(Danse Macabre / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the KY Downs Media Team:

Saturday’s Equibase entries with Global Tote morning line

Sunday’s Equibase entries with Global Tote morning line

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G3 Music City: Danse Macabre can keep Danner on a roll

By Tim Wilkin

A year ago, a 2-year-old filly named Danse Macabre helped trainer Kelsey Danner have a successful stay at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs.

The 37-year-old Danner is hoping the daughter of Army Mule can do the same for her at this year’s edition of the end-of-summer meet.

The consistent Danse Macabre, owned by John Ballantyne’s NBS Stable and Stephen Smith’s Elements Racing, runs in the Grade 3, $1 million Big Ass Fans Music City Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday. Danse Macabre is 4-1 on the morning line in the 6 ½-furlong race which has a full field of 12.

Danse Macabre has won four of six career stats in her career and has one second and one third. Last year, she won the $500,000 Untapable by a nose. The Music City will be her first start since May 3 when she won the Mamzelle Stakes at Churchill Downs.

“She is doing well,” Danner said by phone Friday. “She is coming off the bench and she has run well fresh before, so it doesn’t worry me too much. She likes the distance and she likes the track. She is ready to go.”

The Untapable was her first try at 6 ½ furlongs.

“She really has never run a bad race,” Danner said. “She is a solid horse, she is fast and she wants to win. She really is tough when she gets out there.”

Danner, the daughter of Mark Danner, a long-time Kentucky trainer who retired in 2017, also worked for Hall of Famers D. Wayne Lukas and Carl Nafzger as well as a five-year stint with Wayne Catalano. Kelsey Danner, a native of Louisville, went out on her own in 2017.

She made a splash at Kentucky Downs last year when she won three of six starts. She started out strong at this meet when a 2-year-old colt broke his maiden on Thursday, opening day.

She has won four of her last seven starts at the ultra tough Kentucky Downs meet. Easy game, right?

“I don’t know about that,” she said with a laugh. “It helps that the majority of my horses are turf. That works out really well. The middle ground distances seem like they suit my horses. When I worked for Catalano, we ran here a lot. I am pretty accustomed to Kentucky Downs. I know, in general, what type of horse will like it.”

Danse Macabre and jockey Adam Beschizza will break from the rail in the Music City.

She is on a two-race winning streak as she also won the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream Park in March.

“She will sit in the pocket like she usually does,” Danner said. “She sits right off the pace; I don’t expect anything will be different.”

If Danse Macabre is able to pull this off, it would be the first $1 million race win for Danner.

“It would be a pretty big deal,” she said. “It’s exciting. I have had a couple of good years. The young horses, the stock, is better and now my 3- and 4-year-olds that I had as babies, I can develop them into what I want.”

L J’s Emma, Safeen give Kenneally two faves going for $1 million

By Tim Wilkin

When L J’s Emma dug deep and won the Galway Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 12, trainer Eddie Kenneally started packing the 3-year-old filly’s bags and getting set for a trip to the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs.

L J’s Emma is in the Bluegrass State and revving up for a run in the Grade 3, $1 million Big Ass Fans Music City Stakes on Saturday. The daughter of Into Mischief is owned by Boxman Stables and is the 7-2 morning-line favorite for the 61/2-furlong sprint.

The Galway at the Spa was the third straight win on turf for L J’s Emma. As soon as she crossed the finish line that day, a trip to Kentucky Downs came into focus.

“Kentucky Downs just kind of evolved,” Kenneally said by phone Friday. “It’s the biggest purse they have for 3-year-old fillies sprinting on the grass in the country. We thought if we ran well at Saratoga, then we belonged at a race at Kentucky Downs.”

L J’s Emma started her career on dirt and that didn’t turn out so good. Unraced as a 2-year-old, she had two starts on the main track at Fair Grounds and got beat by a combined 36 ¾ lengths.

Something had to change and Kenneally switched her to the turf.

The filly hasn’t looked back. Her three wins in four starts have been close, but she has shown a willingness to find the wire first.

“She was a much improved horse on grass,” Kenneally said. “She didn’t do as well as we had hoped she would on the dirt. She found a new lease on life when she got on the grass. We’re happy with her.”

Kenneally will also have the morning-line favorite in Sunday’s $1 million Dueling Grounds Oaks. Safeen, owned by Fergus Galvin and Rebecca Hillen, is the 7-2 choice in the 1 5/16 mile race.

Safeen, by War Front, has won three of seven career starts on grass.

