Louisville-based Skychai Racing is hoping to knock it out of the park when they send out Jolting Joe in Thursday’s $750,000 Gun Runner Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs.
The stable has been hot, winning Saratoga’s Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Stakes with Somelikeithotbrown, a half-brother to Jolting Joe. Both horses are out of Skychai’s well-bred but winless gray Tapit mare Marilyn Monroan, whose clever name led to her sons’ names, with Somelikeithotbrown sired by 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown and named for a play on Marilyn Monroe’s famous movie Some Like It Hot. Jolting Joe is named for Yankees slugger Joe DiMaggio, who of course was at one time married to Marilyn Monroe.
Skychai does more than come up with good names. They come up with good horses, including winning Kentucky Downs’ Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup with Da Big Hoss in 2015 and 2016. Last Saturday the partnership won Churchill Downs’ biggest 3-year-old turf race with Fancy Liquor (out of the 21-time winner Brandys Secret) in the Grade 2 American Turf. Like Somelikeithotbrown and Fancy Liquor, Jolting Joe is trained by Mike Maker, Kentucky Downs’ all-time win leader.
Though born in Kentucky, Jolting Joe is eligible to run only for the Dueling Ground Derby’s $375,000 base purse. That’s because he’s by the New York stallion Mission Impazible and therefore isn’t eligible for the additional $375,000 offered in Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund purse supplements. KTDF money goes to horses who are both born in Kentucky and sired by a Kentucky stallion.
“I messed that up,” said Skychai co-founder Dr. Harvey Diamond. “But you know what? Half the purse at Kentucky Downs is better than most of the purses elsewhere.”
Diamond said that he didn’t want to breed Marilyn Monroan back to a New York stallion, at the time not knowing what Somelikeithotbrown, then a yearling, was going to accomplish. He said breeding her back to a stallion in New York was a requirement to make Jolting Joe a registered New York-bred.
However, Jolting Joe can run in New York stallion stakes, and he did just that in his last start to break his maiden in such a stakes at Saratoga. Before that, Jolting Joe had four seconds in his first four starts. The first one, in fact, came a year ago at Kentucky Downs in a race won by Art Collector, winner of Keeneland’s Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass and the $200,000 Ellis Park Derby and a leading contender for the Preakness Stakes. In a race at Gulfstream Park West, Jolting Joe was second to King Guillermo, the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby winner and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby runner-up.
Jolting Joe is 15-1 in the morning line for the 1 5/16-miles Dueling Ground Derby.
“When you look at him compared to the rest of the field, you have to say he’s probably faced the toughest competition of anybody,” Diamond said. “I don’t think he’ll stay 15-1. But if he stays that price, he’s certainly going to be a good bet.
“I do not bet, I have not, I will not bet on our horses. I’ll let my partners take care of that. I’ll be more than happy to win this race. I don’t need 15-1 when we’re shooting for $375,000. He’s Jolting Joe. He’s going to run his race. He’s run against some nice horses. He knows what it is to test some class.”
The 3-1 favorite is Bama Breeze, the Rusty Arnold trainee who was sixth by a total of 2 1/2 lengths in the Saratoga Derby in his last start.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Peace Achieved, the 9-2 second choice, favored in the capacity field of 12, with the maximum four additional horses trying to draw in off the also-eligible list. The Mark Casse-trained Peace Achieved got very good last fall with the addition of blinkers, impressively earning his first victory at Ellis Park, followed by a strong victory in Kentucky Downs’ mile stakes for 2-year-olds. In his only start this year after finishing off the board in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, Peace Achieved was fourth over yielding turf in Indiana Grand’s $150,000 Caesars Stakes a month ago.
Trainer Christophe Clement seeks his second stakes victory of the young meet with Donegal Racing’s Shamrocket in the Dueling Grounds Derby. Clement won Monday’s $500,000 The Mint Juvenile Fillies with the impressive Plum Ali for the trainer’s third win in that stakes.
Making his first start at 3 will be Fighting Seabee, who won last year’s Grade 3 With Anticipation at Saratoga.
The Dueling Grounds Derby field, in post position with jockey/trainer and morning-line odds: Dynadrive (Corey Lanerie/Kelly Breen 20-1), Shamrocket (Joel Rosario, Christophe Clement, 6-1), Jolting Joe (Tyler Gaffalione, Mike Maker 15-1), Big Dreaming (Chris Landeros/Wayne Catalano 15-1), Fighting Seabee (Brian Hernandez/Kenny McPeek 12-1), Peace Achieved (Florent Geroux, Mark Casse 9-2), Kid Mercury (James Graham, Graham Motion 12-1), Natural Power (Ricardo Santana/Mark Casse 10-1), Kinenos (Jose Ortiz/Brad Cox 8-1), Angelus Warrior (Irad Ortiz/Mike Maker 12-1), Bama Breeze (Julien Leparoux, Rusty Arnold 3-1), Summer Assault (Joe Rocco/Michele Boyce 15-1). Also eligible: Moon Over Miami (Javier Castellano/Bill Mott 5-1), Buy Me Candy (Jose Ortiz/Ignacio Correas 30-1), Salow (Miguel Mena, Terry Brennan 8-1), Sunsation (Shaun Bridgmohan/Kelsey Danner 15-1).
