From the KY Downs Media Team:

Therapist, the 8-year-old winner of Saturday’s Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park, will be pointed for Kentucky Downs’ $1.7 million, Grade 2 FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup, trainer Mike Maker said. So will his 9-year-old stablemate Red Knight, the United Nations third-place finisher who won the Kentucky Turf Cup last year.

U.N. runner-up Catnip is likely for Kentucky Downs’ $2 million Mint Millions (G3) at a mile, trainer Michael Stidham said.

Money talks, and Maker long has been fluent in Kentucky Downs, which offers among the most lucrative purses in the world. Last year he won a record 12 races while his record 66 starters ran out more than $2.3 million in purses en route to a record seventh meet title.

Maker said Monday that he’s targeting the 1 1/2-mile FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup — a race the trainer has won a record five times since 2015 — for both Therapist and Red Knight.

“He finished strong, and I loved his gallop-out,” Maker said of Therapist. “Red Knight would appreciate a faster pace, and he had a pretty wide trip as well. But both horses ran very well.”

A significant chunk of Kentucky Downs’ stakes purses comes from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF) restricted to registered Kentucky-breds. Therapist and Red Knight were both born in New York. Maker doesn’t look at the money left on the table by racing a non-Kentucky-bred at Kentucky Downs. Rather, he looks at the money left on the table by not running a horse at Kentucky Downs, with the track’s base stakes purses by themselves among the highest in the world.

The FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup’s $1.7 million pot includes $400,000 in KTDF. Even so, the stakes’ $1.3 million base purse forms the most lucrative stakes for which any turf horse in America can run outside the Breeders’ Cup. A Kentucky-bred winner will earn more than $1 million; a non-Kentucky-bred winner will earn about $800,000.

On top of it, the winner gets a fees-paid spot in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf Nov. 4 at Santa Anita as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series program.

Besides Red Knight winning last year’s Kentucky Turf Cup, Maker’s huge 2022 meet included another New York-bred, Somelikeithotbrown, winning the Mint Million Mile. That Grade 3 stakes has been renamed The Mint Millions, reflecting its new $2 million purse that features a $1 million base purse and $1 million in KTDF.

Therapist, the 12-1 fifth choice ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations’ field of nine, closed from seventh to wear down the forwardly placed Catnip to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths. Red Knight, who two races earlier won Belmont’s Grade 1 Man o’ War, also closed well to finish another three-quarters of a length back in third.

Maker claimed Therapist for $50,000 in January for prominent New York owner Michael Dubb. The gelded son of the New York stallion Freud had raced farther than 1 1/16 miles only once in 37 prior starts, finishing fourth in a 1 1/8-mile New York-bred stakes in 2019.

“This is Mike Maker’s sweet spot,” Dubb said, referring to distance racing. “When we got him, the horse hadn’t been racing this long, and I asked Mike why he wanted to go this long. He said, ‘I see it in the breeding.’”

Maker has made a career out of claiming horses and turning them into stakes-winners. Therapist is his seventh former claiming horse to win a Grade 1 race; his first was $35,000 claim Furthest Land, who a year later won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile over what was then Santa Anita’s synthetic surface. Therapist is Maker’s 16th individual horse to win a Grade 1.

Therapist, now a 13-time winner, ran at Kentucky Downs last year, finishing fourth in an allowance race.

Catnip to cut back in distance

Stidham said the logical objective for Catnip is Kentucky Downs’ $2 million Mint Millions at a mile. Catnip had the lead in mid-stretch of the United Nations but couldn’t hold off Therapist.

“We felt that probably the mile and a half over that course might be a little too far based on Saturday,” Stidham said Sunday. “We thought he ran well, but with the course configuration at Kentucky Downs and a mile and a half, that might be a little outside of his best distance.”

With the Mint Millions being Kentucky Downs’ richest of 11 stakes worth at least $1 million for Kentucky-breds, “I like everything about it,” Stidham said cheerfully, adding, “now we’ve just got to win.”

While Catnip also is nominated to the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million (G1) at Colonial Downs on Aug. 12, “right now, if you put a gun to my head, I’d say we’d be running at Kentucky Downs,” the trainer said.

The Kentucky-bred Catnip is a half-brother to Princess Grace, who won the 2021 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3) and was a narrow second in the stakes last year. Like Catnip, Stidham trained Princess Grace and their mother, Masquerade, for owners Susan and John Moore. Catnip is a son of Kitten’s Joy, while Princess Grace was sired by Japanese-bred Karakontie, the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner.

“The part Catnip reminds me of Princess Grace is just like Masquerade, the mother,” Stidham said. “They all just have a really big heart. They go out there and run hard every time.”

Saratoga’s G3 Caress winner could head to $1M Ladies Sprint

John O’Meara’s Roses for Debra, winner of Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Caress Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf for older fillies and mares at Saratoga, could run in Kentucky Downs $1 million, Grade 2 AGS Ladies Sprint on Sept. 9.

Trainer Christophe Clement, who is 3 for 3 with Roses for Debra, listed the 6 1/2-furlong Kentucky Downs stakes among the options for the 4-year-old filly’s next start. By the Kentucky stallion Liam’s Map but foaled in Pennsylvania, Roses for Debra would race for the Ladies Sprint’s $600,000 base purse, still far more than the other options Clement mentioned to the Saratoga media team. Those are the $150,000 Start N Fancy at 5 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 25 at Saratoga and the Grade 2, $300,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters at 6 1/2 furlongs Sept. 18. The filly is 4 for 4 at six or 6 1/2 furlongs on synthetic and turf.

“We’ve got a lot of options,” said Clement, who won the 2017 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint with Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Lull.


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.

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