(KY Downs / Photos by Coady Photography)

From the KY Downs Media Team:

Thursday’s Kentucky Downs entries with Global Tote morning line

Saturday’s Kentucky Downs entries with Global Tote morning line

Sunday’s Kentucky Downs entries with Global Tote morning line

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Jeff Ruby One Dreamer heads Thursday card

  • Casse hoping Get Smokin can keep smokin’ in KY Turf Cup
  • For Arnold, better to have scrambled plans than no KD horses
  • Ladies Marathon: Vergara goes for another KY Downs award
  • Rivelli glad he broke his own rule to purchase Nobals for $3.5K
  • 2yo mile stakes on tap Sunday with Aspenite back in Juvenile

Jeff Ruby One Dreamer heads Thursday card

Through three days: 10.6 starters per race; $16.54 average win price

Racing resumes at the FanDuel Meet Kentucky Downs Thursday with a 10-race program that features the $500,000 Jeff Ruby One Dreamer Stakes.

Post time for the opener at all-turf Kentucky Downs is 12:30 p.m. Central. Seven of the 10 races Thursday are likely to have full fields of 12 horses. Two of the races have 12 entered, while five others were over-subscribed and have horses on their also-eligible lists.

Through the first three days of the seven-day 2023 meet, the average field size in the 33 races was 10.6 starters and the average win price was $16.54. Sixteen of the 33 races run had full fields. The range in win prices were from $3.16 for Stone Farm’s Swore’s four-length score in a $153,500 maiden special weight race Sunday to the $76.52 paid in the $500,000 FanDuel Tapit Stakes after the victory by Graham Grace Stable’s Harlan Estate.

Favorites won nine times (27 percent). None of those winners was sent off at odds greater than 2.40-1.

There were almost as many winners sent off at double-digit odds as there were winning favorites. Eight winners left the gate at 10-1 or more, led by Harlan Estate who delivered at 37-1. Handicappers were on-target with the three horses made odds-on favorites: two won and the other one finished second.

While Ellis Park has produced the most winners, 16, at Kentucky Downs thus far, winners have come from six other U.S. tracks, one from Canada and one from England.

The Ellis to Kentucky Downs angle has been strong, with 48.5 percent of the winners having last raced at the Henderson, Ky., track. It is a notable statistic when compared to last year’s overall stats when 17 winners from a total of 73 races last raced at the “Pea Patch”. In the sixth race on Saturday, which had a full field of 12, Ellis Park runners finished one-two at odds of 22-1 and 37-1, respectively. There was only one other starter coming out of Ellis in the field.

As usual, runners from Saratoga have been strong with eight victories. Horses that last raced at Colonial Downs have won twice. Belmont Park, Delaware Park, England’s Goodwood, Gulfstream Park, Indiana Grand and Canada’s Woodbine have each produced one winner.

So far, just one debut starter has prevailed in the 12 maiden races. Last year, there were six debut winners, an unusually high number.

After three days of racing at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs, Jose Ortiz is atop the jockey standings with four wins. That is one more than defending champion Tyler Gaffalione, Florent Geroux and Declan Cannon. Mike Maker, the all-time winningest trainer at Kentucky Downs has won three races so far and is tied at the top with Brendan Walsh. No owner has more than one win thus far.

In the One Dreamer: Joseph Allen’s lightly raced For the Flag appears the one to catch in the field of nine fillies and mares in the $500,000 stakes. The 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly is 3-1-0 in seven starts after going 0 for 3 at age 2 and missing her entire 3-year-old season. Turned over to New York-based trainer Jimmy Toner, For the Flag won three-straight races to start 2023 before leading into the final strides of Ellis Park’s Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf, settling for second by three-quarters of a length.

The Brendan Walsh-trained European import Viareggio seeks her first U.S. win in four starts. Jubilee Bridge comes in off two-straight allowance victories for trainer Michael Stidham. Kate’s Kingdom, trained by Will Walden, was a Grade 3 winner in Canada last year. Others in the race: Sister Lou Ann, Candy Light and Present Moment.

