Kentucky Downs: Maker seeks Kentucky Turf Cup three-peat

Kentucky Downs: Maker seeks Kentucky Turf Cup three-peat
Photo: Reed Palmer Photography

Mike Maker will have lots of horses as he pursues a training-title three-peat when Kentucky Downs begins its five-date run Saturday. He just won’t have Da Big Hoss.
Da Big Hoss, winner of the $600,000, Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup in 2016 and 2015, can’t attempt his own hat trick because of an ankle injury that surfaced as the horse was about to make his 2017 debut at Keeneland. The injury didn’t require surgery, and Da Big Hoss is expected to resume training soon. Unless he winds up going to stud, the target objective for Da Big Hoss will be the 2018 Kentucky Turf Cup.
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Maker last year won five of Kentucky Downs’ 12 stakes, and all five winners were acquired via claiming races. He hopes to continue that pattern and his Kentucky Turf Cup run with Taghleeb, Oscar Nominated and maybe St. Louie.
“I’d like to duplicate it; that’s for sure,” Maker said of last year’s meet, which he led in wins (eight overall), seconds (six) and thirds (five), purses earnings ($1,469,336, or almost $1 million than runner-up Christophe Clement) and starts (35, or almost double second-place Joe Sharp’s 18). “You have a good meet by getting your horses in. I was very fortunate to get the majority of my horses in. Having said that, when you have a good meet, the ones who don’t get in, you don’t remember anyway.”
Taghleeb, second in Arlington’s Grade 3 American St. Leger in his last start, was a $62,500 claim last summer at Saratoga. The horse, now 6, was a good third in a mile Kentucky Downs allowance race in his first start for owner Michael Hui and Maker. But, as with Skychai Racing’s Da Big Hoss, he seems to have found his niche stretching out. Taghleeb has won three stakes for his new team, including Gulfstream Park’s two-mile H. Allen Jerkens and the Grade 3 McKnight at 1 1/2 miles. In May, Taghleeb was second in Belmont Park’s Grade 1 Man o’ War.
Oscar Nominated, a $75,000 claim out of a maiden race by owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, was a close eighth in the Arlington Million. Oscar Nominated will attempt to end an eight-race losing streak — albeit with three seconds and two thirds in stakes races — since he romped in last year’s Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds at Kentucky Downs.
Three Diamonds Farm’s St. Louie, a $35,000 claim a year ago, could also have earned a shot at the Kentucky Turf Cup after taking second in Saratoga’s 1 5/8-mile John’s Call.
Maker has eight horses entered in seven races for Saturday’s opening card, although Bingo Kitten requires three scratches by 9 a.m. Central Friday to get in an entry-level allowance race. The barn has Frozen Hannah in the $150,000 One Dreamer, Go Noni Go (making her first start for Maker) in the $350,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies and Shining Copper running for the first time in a year in the $400,000 Tourist Mile.
One stakes Maker naturally is targeting is the Ramsey Farm Stakes, named in honor of Kentucky’s all-time winningest owners. Ken and Sarah Ramsey won the race last year with former claimer Al’s Gal when it was called the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon. Maker is pointing Churchill Downs’ Keertana winner Daring Duchess and the Fair Grounds’ Marie Krantz winner Kitten’s Roar for the Ramsey Farm.
Hogy, an $80,000 claim for Hui in the 8-year-old gelding’s last start, will run in the $400,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint, which this year has been awarded Grade 3 status. Hogy was second by a neck in the stakes last year.
Benefactor and Kitten’s Cat are likely for the $250,000 Franklin-Simpson for 3-year-olds at seven-eighths of a mile Sept. 14, Maker said.
The Skychai partnership bought the 3-year-old Benefactor for $135,000 at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s horses of racing age auction this summer. Running on turf for the first time, he was a good second in a Saratoga allowance race.
Skychai also claimed Special Ops for $50,000 in June at Churchill Downs, much as they had Da Big Hoss. In two starts for Skychai and Maker, Special Ops was third in Indiana Grand’s $100,000 Warrior Veterans Stakes and won Mountaineer’s $75,000 West Virginia Speakers Cup. Because he ran in a $25,000 claiming race within the past year, Special Ops is eligible for Kentucky Downs’ $75,000 Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes Prep, a race whose winner gets an automatic berth in the Claiming Crown Championship, racing’s Breeders’ Cup-style championship for the sport’s blue-collar workhorses at Gulfstream Park Dec. 2.
