy maiden winner at Saratoga for Mike Maker and Tyler Gaffalione. I think there’s another maiden event worth looking at to potentially find today’s winner and that was at Ellis Park back in July in a race won by Mayfield Strong (#3). This striking chestnut by Travers winner Will Take Charge took a ton of money in his turf debut and exploded down the lane to take the race geared down in the end. However, this was his second career start and that’s often when juveniles take the biggest step forward. I’m hoping that’s the case for the runner up of that event Laver (#7) who I think can turn the tables on the rival that bested him that day. He had a touch of trouble at the start which put him towards the middle of the pack early on and despite having to weave his way between horses in the stretch his finishing kick was best of all. Furthermore, he’s bred to be a good one as his dam Centre Court was a G1W routing on turf and earned nearly $1M in her career. Plus, she’s produced G3W Navratilova for these same connections.
Kentucky Downs Race 9: Ride The Plan (#4)
This leg of the pick five is crying out for a price horse to upset the apple cart and I think there are a few very good options from connections that have had success at this meet before (and one who certainly hasn’t). The first of which is Shes Bout a Mover (#8) who steps up in class off a win at 13-1 in an N1X at Ellis Park last time where she ran a speed figure that puts her right in the mix here. The runner up from her last returned to run a good second here on Thursday and Brendan Walsh has been known to win with a price or two over the years at Kentucky Downs. The only question marks I have with her is as a 3yo facing elders and stretching out to the stamina-testing 6.5 furlongs today. Madrilena (Arg) (#3) shouldn’t have trouble with the distance as she’s won at 7f over both turf and dirt back in Argentina. Her stateside debut featured a quick pace that led to her tiring late, but I like the switch back to turf here for a barn in Paulo Lobo that won two big stakes races at this meet last year. However, I made Ride the Plan (#4) my top pick for Ignacio “Nacho” Correas. She’s coming off a game allowance win over the dirt at Colonial last time and has been improving with each and every start. At first it might seem odd that the connections switch to turf here despite not missing the exacta in any of her four career starts over dirt. However, there’s plenty of breeding to suggest she’ll take to this extended sprint distance over the grass. Candy Ride is a serviceable turf sire, but her dam Capital Plan won multiple graded stakes routing on turf and banked over $300k in her career. One major knock on her is that the Correas barn is 0/30 at Kentucky Downs over the last five years, but I’m willing to overlook that stat as this filly should be a price.
Kentucky Downs Race 10: Kentucky Ghost (#7)
The featured event on the card features the return to Kentucky Downs of Pixelate (#3) who 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 (#2) for Dallas Stewart. 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 (#7) 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 stakes 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.