Grade 2 winner Haughty, who two years ago was a very good third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, was scratched out of the One Dreamer in favor of Saturday’s $1 million Castle Hill Gaming Ladies Turf (G3). Sinfiltre, third in the Ellis Park prep, is cross-entered in both the One Dreamer and Saturday’s $1 million Aristocrat Ladies Marathon.

Thursday forecast: Sunny and 82 after Wednesday’s showers

Overnight and morning rain showers soaked the Kentucky Downs course Wednesday.

“It’s not going to be real firm,” Butch Lehr, the consultant who serves as Kentucky Downs’ track superintendent, said of Thursday’s course condition. “I really won’t know until the morning, but I’ll probably rate it ‘good’ in the morning, but that could change by race time. We’re going to wait until the morning to roll it, and it should be all right by race time. There’s a pretty good breeze out there, and that should help it dry out quite a bit.”

Casse hoping Get Smokin can keep smokin’ in KY Turf Cup

(Photo: Get Smokin, inside with the light blue silks, finished a good second to Stitched in the Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes at Ellis Park. Stitched went on to narrowly lose Kentucky Downs’ $ 2 million Mint Millions. Coady Photography.)

There is no need to study the past performances of the $1.7 million Turf Cup (G2) when it comes to Get Smokin. When the gates open for Saturday’s marquee race at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs, there is only one place where Get Smokin will be – or at least where his Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse expects the 6-year-old gelding to be.

That is right on the lead. The son of Distorted Humor is a free-wheeling thoroughbred that runs as fast as he can for as far as he can. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Get Smokin, owned by Ironhorse Racing Stable, BlackRidge Stables T-N-T Equine Holdings and Saratoga Seven Racing Partners, has 26 career starts on his resume, all of them on the grass. He has five wins, seven seconds and two thirds.

This will be the first time that Casse will try him at a mile and a half, and he’s crossing his fingers.

“He is extremely good right now,” Casse said by phone. “He is one of those horses that likes to be on the lead and the farther you go, the easier it is to be on the lead. This is a bit of an experiment and we’ll see how it goes.”

When last seen, Get Smokin was doing his thing in Ellis Park’s 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Downs Preview Cup. He led into the stretch before giving way in the final sixteenth and settling for fourth place. His morning line for the Turf Cup is 15-1 and he will be ridden by Fernando De La Cruz, who went into Wednesday’s card at Horseshoe Indianapolis as the meet’s second-leading rider with 66 wins.

In two prior starts to the Preview Cup – both at 1 1/16-miles – Get Smokin again set the pace but was second in the Wise Dan (G2) at Ellis Park and the Arlington (G3) at Churchill Downs. He has just one win this year, that being an allowance at Gulfstream on March 2.

Another horse from the Casse barn at Kentucky Downs Saturday is 7-year-old gelding Olympic Runner, who is 15-1 on the $1 million Ainsworth Turf Sprint (G2) morning line.

Owned by Gary Barber, Olympic Runner has a win and two seconds in four starts this year. The son of Gio Ponti has run on firm turf 15 times in his career and has three wins, five seconds and a third. This will be his first start at Kentucky Downs.

In his last start, he rallied to win an allowance at Colonial Downs on Aug. 5. Casse shortened him up to 5 1/2 furlongs in that race; Saturday’s Turf Sprint is for 3-year-olds and up and will be contested at six furlongs.

“This is a good race, a very good race,” Casse said. “I think he is capable if he comes with his ‘A’ game.”

Olympic Runner will be ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.

Casse will also saddle Our Flash Drive in the $1 million AGS Ladies Turf Sprint (G2) for fillies and mares aged 3 and up. The 5-year-old mare will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez; she is owned by Live Oak Stud.

In her last start, Our Flash Drive stumbled at the break of the 5 ½-furlong Caress Stakes (G3) at Saratoga; this race is 6 1/2-furlongs.

“Her last race was much better than it looked,” Casse said. “We were always concerned going in that the 5 1/2 was going to be a little short for her. And, then, of course, she broke bad and gave them three or four lengths at the beginning and she lost all chance. I was disappointed in the outcome, but I wasn’t disappointed in her.”

