Zulu Alpha nabs a 'bucket-list' win in Kentucky Turf Cup

September 07, 2019 06:34pm

Almost a year ago, owner Michael Hui claimed Zulu Alpha for $80,000 out of an allowance race.

Hui called Kentucky Downs’ Grade 3, $1 million 
Kentucky Turf Cup “a bucket-list item” and thought Zulu Alpha might be the horse to score his stable a win in the event.

Those dreams became a reality Saturday. The 8-year-old gelding made a strong bid at the 5/16ths pole, then blew by his competition to win Kentucky Downs’ most lucrative race by 3 ¼ lengths.

Trained by Mike Maker, and with jockey Jose Ortiz in the irons, Zulu Alpha struck as the 2-1 second choice and returned $6.20.

The 8-5 favorite and defending race winner Arklow ran second. Campaign, a California shipper and previous victor over the track, flew home for third. 

“No one had been closing all day here,” Hui said after Zulu Alpha’s ninth win over 28 career starts. “I started (late in the race) to look and see, ‘Is there anyone coming?’ …

“And it was evident he was widening his lead.”

Factor This set the pace in the 1 1/2-mile race and held on for fourth in the field of 11, unable to hold off Zulu Alpha's sustained run from mid-pack.

“I was just focused on keeping out of trouble, keeping in the clear and waiting as long as I could,” Ortiz said. “… I was worried about Arklow because I knew he could handle the distance. …

“When we passed the quarter pole, I went on. I didn’t feel (Arklow) closing in. I said, ‘All right, let’s go.' He exploded and gave me a big run.”

Zulu Alpha, a son of Street Cry, has won four graded starts since the claim, with one each now at Keeneland and Kentucky Downs and two at Gulfstream Park. Last out, he was fifth July 27 in the Bowling Green Stakes (G2) at Saratoga.

In his only other Kentucky Downs start, then for other connections, Zulu Alpha ran 10th in the 2017 edition of the Turf Cup.

Maker has dominated the lucrative Kentucky Turf Cup recently, now winning four of the stakes’ last five runnings. He also struck in 2015 and ’16 with Da Big Hoss and 2017 with Oscar Nominated.

“Glad Mr. Hui likes Kentucky Downs as much as I do,” a smiling Maker said after Zulu Alpha earned just shy of $600,000 for the win.

5-year-old Arklow is still searching for his first win since the 2018 Kentucky Turf Cup for trainer Brad Cox. The son of Arch hasn’t won over his last seven starts.

“It was disappointing,” Cox said. “You prepare for months to get here, and then you run second. It is what it is. Second best today, no excuse.”

 

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