(Stormy Liberal / Coady Photography & Courtesy of KY Downs)
By Jennie Rees / KY Downs Media Team:
Stormy Liberal, the two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, is scheduled to run in the $700,000, Grade 3 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint, one of five graded stakes to be held at the upcoming RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs.
Kentucky Downs runs Aug. 31 and Sept. 5, 7, 8 and 12, with post time each day moving up to 12:15 p.m. Central.
Stormy Liberal will fly from trainer Peter Miller’s main base in California for the Sept. 7 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint, then return for the $1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita. While $200,000 of the RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint purse is from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund for Kentucky-bred horses, the stakes’ $500,000 base purse alone makes it America’s most lucrative grass sprint outside the Breeders’ Cup. In addition, the RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint winner receives an automatic entry fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup race Nov. 2, saving the owners $30,000.
“Big purse and it fits into his schedule,” Miller said of the Kentucky-bred Stormy Liberal. “The ‘Win and You’re In’ is always a factor, sure. It’s going to save the owners lots of money if we can do it. And we think the distance is good for him. There are a lot of things to point to.”
Kentucky Downs also will pay the winner of the RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint a $1 million bonus if the horse goes on to sweep Keeneland’s Grade 2 Woodford and the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
The 7-year-old Stormy Liberal prepped for the six-furlong Kentucky Downs stakes in last Saturday’s Grade 3 Green Flash at Del Mar, finishing third in his first start since he was third in Dubai’s $2 million Al Quoz Sprint on March 30.
“He ran about the way I expected, and about what we were looking for,” Miller said by phone. “We just looked at it as a prep, and I didn’t have him cranked up and tight. He had three easy half-miles. But he should have gotten enough out of it that hopefully going forward that we’re ready for Kentucky Downs and the Breeders’ Cup.
“He’s maybe a little bit mellower horse than in years past and not putting as much into his training. We’re keeping that in mind.”
Miller ran a horse for the first time at Kentucky Downs last year, when Multiplier finished sixth in the $1 million, Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup.
“But we liked it,” Miller said. “It was cool. It was a neat experience. My wife and I spent three nights in Nashville. So it was all good.”
Stormy Liberal, owned by Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen, goes down as one of the best claims in racing history, having been haltered out of a $40,000 claiming race almost three years ago by Miller. After a pair of seconds, the son of Stormy Atlantic reeled off four straight Santa Anita stakes victories before being drubbed in Belmont Park’s Grade 3 Jaipur on the 2017 Belmont Stakes undercard. He didn’t run again until the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, which he won at 30-1 odds and by a head over stablemate Richard’s Boy at Del Mar.
Stormy Liberal brought a three-race win streak into last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs, a neck victory over current East Coast star World of Trouble. Overall, Stormy Liberal has won eight stakes and the lion’s share of $2.16 million in purses for his current connections.
While Miller has frequently run in stakes in Kentucky, this is his first year keeping a string of horses in the commonwealth, currently based at Churchill Downs. He expects considerable participation at Kentucky Downs.
“We’ve got quite a few horses nominated to stakes and quite a few looking at maiden races and the undercard,” he said. “So I think we’re going to be quite active over at Kentucky Downs this year. I’m hoping to be, and hopefully we can break through with a few winners.”