One other horse from Casse’s barn – 3-year-old Determinedly – is third on the also eligible list for the $1 million The Exacta Systems Franklin-Simpson Stakes (G2). He would need three defections to get into the race.

— By Tim Wilkin

For Arnold, better to have scrambled plans than no horses for KY Downs

Trainer Rusty Arnold has seen his plans for three horses pointed to FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs for stakes on Saturday get scrambled.

BBN Racing’s Sweet Cherry Pie is set for the $500,000 Grade 2 Exacta Systems Franklin-Simpson Stakes but will debut in a graded stakes without grass experience. Calumet Farm’s Gear Jockey, back in the race he won two years ago, will run in the $1 million Grade 2 Ainsworth Turf Stakes off just one start this season. And Calumet’s stakes veteran Cellist, the runner-up in the Kentucky Downs Prevue for the $1.7 million, Grade 2 FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup at Ellis Park, landed on the also-eligible list and will need two defections to get in the starting gate.

“Sweet Cherry Pie has been just dying to get on the grass,”  Arnold said. “He’s a Twirling Candy out of a Kitten’s Joy mare (Sweet Cat), who was third in the Breeders’ Cup. He has done very well on the dirt, but we had a plan to get him to Monmouth to get him on the turf. It rained it off. We ran him, he won and by doing that we thought we would get in this race. We’re very excited about running him. He’s shown a lot of ability and he is doing very well.”

Sweet Cherry Pie won the ungraded My Frenchman at Monmouth on July 16 by four lengths in the slop. He broke slowly in his debut and ended up fourth. Since then he has hit the board all four times at four different tracks. He drew post 7 and will be ridden for the first time by Irad Ortiz Jr.

The 6-year-old Gear Jockey won the Turf Sprint by 2 ½ lengths in 2021. That was his last win, but he has finished in the top three in 12 of 23 career starts and with $996,971 in earnings could become a millionaire Saturday.

“He went off form for me at the end of last year, after running some good races,” Arnold said. “He didn’t win them, but he ran well. We turned him out over the winter, picked him back up and we’ve had a little bit of a disaster of a year. He was a horse I had in earlier at Ellis Park, but when I got him down there, they called and said they had left the sprinklers on all night. We had to scratch, didn’t get to run. We picked him up, made a new plan, took him to Virginia. I think I kind of halfway got him there the wrong way.”

In the 5 ½ furlong Van Clief at Colonial Downs on July 22, he was in contention early but ended up a well-beaten sixth.

“He’s come back to the track where he has run his best and we’re looking for him to turn that form around, hopefully, on Saturday,” Arnold said.

Jose Lezcano, who was up for the win at Kentucky Downs to years ago, returns to the saddle.

If Cellist gets into the field for the 1 1/2-mile FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup he will be wearing the No. 14 saddle towel. Arnold will have him ready and is optimistic that he will draw into the race out of AE land.

“That was a tough pill to swallow,” Arnold said. “I wasn’t looking for that. We’re going to pretend that we’re getting him in. We’re going to put him on a van and send him down there. There may be a horse or two that might think about cross-entering in Virginia. I’m not sure. We’re not going to because we wanted to run here. Different things happen. Some horses get sick, the veterinarians scratch one a race. The worst thing that’s going to happen is he’s going to sit at Kentucky Downs all day and take a van home.”

The Kentucky Turf Cup is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series race, with the winner getting a fees-paid berth in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. The six-furlong Ainsworth Turf Sprint is a Challenge Series race for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita.

— By Mike Kane

Ladies Marathon: Vergara goes for another KY Downs award

(Vergara, inside, winning last year’s Dueling Grounds Oaks. Coady Photography)

Trainer Graham Motion was in the south of France with family celebrating the 80th birthday of his wife Anita’s father. So, he won’t be at Kentucky Downs this weekend, but his horses will.

Motion hopes to run one horse Thursday and at least two others on Saturday as the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs continues.

