Mark Casse might not have the favorites but he’s got the numbers in the $500,000, Grade 3 Franklin-Simpson Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters on Wednesday’s closing day of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs. Or he’s trying to get the numbers.
Casse has three Franklin-Simpson entries in 20-1 Old Chestnut, 30-1 Souper Dormy and 20-1 Race Driver, but Race Driver needs two scratches by 10 a.m. Wednesday with an overflow field of 16 horses entered for 12 starting spots. There would seem to be at least scratch, with Wesley Ward running Franklin-Simpson program favorite Kimari against her own sex in Tuesday’s $400,000 Music City Stakes. Ward said in a text that she will be scratched Wednesday, though that had not been made official by late Tuesday afternoon.
Souper Dormy is a stable favorite, a playful colt who keeps the Casse crew entertained with his loving personality.
“He’s the barn favorite. Not because, maybe, talent but just what a character he is,” said David Carroll, the former trainer who runs Casse’s Churchill Downs operation. “Everybody that comes in wants to play with him. We’re looking forward to running him. We just love him. If you’re in a bad mood, you just go up to him. He wants to please you.”
If equine personality could win a race, Casse would be in great shape in this spot. The reality is, however, that “it’s a tough race, a wide-open race,” Carroll said.
“Old Chestnut has been running against Jack and Noah,” he said of the four-time winner also trained by Casse. “On his day, he’s very capable. He shipped in (from New York) a week ago, and personally I don’t really know the horse. But he looks great and breezed very well here. Race Driver deserves his chance. We feel like he’s always running out of ground going 5 1/2 furlongs. Florent (Geroux) was very adamant after his last race that this is the race to point toward.
“They’re all nice horses in their own right, doing very well. No matter where you are in a big field like that, you need some luck.”
Old Chestnut was second in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Quick Call and seventh in the Mahony at the same track. Souper Dormy was fifth in a tough Keeneland allowance race in his last start. He was fifth in last year’s Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint. If he gets in, Race Driver will be flying late and should relish the additional eighth-mile.
Casse already has a stakes win this meet with Got Stormy winning Saturday’s $500,000, Grade 3 Real Solution Ladies Sprint.
In Kimari’s absence, New York invader Turned Aside, winner of Saratoga’s Quick Call in his last start, figures to be favored for owner Paul Pompa Jr. and trainer Linda Rice. Jose Ortiz, the two-time defending Kentucky Downs riding champion who has his work cut out to secure a three-peat, picks up the mount with Jose Lezcano not riding at the track.
Ward — battling all-time track win-leader Mike Maker for what would be a fifth Kentucky Downs title for either man — still has a live contender in Maven, a Group 3 winner last year in France who won his first start of the year at Keeneland on July 8 before finishing sixth in a stakes at Saratoga.
Trainer Doug O’Neill finished 1-2 in last year’s Franklin-Simpson with Legends of War and Stubbins and is represented this year by Redding Racing’s Fore Left, with Mario Gutierrez coming in from California to ride. Fore Left was a stakes-winner and Grade 2-placed on dirt last year and started off this year by taking the Grade 3 UAE Two Thousand Guineas in Dubai. After being drilled in the Belmont Stakes shortened to 1 1/8 miles, the Twirling Candy gelding was third in the Quick Call.
Dare to Dream Stable’s Embolden should benefit from shortening back up to 6 1/2 furlongs for trainer Mike Stidham, who won the Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks with Micheline. Embolden faded to fourth in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Saranac over soft turf at a mile. He’s a consistent horse who has been competitive with very good horses, including last year’s Ward-trained Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Four Wheel Drive.
Another Miracle could be a live shot at 15-1 odds for trainer Joe Orseno, who already this meet won the $700,000, Grade 3 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint with Imprimis. Another Miracle won his only start since being gelded, taking Monmouth Park’s My Frenchman Stakes.
Needing one scratch to draw in is Saratoga allowance winner and Mahony Stakes runner-up Competitive Saint, who is 8-1 in the morning line.
The Grade 3 Franklin-Simpson: Race 9, 4:32 p.m. Central. The field in post-position order (with jockey/trainer and odds): Turned Aside (Jose Ortiz/Linda Rice 3-1), Johnny Unleashed (Corey Lanerie/Eric Foster 12-1), Maven (Irad Ortiz/Wesley Ward 5-1), Flap Jack (Ricardo Santana/Jack Sisterson 20-1), Island Commish (Julien Leparoux/Saffie Joseph 20-1), Old Chestnut (Florent Geroux/Mark Casse 20-1), Kimari (Julio Garcia/Wesley Ward 5/2), Guildsman (Tyler Gaffalione/Brendan Walsh 20-1), Guildsman (Tyler Gaffalione/Brendan Walsh 20-1), Embolden (James Graham/Michael Stidham 10-1), Another Miracle (Gerardo Corrales/Joe Orseno 15-1), Fore Left (Mario Gutierrez/Doug O’Neill 10-1), Souper Dormy (Adam Beschizza/Mark Casse 30-1). Also eligible: Competitive Saint (Gabe Saez/George Weaver 8-1), Race Driver (Florent Geroux/Mark Casse 20-1), Mishko (Adam Beschizza/Joe Sharp 30-1), Olson (Miguel Mena/Jason Barkley 30-1).