The Kentucky Turf Cup on Saturday at Kentucky Downs drew an over-subscribed field for the 1 1/2-mile Grade 2 on the turf. Along with his share of the $1 million purse, the winner will receive a win-and-you’re-in spot in the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
The full field includes the three last winners of the Turf Cup. The 7-year-old Arklow, who is a two-time winner of this race in 2020 and 2018, was made the 3-1 morning-line favorite, and 2019 winner Zulu Alpha is listed at 6-1.
Trainer Mike Maker has five entries in the main body of the race and another one on the also-eligible list. Maker is the all-time winning trainer at Kentucky Downs and a five-time winner of the training title. He has won the Turf Cup in four of the last six years.
Here is a full-field analysis for the Kentucky Turf Cup, which is slated as race 9 of 11, with the official Kentucky Downs morning-line odds. Post time is scheduled for 5:44 p.m. EDT.
1. Imperador (15-1 – Treasure Beach – Paulo Lobo / Joe Talamo – 13: 3-4-0 - $221,138) Imperator shipped from training in Kentucky to finish second in the United Nations (G1) at Monmouth Park. That turned out to be a race from which several horses came back to run very well. And it was the best performance from this Group 1 winner in Argentina since he made his first start in North America a year ago. He raced with Lasix in the United Nations, but at Kentucky Downs all stakes races are without that medication on race day. Use underneath.
2. Crossfirehurricane (20-1 – Kitten’s Joy – Michael McCarthy / Flavien Prat – 8: 4-0-4 - $103,779) One of three sons of Kitten’s Joy in the main field, this 4-year-old joined the barn of Michael McCarthy after winning a Group 3 race at the Curragh in Ireland for Joseph O’Brien. In North America, he has had two starts in graded stakes in California. Both times he was away from the gate slowly and moved up very little throughout the races. Racing in North America, it is very difficult to get so far behind in the early going. Toss.
3. Channel Cat (9-2 – English Channel – Jack Sisterson / John Velazquez – 28: 6-3-5 - $1,406,022 – Kentucky Downs - 1: 1-0-0 - $235,600) Channel Cat was the 8-1 winner of the Man O’War (G1) at Belmont Park in May for this race’s sponsor, Calumet Farm, and trainer Jack Sisterson. Channel Cat won his only start at Kentucky Downs as a 3-year-old in the 2018 Dueling Grounds Derby. Regular rider John Velazquez will be on board. Frankly, it is hard to know when Channel Cat will have a winning effort, but a field of 12 seems like an unlikely spot. Toss.
4. Tide of the Sea (6-1 – English Channel – Michael Maker / Luis Saez – 15: 4-5-1 - $376,184 – Kentucky Downs - 1: 1-0-0 - $57,000) At 6-1 on the morning line, Tide of the Sea shares the shortest odds of the five runners for Michael Maker in this field, along with Zulu Alpha. In his last two starts, Tide of the Sea was the pace setter but could not hold on for the win. Most recently, he was fourth in the Preview Turf Cup for this race, which was run at Ellis Park. This long-distance specialist got his last victory in a Grade 3 at Gulfstream Park in January. He won his only start at Kentucky Downs in an allowance in 2020. Prefer others.
5. Arklow (3-1 – Arch – Brad Cox / Florent Geroux – 34: 9-7-2 - $2,756,246 – Kentucky Downs - 3: 2-1-0 - $1,209,246) This 7-year-old is the leading money winner in the field with a Grade 1 victory plus two wins in the Kentucky Turf Cup in 2020 and 2018 and a second in 2019. His 2021 campaign began in May with a win in the Louisville (G3) at Churchill Downs. Even though his next two speed figures stayed close to that victory’s number, he finished sixth in the United Nations after he clipped heels and stumbled and then seventh in the Del Mar Handicap (G2). Trainer Brad Cox has to hope that the return to Kentucky Downs will bring out the best in Arklow. Deserves respect.
6. Bluegrass Parkway (20-1 – Quality Road – Mike Maker / Julien Leparoux – 17: 3-1-6 - $215,875) Bluegrass Parkway was a bit of a surprise when he won the Preview Turf Cup at odds of 13-1 with a late rally while racing wide. It was the first stakes victory for this 5-year-old, who has been training in Kentucky and did not go to Saratoga with trainer Mike Maker. He got a career best Beyer Speed Figure in that victory. The 20-1 morning line odds would be attractive if that price holds on race day. Live long shot.
7. Fantasioso (6-1 – Strategic Prince – Ignacio Correas IV / Umberto Rispoli – 28: 5-7-5 - $170,472) Here is another stakes winner from Argentina and another who ran in the United Nations at Monmouth. Since, he was third in the restricted John’s Call at Saratoga. His best finish in North America for trainer Nacho Correas was a second in the Belmont Gold Cup (G2) in June. Fantasioso finished behind several of the horses in this field, including behind Imperador in Argentina last year. Toss.