“It’s our major turf destination of the year, other than Breeders’ Cup,” Skychai head Dr. Harvey Diamond said of Kentucky Downs. “We were thinking that for Special Ops when we claimed him…. We have had incredible success down there, and we feel very lucky. It’s unbelievable. We’ve won allowance races and big stakes races. So why wouldn’t we want to go there?… I know when we claim these horses, that’s something he looks at really hard: Are they eligible for something at Kentucky Downs and to run in one of the Claiming Crown races?”
Maker encouraged both Tyler Gaffalione, the 2015 Eclipse Award apprentice jockey, and Jose Ortiz, who captured the Belmont Stakes aboard Tapwrit and is on his way to a second Saratoga riding title, to ride at Kentucky Downs for the first time.
“When you give that much money away, it’s going to attract a lot of attention,” Maker said.
Bantu could continue Walsh’s big year
Few trainers have exploded on the national scene in the past year as much as Brendan Walsh, who already has blown by his previous career-best season for earnings at $2.5 million with four months to go. His 43 victories are two shy of his career-best as his stable has progressed exponentially each year since launching with a second-place finish with his first and only starter in 2011. Most importantly, Walsh won three stakes at the Fair Grounds with Honorable Duty and two graded stakes at Saratoga with Proctor’s Ledge, as well as the Illinois Derby with Multiplier to give Walsh his first Triple Crown appearances in the Preakness and Belmont, albeit finishing sixth and 10th.
Walsh has the one of the favorites in Saturday’s $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile in Jamm Ltd’s Bantu, who in his second start impressively won a mile grass maiden race at Ellis Park, earning a solid 82 Bris speed figure.
“He looks like a nice prospect,” Walsh said at Churchill Downs. “I’m looking forward to it. He got a good draw (post 3). I don’t know if he’d want the turf too soft, but would he handle the track? Absolutely. He’s a nice horse. You never know how good they are until you put them in these kind of races. There are a couple of nice horses who have done good things so far, and then there’s a bunch of horses who have just broken their maiden. We’ll have to see. But I do like him a lot.”
Moquett banking that Elizabeth Nicole likes the grass
Trainer Ron Moquett doesn’t have a lot of grass horses in his barn, making Oaklawn Park’s 3 1/2-month winter-spring meet a major part of his year and joking that there is “no lawn at Oaklawn.” But he hopes he has a turf horse in Franklin Stables’ Elizabeth Nicole. For $350,000, he’s going to find out in Saturday’s Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies. The daughter of Exchange Rate won her July 21 debut at five-eighths of a mile on dirt at Ellis Park under jockey Sophie Doyle, who again has the mount in the seven-furlong stakes.
Moquett considered Elizabeth Nicole for the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante, but decided that race “for the money was way too tough,” attracting the top three finishers of Churchill Downs’ Debutante. “We had a little hiccup,” he said. “She had a little bit of mucous, so that was the only excuse we needed not to go over there and battle those hammerheads.
“We just think she can do either (surface). At this stage, we’re giving her the benefit of a doubt based on pedigree. I think Exchange Rate is pretty versatile, and on her dam side she’s got access to grass, too. If you’re wrong down there, no big deal. But if you’re right, wow, that could set your year off really nice.
“I think we fit. I don’t know what soft (turf) does to us. I would think at this stage of the game, anybody who would know that would be just guessing. Like us, it’s only our second out, and we ran on the dirt. But, she’s very handy and agile. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. We’ll all get to find out together.”
West Point Thoroughbreds has two in Saturday stakes
West Point Thoroughbreds, the racing syndicate that has one partnership that owns a small piece of Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, has the 5-2 favorite for the $350,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies in Saratoga’s Schuylerville runner-up Best Performance as well as French import Boreale in the $150,000 One Dreamer for fillies and mares who have not won a stakes in 2017.
Best Performance won her May 17 debut at Belmont Park, then was second in the Astoria (nipping Waki Patriot, also in this race). Trainer Christophe Clement, who won last year’s Juvenile Fillies with Lull, had Best Performance work on the grass twice at Saratoga after the Schuylerville, which Dream It Is won by nine lengths.
