KY Downs News: Old Friends Stakes Includes Mr. Misunderstood

(Mr. Misunderstood training at Churchill Downs recently / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the KY Downs Media Team:

Editor’s note: Byron King is a freelance turf writer, publicist and handicapper based in Louisville who is creating the Kentucky Downs’ morning-line odds and analyzing the stakes races as part of the RUNHAPPY Meet’s publicity team. Horseplayers and racing enthusiasts across the country are well familiar with King’s writing, reporting and wagering acumen from his years of work for Daily Racing Form, including covering and handicapping Kentucky Downs for the past two decades. He also brings in the knowledge of being a horse owner with extensive bloodstock experience.
Old Friends Stakes Analysis
By Byron King
Thursday’s renewal of the Old Friends Stakes at Kentucky Downs has a tough act to follow, coming a year after the 2018 winner, Next Shares, went on to win the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. But the lineup this year, in which 2018 Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up Catapult is the headliner, appears to have the potential to produce another high-quality winner.
The race, typical of a Kentucky Downs contest, is loaded with depth, with 12 horses in the body of the field, and another two listed as “also eligibles,” ready to move into the starting lineup if a scratch or two occurs among the 12 horses in the main body of the race. The large cast is also loaded with talent. In addition to Catapult, multiple graded stakes-winner Mr. Misunderstood competes, as well as millionaire Undrafted, just to name two.
The upset choice is CULLUM ROAD (#2, 12-1), who narrowly missed over the Kentucky Downs turf course last year when second, beaten a head, in the Dueling Grounds Derby to eventual Bowling Green winner Channel Cat. That day he outran the public’s expectations at odds in excess of 19-1, finishing 3 ¼ lengths clear of the third-place finisher.
The affinity he displayed for the course suggests the horse could bounce back from a couple of disappointing efforts in his last two races. He picks up Saratoga’s leading rider, Jose Ortiz, who topped the Kentucky Downs standings in 2018.
Those strengths noted, his last couple of races have been disappointing, a ninth in the Grade 2 Wise Dan and a sixth in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap but neither race seemed to set up to his liking, particularly the Arlington Handicap, when he was hung wide when racing close to a slow pace.
Favored CATAPULT (#5, 3-1) is the most likely winner, particularly if he can run back to his better performances of 2018 when he won the Eddie Read and Del Mar Mile before his runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He has not produced at the same level in 2019, going zero-for-four, though he was second in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile in March.
With John Sadler training and Joel Rosario riding, he promises to be popular with bettors. That duo teamed to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year with Accelerate.
MULTIPLIER (4, 6-1) was sixth in a prior appearance at Kentucky Downs last year, though in the signature race of the meet, the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup, and after being too aggressive early going 1 ½ miles. The mile-and-70-yards distance of the Old Friends seems to better suit him. His finest efforts this year have come between a mile and a mile and sixteenth.
MR. MISUNDERSTOOD (#3, 4-1) is 11 for 18 on grass but is winless in both of his races in 2019, both times as the favorite. A wide trip likely cost him last out when third at Ellis Park Aug. 4 in the Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile, and he may be ready to improve upon that effort in the third start of his current form cycle.
Entries are out for Saturday! Here’s a quick look at stakes quintet
Entries were drawn Tuesday for Saturday’s 10-race showcase card that features five stakes, of which four are graded, and total purses of $3,885,000, including purse supplements from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund. A total of 140 made the entry sheet, with 25 horses needing defections in order to run. All five of the non-stakes races overfilled, with two stakes overfilling and another getting the capacity 12 horses.
Here’s a quick look at the fields (by Jennie Rees):
$500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint (3:05 p.m. CT, 2yos, 6 1/2 furlongs): Trainer Wesley Ward won last year’s inaugural running of this race when Moonlight Romance beat the boys. Ward tries that again with Stonestreet Stables’ filly Cambria, who 2 for 2 over Presque Isle’s synthetic surface. Mark Casse, who won two stakes on last Saturday’s opening card, goes in the full field of 12 with Ellis Park debut winners Prince of Thieves and Souper Dormy. Axiomo, who won his first start on grass at Churchill Downs at 45-1 odds and then won an allowance race on dirt, returns to the turf after finishing fifth in the Ellis Park Juvenile.
