Michael Hui is parlaying some of the money that Zulu Alpha won in taking Kentucky Downs’ $1 million Kentucky Turf Cup into a $100,000 bet on the Breeders’ Cup Turf, a $4 million race Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Monday was the deadline to pre-enter horses in racing’s world championships. It costs $50,000 to pre-enter a horse and another $50,000 at entry time next Monday for the Breeders' Cup Turf. The winner earns $2.2 million, with fifth place still worth $120,000.
The Mike Maker-trained Zulu Alpha earned $582,800 in winning the Kentucky Turf Cup over 2018 victor Arklow, who also is Breeders' Cup-bound.
“When you play this game and you’re in my position, you don’t get many shots, 1, with horses like Zulu Alpha, and 2, the opportunity to run," Hui said. "The horse is doing well. The trainer believes he’s going to run well.
“If the Breeders’ Cup was in Kentucky, it would have been a no-brainer. What makes it easier to do this is that very lucrative purse that we got the majority of at Kentucky Downs.”
Hui claimed Zulu Alpha for $80,000 at Churchill Downs’ 2018 September meet with the goal of running the gelding 51 weeks later in Kentucky Downs’ Turf Cup. Zulu Alpha won his first start for Hui, taking Keeneland’s Grade 3 Sycamore at 1 1/2 miles. That was his first start at farther than 1 1/8 miles since Zulu Alpha was a 3-year-old racing in Ireland. In 10 starts for Hui, Zulu Alpha has four wins, a second and third — all in graded stakes — while making right around $1 million.
It’s reminiscent of another $80,000 claim by Hui, who took an 8-year-old Hogy for that price in 2017 and won the Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint in his next start.
“We’re very blessed,” said Hui, who currently owns eight race horses individually or in partnerships. “This guy has gotten the whole barn out this year. We’ve had other success, but not quite as much. When I raced Hogy, it was like a dream come true. Well, I get to relive the dream two years later. A guy like me, you don’t see this very often at the Breeders’ Cup.”
Jose Ortiz, who was aboard Zulu Alpha at Kentucky Downs, has the Breeders’ Cup mount, Hui said.
Zulu Alpha finished sixth in his last start, the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic won by Arklow.
“The last race in New York was pretty much a paceless race,” Hui said. “We got shuffled back, left him too much to do and he only lost by a couple of lengths. I asked Mike what he really thought. He said, ‘Draw a line through it; just throw it out.’ He still got a decent number out of that race, Mike said.
“I’ll just say with (British star and 2018 winner) Enable deciding not to run and the question mark of who will show up, we thought it was an opportunity to take a shot. Because of the North American entries, we’ve been competitive. The big question mark for us on the North American side is what is Chad Brown going to do with Bricks and Mortar?”
Bricks and Mortar is unbeaten in five starts this year, including the $1 million Old Forester Turf Classic the race before the Kentucky Derby, but has never raced beyond 1 1/4 miles. Brown said as recently as Sunday he was "leaning" toward the Turf as opposed to the Breeders' Cup Mile.