Her first career start was last Sept. 13 at Kentucky Downs and she finished second, losing by a nose to Sabalenka, who is also entered in the Dueling Grounds Oaks.

“We know she can handle the track,” Kenneally said. “She has been stabled at Keeneland all year and had two good breezes since her win (in the Grade 3 Pucker Up Aug. 6) at Ellis. We are very happy with the way she is coming into this.”

The consistency that Safeen has shown is what has Kenneally entering this race with some confidence.

Safeen has one second and three thirds to go along with her three turf victories. She will be trying this distance for the first time.

“She hasn’t disappointed us so far,” he said. “She has had a relatively light year (four starts). She is still very fresh and eager and willing, so we will have just as much confidence in her Sunday that we have had in her all summer.”

Safeen will be ridden for the first time by Tyler Gaffalione, the defending riding champion. He takes over for Luis Saez, who dislocated his collarbone during a race at Saratoga on Aug. 23.

“Tyler will fit her perfectly,” Kenneally said. “Luis did a fantastic riding the filly all year, and I think Tyler will do the same. Tyler is a confident rider and he will see she is reliable and shows up every time.”

L J’s Emma winning Saratoga’s Galway. Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photography
Safeen winning Ellis Park’s G3 Pucker Up. Coady Photography

Torres off to torrid start first meet at Kentucky Downs

(Photo: Cristian Torres earned his first Kentucky Downs victory aboard Static Fire. Coady Photography)

In his first year riding full time in Kentucky, Cristian Torres had never ridden over Kentucky Downs’ undulating course until Thursday’s opening card of the FanDuel Meet. He got off to a quick start with a second in his first mount in the meet opener, then won back-to-back races with the Brian Lynch-trained Static Fire in the fourth race for allowance horses and followed up in a maiden race aboard Noises Off for Paulo Lobo. He also added another second in the eighth race.

“It’s a great place,” Torres said after his first victory. “First time here. I want to thank all the trainers who gave me the opportunity. I finished second in the first race, a winner now for Brian Lynch. I’m just grateful.”

Of the 1 5/16-mile course, he said, “It’s fun. It’s something different. It’s very challenging, but it’s fun. We’re all having a good time.”

Torres rode in Texas and Oklahoma before a huge winter at Oaklawn Park, where he was the leading rider, sent him on to the Kentucky circuit. To prepare for Kentucky Downs, he got a close-up view of the course on foot before riding any races.

“It definitely helped,” he said. “It was my first time here. I jogged around the course twice. I just wanted to make sure where the poles are, how the turns are. It’s a long stretch. I wanted to make sure where every pole is. I don’t want to move early.”

Torres has the mount on Communication Memo for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen in Saturday’s $1 million Gun Runner for 3-year-olds at a mile and also rides his Grade 3 West Virginia Derby winner Red Route One for Asmussen in Sunday’s $1 million National Thoroughbred League Dueling Grounds Derby.

The 26-year-old jockey is named to ride nine horses on Sunday’s 12-race card, ncluding Callie’s Grit in the $1 million Dueling Grounds Oaks for trainer Joe Sharp.

King of the Turf Handicapping Challenge: First tournament

Phil Lam won Saturday’s first of three stand-alone handicapping tournaments comprising Kentucky Downs’ King of the Turf Handicapping Challenge, earning $10,530 in prize money along with a spot and travel package for the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas.

Lam’s bankroll of $6,518.45 in the online, live-money tourney was comfortably ahead of Anthony Mattera’s $4,358.46, with John Kostin third at $4,100.40 and Michael Christen fourth at $3,97.35. The top four finishers received NHC seats. All participants keep any bankroll accrued.

A total of 244 players participated, with prize money totaling $25,600.

The second tournament is Sunday, Sept. 3, with a  $500 buy-in ($250 entry fee, $250 bankroll), with players betting a minimum of five race at $50 apiece. The final competition is Saturday, Sept. 9, with an $800 buy-in ($400 entry fee, $400 bankroll), with players betting a minimum of five races at $80 apiece.

The cumulative winner, who must compete in all three tournaments, will be feted as King of the Turf: National Turf Handicapping Champion, receiving a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat and the coveted Global Tote King of the Turf Championship belt trophy at the 2024 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) awards dinner in Las Vegas.

The contests can be played online only through TVG/4NJBETS, Xpressbet or HPI (Canada). To register or for more information, contact tournament director Brian Skirka at bskirka@monmouthpark.com.

— By Jennie Rees