(Photo: Kitodan winning last year’s Dueling Grounds Derby, when it was worth $750,000 and sponsored by Big Ass Fans. Coady Photography)
An overflow field that includes last year’s stakes-winners Kitodan and Play Action Pass was entered Saturday for Thursday’s $500,000 FanDuel Tapit Stakes, the opening-day feature of the seven-day FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs.
The all-grass meet runs Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, 3, 7 9, 10 and 13 over America’s only European-style course.
Post time for the first of 10 races is 12:30 p.m. Central, with the Tapit carded as the ninth (approximate post 4:54 p.m. CT). The Tapit, at a mile and 70 yards, is for 3-year-olds and up that have not won a stakes in 2023. The purse includes $250,000 in Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund supplements for registered Kentucky-breds, which includes all but two of the Tapit entrants.
Kitodan is racing for only the second time since he won last year’s Grade 3 Dueling Grounds Derby (then worth $750,000) by four lengths at Kentucky Downs. Combined with winning Churchill Downs’ Audubon Stakes and Turfway Park’s Rushaway, the $80,000 claim was voted the National HBPA’s Claiming Horse of the Year. Off an 11-month layoff, Kitodan tired to 10th in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup at Ellis Park. That redirected Kitodan from the $1.7 million, Grade 2 FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles on Sept. 9 to the Tapit.
“We said going into the race that he should be better the next time he ran,” said trainer and co-owner Eric Foster. “How many times can you run for that much money and have a condition attached to it? Non-winners of a sweepstakes this year, it seemed like it was a really good race for us.”
Francisco Arrieta has the return mount.
“Everything we wanted to do between the races, as far as our training, it just really worked out really well,” said Foster, who is based at Ellis Park and has a farm with a training track in Utica, Ky., near Owensboro. “He worked good Thursday, he’s looking good. I kind of feel like he’s got a good set-up.”
Bill Parcell’s Play Action Pass is seeking his first victory in six starts since taking last year’s inaugural Gun Runner Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile.
Kitodan and Play Action Pass are among 12 horses in the body of the Tapit, with four more on the also-eligible list needing defections in order to run.
Speaking Scout, seventh in last year’s Dueling Grounds Derby, ended last year with victory in Del Mar’s Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. He started his 2023 season with a third place in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf. Trainer Graham Motion also entered English Bee, most recently third in Saratoga’s Kelso (G3) won by the talented Casa Creed.
California trainers are well-represented, starting with George Papaprodromou’s duo of Cabo Spirit and Flavius, the latter the winner of Kentucky Downs’ 2021 Mint Million (now the $2 million Mint Millions) when trained by Chad Brown before being sold later that fall at auction. Cabo Spirit was a multiple graded-stakes winner last year, with his best finish in five starts this year a third in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile. Jose Valdivia comes in from Del Mar to ride Flavius, while Reylu Gutierrez gains the mount on Cabo Spirit.
Peter Miller has Yes This Time in the Tapit right off his $80,000 claim at Del Mar, in which he rallied from far back to take second.
Brown entered Portfolio Company, a two-time allowance winner at Belmont before finishing third in Saratoga’s restricted Lure Stakes. Joel Rosario, whose 17 victories in 2021 set a Kentucky Downs record, comes in from Saratoga to ride.
Among others: Strong Quality set the pace in Colonial Downs’ 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million (G1) before fading to seventh; Whisper Not won a Saratoga allowance ran and then was claimed for $62,500 in his next start; East Coast-based Siege of Boston returns to Kentucky after finishing third in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup; War Campaign, runner-up of the Hanshin at Ellis before finishing a close fifth in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup; graded stakes-placed Harlan Estate; Johny’s Fireball, an Ellis Park allowance winner after being claimed for $50,000; Ellis allowance winner Minnesota Ready; and Monmouth allowance winner St Anthony
Tiberius Mercurius, winner of a Churchill Downs allowance race in May and more recently a front-running starter-allowance at Colonial Downs, needs a scratch to run. He’s trained by Kentucky Downs’ career-leader Mike Maker, whose 12 wins and $2.3 million in purse earnings established track records last year.
Horses who did not make the body of the field for the Tapit have the option of entering back in the $500,000 National Thoroughbred League Handicap at a mile on Sept. 3, or even the $2 million Mint Millions (G3) on Sept. 2.
Besides Rosario, Hall of Famer John Velazquez will leave Saratoga for the day to ride at Kentucky Downs’. Two-time meet champion Tyler Gaffalione will give up three days of Saratoga’s closing week to ride at Kentucky Downs. Gaffalione has been named to ride all 10 races.
A total of 134 horses made the overnight entry sheet, including 22 on the also-eligible list. Six of the 10 races attracted at least 12 entries, with two more races having 11 apiece and two with nine.
The pair of $250,000 allowance races for graduates of last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale drew very well. With 12 horses and two also-eligibles in the Fillies division, carded as the second race, and 11 in the colts and geldings division, which goes off as the sixth race.
Kentucky Downs adds Super Hi-5 to all stakes, plus day’s last race
Keeneland offering LEX to Ky Downs 40-minute charter on Sept. 7, 9, 10 and 13
Catalano to run Big Dreaming in Mint Millions or FanDuel KY Turf Cup
Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale allowance races at Ky Downs return
Kentucky Downs sponsors: ‘Names and numbers speak for themselves’
Kentucky Downs adds $500,000 NTL Handicap to Sept. 3 card