$700,000, Grade 3 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint (3:53 p.m. CT, 3yo & up, 6 furlongs): Kentucky Downs’ first Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race drew a terrific field of 10, with the winner getting an entry fees-paid spot in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint G1) on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park. Start with the Peter Miller-trained Stormy Liberal, the two-time BC Turf Sprint winner and reigning champion male turf horse. He’s 0 for 4 this year, with a pair of seconds and thirds, but shows strong works at Del Mar. Stormy Liberal’s half-brother Leinster, Saratoga’s Grade 3 Troy Stakes winner who also is out of the mare Vassar, faces his sibling for the first time. Leinster is trained by Rusty Arnold, who also is running Totally Boss, winner of the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint at Ellis Park. New York-based White Flag, second by a head in this stakes last year, returns and is reunited with jockey Joel Rosario, with whom the horse has enjoyed his most success. Others: Canada’s Grade 1 Highlander winner Wet Your Whistle; Keeneland’s Grade 2 Shakertown winner Imprimis, making his first start since a sixth place in England’s Group 1 King’s Stand; the venerable 9-year-old $1.5 million-earner Undrafted, fourth in this stakes last year by a combined three-quarters of a length; and Jazzy Times, a good second to Totally Boss at Ellis.
$500,000, Grade 3 Three Chimneys Ladies Turf (4:28 p.m. CT, fillies & mares 3yo and up, mile): The Bill Mott-trained Mitchell Road, who is out of the same mare (Quake Lake) as adjudged Kentucky Derby winner Country House, won four straight races until she ran into female turf champion Sistercharlie in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Diana. Stakes-winners Simply Breathless, Storm the Hill, Lynne’s Legacy and Ms Bad Behavior come in from California. Every horse in the field of nine is a stakes winner, including Grade 3 winner Coachwhip, Kallio, Sensitive and Viva Vegas.
$500,000,Grade 3 Spendthrift Farm Ladies Sprint (5:01 p.m. CT, fillies & mares 3yo and up, 6 1/2 furlongs): Ruby Notion seeks her first victory since she won this race last year, after which she was fourth against boys in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Fan favorite Morticia, who has nine wins and never runs a bad race, was third in this race two years ago. May Lily won the 5 1/2-furlong prep at Ellis Park to get a free roll in this stakes and her camp thinks she’ll relish a little extra distance. Cool Beans is ultra-consistent with a 3-5-3 record in 11 starts for Brad Cox, who won two races on last Saturday’s card and was disqualified out of a third. The field of 12, plus three more on the also-eligible list, also includes stakes-winners Oleksandra, Raven’s Lady, Stillwater Cove, A Little Bit Me and Painting Corners.
$1 million, Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup (5:35 p.m. CT, 3yos & up, 1 1/2 miles): Multiple graded stakes-winners Arklow and Bigger Picture, last year’s 1-2 finishers, are back. Arklow, the 5-2 favorite in Byron King’s morning line, has run well against Grade 1 company but seeks his first victory of 2019. Bigger Picture’s Mike Maker-trained stablemate Zulu Alpha, a multiple graded-stakes winner who was claimed 11 1/2 months ago at Churchill Downs partly with this race in mind, is the 9-2 second choice. The top three finishers of Ellis Park’s $100,000 prep race — victorious Factor This, Botswana and My Boy Jack, with a total of a neck separating them — all entered in Kentucky Downs’ first $1 million race race, as did beaten favorite Hello Don Julio. Others include California shippers Blended Citizen and Campaign. Noble Thought and Pillar Mountain run back two weeks after finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, in Saratoga’s Grade I Sword Dancer.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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