Kentucky Downs: Beckman eyes another upset with Sabalenka

Kentucky Downs: Beckman eyes another upset with Sabalenka
Photo: Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire

For his next trick, trainer Whit Beckman will attempt to light up the tote board at Kentucky Downs. He has already done it once.

Beckman will saddle Dirico Racing and Breeding’s Sabalenka in the $600,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on Sunday.

Click here for Kentucky Downs entries and results.

On Thursday, opening day at the seven-day meet, Beckman’s Harlan Estate pulled down a huge upset in the Tapit Stakes when the 5-year-old gelding won at odds of 37-1.

Sabalenka did not get any respect on the morning line for the Dueling Grounds Oaks as she was dismissed at odds of 20-1 in the full field of 12. Beckman didn’t flinch when he saw the number.

“At Kentucky Downs, you should not care what your odds are,” Beckman said by phone. “That turf course can be an equalizer.”

The 41-year-old Beckman has been training on his own since Sept. 11, 2021. The win with Harlan Estate was his first in a stakes. The former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher and champion trainer Chad Brown is anxious for another one.

“That’s the plan,” said Beckman, who also had a stint training in Saudi Arabia. “We know (Sabalenka) has run well there before. She likes the long stretch and it looks like she is ready to go.”

Sabalenka is winless in four starts this year but is coming off her best effort, a third in the Christina Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on the turf at Delaware Park July 15.

“I thought it was a pretty solid effort on a soft turf course,” Beckman said. “Since then, we just freshened her up and gave her a few breezes (at the Churchill Downs Training Center. I think we are cycling at the right time. I am excited to bring her there.”

Sabalenka is no stranger to the Kentucky Downs course. She broke her maiden last Sept. 22, winning a $150,000 race by a nose. She has a win, two seconds and two thirds in eight career starts, all of them on the grass.

This will be the first time Sabalenka has started at the 1 5/16-mile distance.

“She knows the place, she has experience over that turf course and the distance should really suit her running style,” Beckman said.

Although her second career win – an allowance race at Churchill Downs Nov. 22 – came in gate-to-wire fashion, that is not Sabalenka’s preferred running style.

“She wants to come from off it,” Beckman said. “That day at Churchill, (jockey Ricardo) Santana did something, I don’t know what, but he got her geared up early. The pace wasn’t that fast but she was really comfortable in that spot. She is usually slow to begin, but she always has a pretty sustained run. We know if she is anywhere near it at the end, she will keep fighting.”

Sabalenka will be ridden by Declan Cannon for the first time. Cannon was also aboard Harlan Estate on Thursday for Beckman.

“Declan and I have a good thing going,” Beckman said. “We have won some races and he fit with a lot of the horses I train. We have a great back and forth and it seems to work.”

2023 Dueling Grounds Oaks LS

Post Silks Horse / Sire Rating Trainer / Jockey Last Start / Next Start HRN
1 Horse Silk Callie's Grit Callie's Grit
Maclean's Music
4.45 Joe Sharp
Cristian A. Torres
1st, Sar MSW (7/29/23-R12) Entered
Last Race 1st, Sar MSW (7/29/23-R12)
2 Horse Silk Soft Talk Soft Talk
0.00 Joe Sharp
Luis Raul Rivera
3rd, 2023 Southern Park Stakes RS Entered
Last Race 3rd, 2023 Southern Park Stakes RS
3 Horse Silk Sabalenka Sabalenka
Good Samaritan
4.45 Whitworth Beckman
Declan Cannon
3rd, 2023 Christiana LS Entered
Last Race 3rd, 2023 Christiana LS
4 Horse Silk Safeen Safeen
War Front
4.12 Eddie Kenneally
Tyler Gaffalione
1st, 2023 Pucker Up G3 Entered
Last Race 1st, 2023 Pucker Up G3
5 Horse Silk Mrs Astor Mrs Astor
Lookin At Lucky
0.00 Jonathan Thomas
Florent Geroux
3rd, 2023 Regret G3 Entered
Last Race 3rd, 2023 Regret G3
6 Horse Silk Milagre Do Sol Milagre Do Sol
Good Magic
0.00 Kevin Attard
Sofia Vives


7 Horse Silk Allamericanbeauty Allamericanbeauty
Into Mischief
0.00 Claude R. McGaughey III
Vincent Cheminaud
7th, 2023 Saratoga Oaks G3 Entered
Last Race 7th, 2023 Saratoga Oaks G3
8 Horse Silk Flashy Gem Flashy Gem
Bolt d'Oro
4.12 Brad H. Cox
Gerardo Corrales
2nd, 2023 Curtis Sampson Oaks LS Entered
Last Race 2nd, 2023 Curtis Sampson Oaks LS
9 Horse Silk Last Call Last Call
English Channel
5.47 Kevin Attard
Joel Rosario
5th, 2023 Ontario Colleen G3 Entered
Last Race 5th, 2023 Ontario Colleen G3
10 Horse Silk Sun Bee Sun Bee
English Channel
0.00 H. Graham Motion
Jareth Loveberry
5th, GP MSW (3/5/23-R11) Entered
Last Race 5th, GP MSW (3/5/23-R11)
11 Horse Silk Freydis the Red Freydis the Red
Saxon Warrior
4.09 Kenneth G. McPeek
Brian J. Hernandez, Jr.
3rd, 2023 Pucker Up G3 Entered
Last Race 3rd, 2023 Pucker Up G3
12 Horse Silk Selenaia Selenaia
Sea The Moon
3.79 Jonathan Thomas
Jose L. Ortiz
8th, 2023 Saratoga Oaks G3 Entered
Last Race 8th, 2023 Saratoga Oaks G3
13 Horse Silk Dashyns Dream Dashyns Dream
Tu Brutus
3.79 Jayde J. Gelner
Reylu Gutierrez
1st, Hou MSW (3/17/23-R5) Entered
Last Race 1st, Hou MSW (3/17/23-R5)

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