(Trainer Rusty Arnold / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)
(Totally Boss / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
From the KY Downs Media Team / Jennie Rees:
Part of the charm of Kentucky Downs is the unique level of hominess the Franklin, Ky., track offers to those making the trek down Interstate 65. While its purses are among the most elite in the nation, the airy atmosphere that surrounds the European-style course gives off a welcoming feel whether one is simply observing the high-level action taking place or trying to claim some of that ample prize money.
At last year’s meet, few enjoyed the track’s hospitality as much as trainer Rusty Arnold and his hard-knocking charge, Totally Boss. This Saturday, the two will once again aim to take in all the spoils Kentucky Downs has to offer when Totally Boss sets out to defend his title in the Grade 3, $700,000 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint Stakes.
The Turf Sprint Stakes is one of five stakes, four of them enjoying Grade 3 status, on Saturday’s Calumet Farm Day card with the headliner being the $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup.
With respect to all the title sponsors, Arnold made the venue’s signature day his own personal showcase a year ago. In addition to watching Totally Boss earn his first career graded stakes-victory when he prevailed in the six-furlong Turf Sprint, Arnold also saddled Morticia to the win in the 2019 edition of the $500,000 stakes now known as the Real Solution Ladies Sprint, making it one of the most lucrative days of the venerable horseman’s career.
It was also the day that Totally Boss uncorked arguably the best race of his life. Where Kentucky Downs’ undulating course can throw some runners off their game, Totally Boss relished the going en route to earning a 1 ¼-length triumph over a field the included his graded stakes-winning stablemate Leinster and Stormy Liberal, the champion turf male of 2018.
“He did, he loved it down there last year,” Arnold said of Totally Boss, who has six wins from 18 career outings. “He likes the (six furlongs) I think the better than the five-eighths. He gets to relax a little bit, get his spot and he is really doing well. I don’t think he’s a natural five-eighths horse. He’s trained good for this and he’s ready to go.”
With the coronavirus pandemic throwing schedules for a loop, Totally Boss has only had two prior starts this season heading into the Turf Sprint Stakes. The 5-year-old Street Boss gelding was given a freshening after finishing 10th in the $1 million, Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Park last November, then had an eventful seasonal bow at Churchill Downs on May 29 when he was taken up abruptly on the turn while finishing eighth in an allowance race.
His most recent outing in the Grade 2 Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland July 11 produced a return to form for Jim and Susan Hill’s runner, even if it didn’t yield a victory. After racing well back early on in the 5 1/2-furlong Shakertown, Totally Boss came flying late on the outside only to lose the photo finish to his friendly rival Leinster.
“(Totally Boss) just never runs bad. He never runs bad, other than the Breeders’ Cup race, it’s really the only time,” Arnold said. “But he got the 1 hole (in the Breeders’ Cup) that day and had no chance. So you take out that race and he doesn’t have a bad race.
“I’ve told both owners (of Leinster and Totally Boss) that the one thing the pandemic did for me this year was keep me from over-racing these horses. So I’ve got two fresh horses going into the fall. Anything can happen, anything can go wrong. But right now both horses are very sound, very fresh and ready to go. That’s important. They’ve both had two starts, and they’re both going to run one more time. So they’re going into the Breeders’ Cup off three starts where last year they had five or six starts.”
Reflecting on good times is fun. Topping such achievements is better. To that end, Arnold could enjoy another banner Kentucky Downs meet this week as he also has morning-line favorite Bama Breeze set to run in Thursday’s $750,000 Gun Runner Dueling Grounds Derby and graded-stakes winner English Affair slated for either Saturday’s Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Stakes or Sunday’s TVG Stakes (formerly the Ladies Marathon), both $500,000 races.
Owned by Ashbrook Farm and BBN Racing, Bama Breeze is seeking his first victory since breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs last September 14. The 3-year-old Honor Code gelding finished sixth in both the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland on July 12 and the 1 3/16-miles Saratoga Derby Invitational on August 15.
“We’ve kind of pointed to this race all year,” Arnold said of Bama Breeze. “I think the horse wants to go that distance, we think he’s a mile and a half horse. You don’t know exactly who will handle (Kentucky Downs) but he sure seems a real handy horse to do it. He kept getting himself in trouble but he did not get in trouble in New York last time, he ran his race. Those were a pretty tough bunch in there but he came out of it good and we’re very optimistic that he’s going to show up (today).”
Calumet Farm homebred English Affair showed her best self in some time when she captured the Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf Stakes at Ellis Park on August 2. The 6-year-old daughter of English Channel won the 2018 Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap but suffered a hind-end injury coming out of the 2019 Grade 3 La Prevoyante Stakes that kept her on the sidelines for over a year.
“I’m really happy that Calumet was patient enough to run her as a 6-year-old,” Arnold said. “It would have been easy to pull the plug on her. She was a graded-stakes winner at the end of her 5-year-old year and they could have taken her home. But they knew she had talent and they like to race and we got her back.”
Since coming back to the races this February, English Affair has made incremental progress in each of her outings. After dropping her first three starts of 2020, the chestnut mare skipped over the rain-soaked course at Ellis to capture the Preview Ladies Turf Stakes by 1 ½-lengths.
How much moisture ends hitting Kentucky Downs this weekend will likely determine which race the smallish distaffer will head to post for.
“She’s a nice filly when everything is right with her,” Arnold said. “She likes a little cut in the ground and we are going to enter her for Sunday and decide which race to run in. We’re going to look at both races and see how they come up and … she is going to run on which track we think has the softest ground because she is tough on soft ground.
“That race at Ellis was a bog but she fell in love with it. She’s a little filly, she’s light, and she gets across it.”