On Saturday, Motion’s Vergara, owned by Gary Broad, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the12th running of the $1 million Aristocrat Ladies Marathon (G3). The 4-year-old filly is named for actress Sofia Vergara, who appeared in all 250 episodes and was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards for her portrayal of Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on the sitcom “Modern Family.”

Vergara the filly has already won an award at Kentucky Downs. Last year, she was victorious in the Dueling Grounds Oaks, winning it by a head. The Ladies Marathon is run at 1 5/16-miles, the same distance as the Dueling Grounds Oaks.

“That encourages me to come back with her,” Motion said by phone.

When last seen, Vergara finished fifth in the Glens Falls Stakes (G2) at Saratoga on Aug. 3. She was running against the likes of McKulick and War Like Goddess in that one. Vergara is winless in three starts this year but has been competitive in all of them. After a fifth-place finish in the Gallorette (G3) at Pimlico on May 20, she was third in the Eatontown Stakes (G3) at Monmouth on June 17.

“The Glens Falls (1 ½ miles) might have been a little farther than she wants to go,” Motion said. “It was also a pretty solid group of horses. Hopefully, she has a little bit of an edge with her winning on the track and the distance.”

Another Motion horse, 4-year-old filly Sparkle Blue, is entered to run in the one-mile, $1 million Castle Hill Gaming Ladies Turf (G3). She will be ridden by Vincent Cheminaud and is owned by Catherine Parke and Augustin Stable.

The daughter of Hard Spun has one win and a third in three starts this season. This will be her first start at a mile since Nov. 27, 2021, eight starts ago.

“We are going to shorten her up and we hope we can get away with that,” Motion said. “Look, it’s a big pot and it seemed like something we should take a chance in.”

Sparkle Blue does her best running later rather than sooner.

“She doesn’t want to be rushed,” Motion said. “She wants to be comfortable where she is.”

Motion’s week will start Thursday when his 4-year-old filly Candy Light is one of nine running in the $500,000 Jeff Ruby One Dreamer Stakes, a mile and 70-yard test for fillies and mares aged 3 and up that have not won a stakes in 2023.

Candy Light will get Joel Rosario in her saddle. Owned by Fortune Racing, the daughter of Candy Ride is 10-1 on the morning line.

“She is another filly that does not want to be rushed,” Motion said.

One other horse from his barn, Head of Plains Partners’ Sy Dog, is first on the also eligible list for the $1.7 million FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes (G2).

All of Motion’s horses are being vanned to Kentucky Downs from his Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

“It’s not easy to ship there, and, to be honest, it’s quite a project,” Motion said. “There is always a concern with it, but my horses are used to it. We have to ship everywhere we race.”

— By Tim Wilkin

Rivelli glad he broke his own rule to purchase Nobals for $3.5K

(Photo: Nobals winning Horseshoe Indianapolis’ William Garrett Handicap. Coady Photography)

Trainer Larry Rivelli said he broke one of his basic rules when purchasing the gelding Nobals for Patricia’s Hope LLC. The 4-year-old son of Noble Mission – acquired as a yearling for $3,500 by owner-trainer Leland Hayes – brings a record of eight wins in 16 career starts and earnings of $843,274 into the $1 million, Grade 2 Ainsworth Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs.

“Somebody else bought him real young,” Rivelli said. “After he broke his maiden in his first race at Presque Isle with a 52 Beyer, someone presented the horse. I get a million of these horses that are for sale all over the place all the time. I’m kind of a horse snob and I pass on all of them.

“A horse has to absolutely jump off the page for me to want to buy it. For some reason, for this horse, even though the number was bad, it was the way he won that race. I kind of pride myself on being able to pick out an athlete and just know what I like in a horse and what I see. I really liked the horse so we pursued it and we bought the horse off the guy that paid $3,500. He did well and obviously we did really well and it ended up a being a good purchase.”

Nobals is 2-2-0 in five starts this season. He won the Grade 2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint at 38-1 on the Kentucky Derby program.

— By Mike Kane

2yo mile stakes on tap Sunday with Aspenite back in Juvenile

Aspenite, who narrowly lost the $250,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sales allowance race on opening day of the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs, runs back 11 days later in Sunday’s $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile.