“She’s doing great,” said West Point president and founder Terry Finley. “We very much liked the way she covered the ground on grass. We had Jose Ortiz work her, and he just thought she felt better on the grass than on the dirt. And those fillies are fast. They drew the Spinaway Wednesday, so we knew who the probables were at Saratoga. She looks like a filly that wants to go farther, so we were a little uncomfortable running against those kind of fillies on the dirt, being in a position where they would run away from us and we’d come running and finish second or third and say, ‘Why didn’t we go to Kentucky Downs?’
“The filly that won the Schuylerville turning for home just kind of scampered away. They turn for home, change leads and go from being three in front to seven or eight and we’re trying to come down the middle of the racetrack after being whacked down the backside. I assess it as the filly that beat us freaked. We’d love to get Best Performance to the Breeders’ Cup, and we think her best chance to get there is on the grass. But being by Broken Vow, I don’t think we won’t at least try her again on dirt, maybe down in Florida. But we have a shot to have some fun with her this fall on the grass.
“In year’s past, we probably would have taken a shot at the Spinaway. But especially with the purses down there, it’s very attractive to be a solid contender for $350,000, where if we ran in the Spinaway we’d be 12- or 15-1.”
Boreale was bought privately in France, where she won a small stakes at age 2 and a pair of allowance races last year at 3. She won her U.S. debut in a Delaware allowance, then was third in a stakes at Mountaineer Park.
Saturday’s Kentucky Downs stakes (comprises an all-stakes Pick 4 wager)
One Dreamer 
Purse: $350,000 (includes $75,000 KTDF). Division: fillies & mares 3 years old & up. Distance: mile and 70 yards on turf. Post time: 4:10 p.m. CT (Race 6).
pp horse (weight) jockey/trainer odds
1 Bonnie Arch (121) Doyle/Wilkes 30-1
2 Boreale (121) Albarado/Motion 9-2
3 America Mon Amie (121) Lanerie/Granitz 20-1
4 My Impression (121) Gaffalione/McGaughey 3-1
5 Charlotte Marie (121) Miranda/Moss 50-1
6 Celestial Insight (121) Garcia/Ward 12-1
7 Daddy’s Boo (121) Valdivia/Rivelli 8-1 
8 Rattataptap (121) Bridgmohan/Mott 10-1
9 Frozen Hannah (121) Santana/Maker 20-1
10 Mo Knows (121) Jimenez/Ward 12-1
11 Flying Tipat (121) Canchari/Romans 20-1
12 Zipessa (121) Leparoux/Stidham 5-2
13 (AE) Majestic Angel (121) Quinonez/Reed 30-1
14 (AE) Bootsy’s Girl (121) Hill/Jurado 30-1
15 (AE) Skyluck (121) Quinonez/Reed 30-1
16 (AE) Miner’s Cat (121) Santana/Lopresti 30-1
Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies
Purse: $350,000 (includes $200,000 KTDF). Division: 2-year-old fillies. Distance: 7 furlongs on turf. Post time: 4:45 p.m. CT (Race 7)
pp horse (weight) jockey/trainer odds
1 Classy Music (120) Albarado/McPeek 8-1
2 Elizabeth Nicole (120) Doyle/Moquett 20-1
3 Best Performance (120) Hernandez/Clement 5-2
4 High Tech (120) Landeros/Wilkes 10-1
5 Go Noni Go (120) Gaffalione/Maker 20-1
6 Waki Patriot (120) Court/Hancock 6-1
7 Our Graycious Girl (118) Gilligan/Lovell 30-1 
8 Moonlight Rain (120) Rocco/Casse 6-1 
9 Ultima D (118) Garcia/Ward 9-2
10 Secret Passion (122) Lanerie/Gelner 15-1 
11 Katie’s Reward (120) Bridgmohan/Cox 8-1
12 Arabella Bella (120) Valdivia/Yanakov 30-1
13 (AE) My Peeps (118) Court/Van Berg 30-1
14 (AE) Delaphene (120) Graham/Harty 20-1
15 (AE) Bridaled Temper (118) Leparoux/Casse 6-1
16 (AE) Emmport(118) Santana/Cox 5-1
Tourist Mile
Purse: $400,000 (includes $200,000 KTDF). Division: 3-year-olds & up. Distance: mile on turf. Post time: 5:20 p.m. CT (Race 8)
pp horse (weight) jockey/trainer odds
1 Hootenanny (121) Garcia/Ward 5-1
2 Flatlined (125) Rocco/Dickey 6-1
3 Shining Copper (121) Gaffalione/Maker 3-1
4 Dimension (121) Landeros/Murphy 20-1
5 Western Reserve (125) Bridgmohan/Sweezey 6-1
6 Zambian (121) Gilligan/Miller 20-1
7 Applicator (121) Valdivia/Yanakov 8-1
8 Irish Straight (125) Lynch/Motion 2-1
9 Bandar (121) Barbaran/Jurado 30-1
Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile
Purse: $350,000 (includes $200,000 KTDF). Division: 2-year-olds. Distance: 7 furlongs on turf. Post time: 5:55 p.m. Central (Race 9)
pp horse (weight) jockey/trainer odds
1 Tigerbeach (120) Valdivia/Rivelli 10-1
2 Little Jimmy B (120) Lynch/Abbott 20-1
3 Bantu (120) Rocco/Walsh 5-1
4 Arawak (120) Jimenez/Ward 9-2
5 Mr Ashley (120) Figueroa/Macias 30-1
6 Make Noise (120) Court/Van Berg 15-1 
7 Northern Trail (120) Hill/Van Berg 4-1
8 John Tippmann (120) Albarado/McPeek 15-1 
9 Snapper Sinclair (120) Santana/Asmussen 7-2
10 Stolen Pistol (120) Landeros/Sharp 15-1
11 Sky Promise (120) Gilligan/McPeek 8-1
12 Renaisance Frolic (120) Gaffalione/Fawkes 15-1
13 (AE) Smart Remark (120) Cruz/V. Oliver 12-1
14 (AE) Pont Du Gard (120) Graham/Correas 10-1
15 (AE) Captivating Moon (120) Leparoux/Block 8-1
16 (AE) Hill (120) Gorder 20-1
Blinkers offs: Arawak

KTDF: Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund

Source: Kentucky Downs

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