Blessed we are to have another glorious day in the sport of kings. That little country track nestled just north of the Tennessee state line played host to the second richest turf racing day in the nation on September 12. Called “Kentucky Turf Cup Day”, five graded stakes were run over the only European style track in the nation. Here is a brief summary on each.
THE ENGLISH CHANNEL LADIES TURF
Contested at one mile, this grade 3 race was run with a $500,000 purse. Turf titan trainer Chad Brown has decided to throw his hat in the ring at Kentucky Downs in 2020. Having won the Tourist Mile (Flavius) on opening day, the New York based conditioner sent the aptly named Regal Glory to post. Breaking alertly and stalking a solid early pace, jockey Jose Ortiz masterfully guided this daughter of Animal Kingdom into the stretch a head in front. A stubborn Mitchell Road battled to the wire, but in the end, North America’s leading grass trainer enjoyed a little more of the Regal Glory this unique track offers. The late money made Brown’s charge the 9 to 5 favorite as she returned $4.80 on a $2 win wager.
THE REAL SOLUTION LADIES SPRINT
Coming in, this six and a half furlong run adjacent to I-65 was going to be a question and answer race for one of the sport’s most courageous runners. Got Stormy is one of those fabulous females that runs hard EVERY time out. She may have entered the starting gates winless in 2020, but three of her five previous starts had come against the boys at longer distances. Despite some gutsy efforts, there were those that wondered if she had lost a step. Understanding his horse, trainer Mark Casse thought a trip over the fescue in Franklin, Kentucky was exactly what his female needed. About a minute and fifteen seconds after the gates opened, the veteran conditioner and everyone else had their answers. Held in mid-pack by jockey Tyler Gafflione behind some faster early fractions (22.54 opening quarter), Stormy struck the lead at the top of the stretch and never looked back. Beautifully bouncing down the lane, Casse’s queen exuded her class and was much the best. Winning by a widening 3 ¼ lengths Got Stormy proved she is still a runner to be reckoned with.
“Tyler said she wanted to go early but he held her back,” says Casse. “People thought she had lost it, but we just needed to find the right spot for her. I think next we will try the Breeders’ Cup maybe at 5 ½ furlongs at Keeneland. She’s very special to us.”
Got Stormy returned $5.80 on a $2 win investment and gave her caring conditioner exactly the answer he was looking for..
THE BAL A BALI JUVENILE TURF SPRINT
A showcase for the future stars, these six and a half furlongs offered up $500,000 in prize money. Having had a wonderful start to the Kentucky Downs meet, trainer Wesley Ward looked to pad his bankroll with two bright young stars. Outadore and Fauci both broke well while running mid-pack behind a sizzling opening quarter mile (21.79). Moving almost in tandem, Ward’s pair moved to the front with the unbeaten Outadore on the lead. Running through the rain, the Ward tandem dueled through the lane. In the end, the son of Outwork did exactly that to stable mate Fauci as he cleared by a length and a quarter at the wire. Good for the wallet, the 1-2 finish also told us Ward knows how to produce at Kentucky Downs. Outadore provided $5.60 on a $2 win bet and the Ward exacta paid $7.20 on a $1 wager.
THE CALUMET FARM KENTUCKY TURF CUP
The centerpiece of the day, this $1 million race was supposed to bring some things into focus in the turf division…and in fact it did. Zulu Alpha entered the gates as the deserving 4 to 5 favorite. As the race’s defending champ, you knew he could win here and three fantabulous victories in 2020 told us he was perhaps better than ever. This was his chance to move up the divisional ladder. Arklow had won the Turf Cup in 2018 but had been less than stellar this year as he could only manage a runner-up finish in four starts. Adding blinkers, trainer Brad Cox was hoping to jump start his six year old with an equipment change. As ten talented runners went on this mile and a half journey things became much more clear. It was obvious early that Arklow was a different horse with blinkers on. Involved in the race early, Donegal Racing’s prize looked dandy as he ran just off a sensible pace (24.6 quarter, 50.27 half mile). Hitting the gas at the top of the stretch under jockey Florent Geroux, Arklow struck the lead. Moving toward the wire with ground gobbling strides this son of Arch displayed the conviction of the grade 1 winner that he is.
“The blinkers made a huge difference,” said a jubilant Brad Cox after the race. “We wanted to get him involved early and we are very proud of how he responded.”
Winning by a length and a quarter over a game Red Knight, Arklow picked up his seventh career win and increased his earnings to $2,466.116. So here is what came into focus, there are no givens in this game (Zulu Alpha closed to finish third) and sometimes to gain different results you have to try a new strategy. Blinkers helped Arklow find that zone as the runner he had been before. The victor returned $13.60 to his backers on a $2 investment.
THE RUNHAPPY TURF SPRINT
Now in its 22nd year, this race has morphed into one of the most important dates on the calendar for Kentucky Downs. Although the purse is plenty healthy ($700,000) that is not what has raised the value. For the second consecutive year this race provides an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. That combined with the money makes for a crowded and talented starting gate. The win and you’re in status has put the track a little more in the spotlight for sure. The turf sprint races are always uber exciting and this one was no different. Eleven runners broke with post time favorite Imprimis getting up by a neck at the end. Biding his time under a masterful ride from Irad Ortiz Jr., this six year old son of Broken Vow timed things perfectly. A quick post-race conversation with one of the winningest jocks on the planet provided some perspective on what makes the sport and Kentucky Downs wonderful. When asked about Kentucky Downs and the big purses, the New York-based rider was quick to come back. “I really like riding here because it’s a little different and provides a new challenge,” says Ortiz. “I am very fortunate that I get to ride a lot of good horses. The money is nice, but I came here because I like the competition and I just love to ride horses.”
Well said Irad. Imprimis returned $8 on a $2 win bet.