8. Ajourneytofreedom (10-1 – Hard Spun – Michael Maker / Irad Ortiz Jr. – 19: 3-4-2 - $262,852) This 4-year-old was claimed for $80,000 last summer at Del Mar and moved east by Mike Maker. Since, he has not finished worse than fifth in eight starts, which include Grade 1, 2, and 3 stakes. His only win this year came in a second-level allowance at Saratoga. His most recent start was in the John’s Call, when he was fifth behind Fantasioso. Journeytofreedom is hard to completely discount because of his consistency and with Irad Ortiz on board. Use underneath.
9. Glynn County (15-1 – Kitten’s Joy – Michael Maker / Tyler Gaffalione – 14: 4-1-2 - $304,728 – Kentucky Downs - 1: 1-0-0 - $54,000) Glynn County is the fourth Maker runner in the main field. As is so often the case with Maker turf runners, this guy was claimed. He was taken for $40,000 in a maiden claimer in which he ran second at Saratoga last summer. He broke his maiden in his next start at Kentucky Downs and has three other wins. Most recently, Glynn County was third in the Mr. D (G1) at Arlington last month at odds of 38-1. His last two races earned him the same top Beyer of 97. Live long shot.
10. Epic Bromance (15-1 – Kitten’s Joy – J. Kent Sweezey / Joe Bravo – 11: 3-1-1 - $153,998) Epic Bromance popped up and ran a big race in the United Nations in his first start for Monmouth Park trainer J K Sweezey. He finished third after having to check in the beginning of the race. He moved from the barn of Mark Casse after having been eased in the Elkhorn (G2) at Keeneland. Epic Bromance earned a career high speed figure in that comeback performance. He prefers to run as part of the early pace. Live long shot.
11. Zulu Alpha (6-1 – Street Cry – Michael Maker / Ricardo Santana Jr. – 37: 12-5-6 - $2,269,084 – Kentucky Downs - 3: 1-0-1 - $683,800) The fifth of the Maker runners is now an 8-year-old and his only two starts of 2021 were below standard for this great turf runner with earnings of over $2 million. More concerning about this year’s races are that his speed figures were significantly lower than what we are used to seeing from Zulu Alpha. To his credit, he is the 2019 winner of this race, but his last victory was in the summer of 2020 at Keeneland. Prefer others.
12. Breakpoint (20-1 – Constitution – Steve Asmussen / Jose Ortiz – 7: 5-0-0 - $205,163) Breakpoint was a Group 1 winner in Chile almost a year ago. He made two starts this year for Chad Brown, with the most recent producing an eighth-place finish in the Bowling Green (G2) at Saratoga. Since, he was moved to Steve Asmussen and will make his debut for the Hall of Famer. As great as things are going for the Asmussen barn, he is not known for success with turf horses. Toss.
Also-eligible list – According to the Kentucky Downs condition book, “Preference was given to the Kentucky Downs Preview Calumet Turf Cup winner at Ellis Park, Graded or Group Stakes winners (in order I-II-III), Stakes winners, then highest turf earnings in 2021. The also-eligibles may remain on the program and be scratched up to fifteen minutes prior to pari-mutuel windows opening.”
13. Big Dreaming (20-1 – Declaration of War – Wayne Catalano / Corey Lanerie – 8: 4-2-1 - $293,525 - Kentucky Downs - 1: 0-1-0 - $139,500)
14. Artemus Eagle (30-1 – Wicked Strong – Waylon Cundiff / Chase Miller – 28: 7-2-2 - $143,498)
15. Dynadrive (20-1 – Temple City – Mike Maker / Jose Ortiz – 17: 6-5-2 - $271,548)
16. Time for Trouble (30-1 – English Channel – Jeff Hiles / John McKee – 14: 4-1-0 - $62,000)
Summary: Payoffs in the Kentucky Turf Cup have ranged from $3 to $121.20 with several other odds-on winners to go with long-shot prices of $24.80 and $71.60. This sure feels like a year when you don’t want to be playing the favorites.
Arklow, the 3-1 morning line favorite, has plenty of back class with two previous wins in this race, but his last two starts are not confidence builders for handicappers. As a 7-year-old, can we expect him to bounce back again at Kentucky Downs?
Only one horse is coming into the race with a victory in his most recent start and that is Bluegrass Parkway, the winner of the Ellis Park prep for the Turf Cup, and he is listed at 20-1 in the morning line.
Glynn County is in the best form of his career, with a third in the recent Mr. D at Arlington Park. He earned a 97 Beyer in his last two starts and that is as good as or better than several horses that come with shorter odds than his 15-1.
Epic Bromance is another live long shot at 15-1 after his career best race in the United Nations in his first start for new trainer J K Sweezey. Excellent turf rider Joe Bravo gets on board after he finished fifth in jockey standings at the just finished Del Mar summer meeting.