Harvey’s Lil Goil headlines Exacta Systems DG Oaks
Harvey’s Lil Goil, winner of Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Regret Stakes on turf and third in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Alabama on dirt in her last start, headlines Thursday’s $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks. The daughter of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the capacity field of 12 three-year-old fillies, with three others needing scratches in order to run.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Harvey’s Lil Goil was bred by the late Harvey A. Clarke, who also bred 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another and 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Stopchargingmaria. Clarke died in January, 2019. Harvey’s Lil Goil races in the name of the Estate of Harvey A. Clark in partnership with Paul Braverman.
Other contenders in the 1 5/16-mile stakes include 3-1 Stunning Sky, second in both the $500,000 Saratoga Oaks and Grade 2 Lake Placid in her last two starts; the two-time stakes-winner Micheline, a late-running fourth in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Lake George; Lucky Polly, winner of Gulfstream Park’s $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes on grass in her last start; Ask Bailey, last year’s runner-up in Kentucky Downs’ 2-year-old filly stakes at a mile and Del Mar allowance winner Carpe Vinum, fifth in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks in her last start. Needing three scratches to run is Envoutante, third in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Ashland and fourth in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Alabama on dirt in her last two starts.
Thursday’s Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks goes off as the eighth race with a 3:59 p.m. Central post time. The field, in post-position order with jockey, trainer and morning-line odds): Sursum Corda (Julien Leparoux/Ian Wilkes 30-1), Carpe Vinum (Flavien Prat/Phil D’Amato 8-1), Lucky Polly (Florent Geroux/Mark Casse 8-1), Stand Tall (John Velazquez/Rusty Arnold 30-1), Stunning Sky (Irad Ortiz/Mike Maker 3-1), How Ironic (Rafael Bejarano/Victoria Oliver 20-1), Embossed (Umberto Rispoli/Mike Stidham 20-1), Micheline (Joel Rosario/Mike Stidham 6-1), Harvey’s Lil Goil (Jose Ortiz/Bill Mott 9-5), Luck Money (Javier Castellano/Arnaud Delacour 30-1), Island Hideaway (Miguel Mena/Karl Broberg 20-1), Ask Bailey (Tyler Gaffalione/Mike Maker 20-1). Also eligible: Redemption Day (Jose Ortiz/Rodolphe Brisset 20-1), Blame Debbie (Joel Rosario/Graham Motion 12-1), Envoutante (Brian Hernandez/Kenny McPeek 6-1).
English Bee, Hembree bring back class into Tapit Stakes
Last year’s Grade 3 Virginia Derby winner English Bee and Hembree head a capacity field of 12 in Wednesday’s $300,000 Tapit Stakes at Kentucky Downs. The race, staged at a mile and 70 yards, is for horses who have not won a stakes in 2020 but that restriction brought together a strong assembly of older horses. That includes last year’s winner, Get Western. The Tapit, then known as the Old Friends, also is the stakes that launched 2018 winner Next Shares to victory in Keeneland’s $1 million, Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in his next start.
Owned by Calumet Farm and trained by Graham Motion, English Bee is a three-time stakes-winner but his best finishes in five starts this year were second by a neck in Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Wise Dan and second by a half-length in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3 Canadian Turf. In his last start, English Bee was sixth in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile while losing by a total of a length.
Hembree, a winner of $702,483, was scratched out of Monday’s $750,000 Tourist Mile to run in the Tapit. Two years ago he won Woodbine’s Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes. He subsequently has been second in two other graded stakes.
Trainer Jimmy Toner ships in Hawkish, winner of the Grade 2 Penn Mile in 2018, in from New York, and Tim Yakteen brings in Keeneland’s 2017 Grade 3 Transylvania winner Big Score in from California. The Grade 1-placed Big Score comes in off an allowance race at Del Mar.
Ritzy A P and Hemp Hemp Hurray were early scratches, making it possible for Midnight Tea Time and Split the Wickets to draw in. The Tapit is carded as the ninth of 10 races, with a 4:42 p.m. Central post time.
The field in post position order (with jockey, trainer and odds): Morocco (Jose Ortiz/Mike Maker 15-1), Get Western (Julien Leparoux/Shug McGaughey 15-1), Hawkish (Javier Castellano/James Toner 10-1), Ramsey Solution (Gerard Corrales/Wesley Ward 12-1), English Bee (James Graham/Graham Motion 5-1), Hierarchy (Corey Lanerie/Joe Sharp 8-1), Hembree (Ricardo Santana Jr./Mike Maker 9-2), (Empire of War, Tyler Gaffalione/Mike Maker 8-1), Big Score (Flavien Prat/Tim Yakteen 4-1), Temple (Irad Ortiz/Mike Maker 10-1), Midnight Tea Time (Adam Beschizza/Joe Sharp 8-1), Split the Wickets (Rafael Bejarano/Tom Van Berg 20-1). Also eligible: Vanbrugh (Florent Geroux/Brad Cox 12-1).
Trainer Mike Maker said Empire of War will be scratched. If he does, Vanbrugh will be able to draw into the race.
Joining what will be the strongest jockey colony of any meet to date on Wednesday are New York-based two-time Kentucky Downs meet titlist Jose Ortiz, reigning Eclipse Award winner Irad Ortiz and Luis Saez. Flavien Prat, fresh off winning the Del Mar riding title 50-49 over newcomer Umberto Rispoli, will ride the remainder of the Kentucky Downs meet beginning Monday. Rispoli is to begin riding here Thursday.