Owned by Kentucky Downs co-managing partner Ron Winchell, Aspenite set the pace before settling to fourth in his debut at Saratoga in a mile maiden race that came off the turf. He set the pace again in the Kentucky Downs allowance race, leading by three lengths at the eighth-pole before finishing second by a half-length. Cristian Torres picks up the mount for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

Saffie Joseph sends out Ken Ramsey’s Billy the Greek, who boasts a nose win at Saratoga in a maiden race and a fourth in the Skidmore, both races taken off the turf. Tyler Gaffalione will be aboard.

Others in the full field of 12 include maiden winners from a variety of tracks: Sambalover (at Horseshoe Indy), Tough Little Nut (Hawthorne), Legal Titan (Ellis Park), Rose Collector (Monmouth Park), Value Engineer (Horseshoe Indy), Blue Eyed George (Ellis), Good Bali (Ellis), Mozlzil (Ellis) and Baytown Parfait (in a $50,000 maiden-claiming race at Ellis Park). Gamblin George, fifth in his only start at Colonial Downs, completes the field.

A capacity field of 12, plus an also-eligible, also was entered Tuesday for Sunday’s co-featured $500,000 Global Tote Juvenile Fillies. Kodiac Wintergreen, trained by Rusty Arnold for Houston Astros standout Alex Bregman, comes in off a maiden victory at Saratoga in her second start.

The Tom Morley-trained Belmont maiden winner Cynane comes to Kentucky Downs after finishing out of the money in a stakes at Royal Ascot.

Carlos Santamaria, the longtime assistant trainer who earned his first victory as a trainer when Bella Haze won an Ellis Park maiden race, will try that filly on turf for the first time in the stakes.

 

Sea Dancer and Latte Lizzie come into the stakes after finishing second and third, respectively, in a fast-run maiden race at Saratoga. Coming out of Ellis Park maiden victories are Fancy Looker, Beautiful Dancer, Austere and Sweetcatherinerose; from Colonial Downs (Mo Fox Givin), Indiana (Kamikazi Umagi) and Presque Isle (Shot Girl).

— By Jennie Rees

2023 Kentucky Downs stakes schedule

All stakes are on turf and include Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund

Thursday Aug. 31 — $500,000 FanDuel TVG Tapit Stakes, 3 year olds & up who have not won a stakes in 2023, mile and 70 yards.

Saturday Sept. 2 — $1 million Big Ass Fans Music City (G3), 3-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million Gun Runner, 3-year-olds, one mile; $2 million The Mint Millions (G3), 3 year olds & up, one mile.

Sunday Sept. 3 — $1 million National Thoroughbred League Dueling Grounds Derby (G3), 3-year-olds, 1 5/16 miles; $1 million Dueling Grounds Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 1 5/16 miles: $500,000 National Thoroughbred League Handicap, 3-year-olds & up, one mile.

Thursday Sept. 7 — $500,000 Jeff Ruby’s One Dreamer, fillies and mares 3 years old & up who have not won a stakes in 2023, mile and 70 yards.

Saturday Sept. 9 — $1 million Ainsworth Turf Sprint (G2) *BC, 3-year-olds & up, six furlongs; $1 million FanDuel Turf Cup (G2) *BC, 3-year-olds & up, 1 1/2 miles; $1 million Exacta Systems Franklin-Simpson (G2), 3-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million AGS Ladies Sprint (G2), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, 6 1/2 furlongs; $1 million Castle Hill Gaming Ladies Turf (G3), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, one mile; $1 million Aristocrat Ladies Marathon (G3), fillies and mares 3 years old & up, 1 5/16 miles.

Sunday, Sept. 10 — $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile, 2-year-olds, mile; $500,000 Global Tote Juvenile Fillies, 2-year-old fillies, mile.

Wednesday Sept. 13 — $500,000 Pepsi Juvenile Sprint, 2-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs; $500,000 Pepsi Untapable, 2-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs.

*BC: Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race – winner gets fees-paid berth in corresponding Breeders’ Cup race at Santa Anita