(This is not Kentucky Downs, and those are not Thoroughbreds. But since the all-turf track in Southwest KY is a European-styled track, we could think of no better time that to utilize our photo of the green, green turf that is home to these Icelandic-bred beauties / Photo by Gene McLean)

The grass is always greener on the other side. That’s what they say.

Always seems to be a little greener where the purses are the best, too.

So it is that we begin the annual turf fest at Kentucky Downs, nestled in the hills and dales of Simpson County along the Tennessee border. The European-styled, all-turf track will host some of the best turf racing around starting today.

Here’s a look at some of our “Spot Plays:

Race 3: This is a 6.5-furlong turf sprint, and I am taking a shot with Dragon Drew (2). I don’t know the weather conditions or the condition of the KY Downs course, but if the grass is firm and sunny skies are in order, this 4YO son of Stormy Atlantic is worth a look and a possible shot. If you look at the PPs, you might think I am crazy. Probably am. Doesn’t show a win in the last 10 starts. But many of those were either on an off main track or a very yielding turf surface. This guy has to hear his hooves rattle a bit. When he does? He is fully capable. And, I love the 8-1 ML odds. The distance may be perfect for this deep closer, too. And, as you know, they have to finish coming up the hill. I’m taking a shot with Dragon Drew (8) and keying him over/under the “all button” in this spot. Go Team Buff.

Race 4: I’m taking another long-shot in this spot, and you know how dangerous it is for your overall handicapping record to pick “off the grid.” But I really like Hitch (9), who is 15-1 in the ML. This 3YO son of Tapit is trained by Steve Asmussen, and is really starting to hone in on his skill level, IMO. I can toss the last out on the dirt at Ellis Park. Had serious trouble at the start of that 1 mile event. Had to be steadied on the rail. Terrible trip. Now, gets one of the best grass riders in the world today. Look for huge improvement. I bet the 9 across the board and then key the 9 over/under the “all button” in the exactas.

Race 7: One Dreamer Stakes…A horse to watch in this one, for me, is Hanalei Moon (7). I can toss the last one completely. Bothered at the start and steadied in the stretch. No chance after all those issues. Before that, though, this 4YO daughter of Malibu Moon had hit the board in 4 of the previous 5 races. Had two wins in that mix. In 3 starts at this distance, she has a win, a second and a third. And, in 8 lifetime starts over the sod, she is 3-1-1. Out of a Stakes winning mare, who has a turf winner. Gets a huge, huge, huge rider switch. And, is 8-1 in the ML. Nice. Na Pali Spirit (8) has been running well against tougher, too. Deep closer was third in the G3 Matron and only lost by 4 in the G3 Modesty. Gets Joe Bravo in the saddle today. Interesting at some nice odds, too. But I think the horse to bet and beat is Limari (9). This 4YO daughter is super-well bred and trained by Brad Cox, who is winning at a .28% clip this year. Gets her regular rider back for this one and has a tremendous turn of foot when asked. My choice. I bet the 9 to win/place/show and then key the 9 over/under the “all button.” I try a little across the board on the 7, too. And, I box the 7-8-9 in a smaller exacta.

Race 8: Tourist Mile…Trainer Mike Maker knows exactly what it takes to train a winner over this very unusual track and course. And, he has a huge shot in this one with Hembree (4). Comes into this one off a no-chance beat in the G1 Fourstardave Stakes at Saratoga. Rider decided to go 5 wide at the turn, and although the 5YO son of Proud Citizen tried, he could not muster a serious run against the likes of Got Stormy, Raging Bull and others. None of those kind in this one today, and should have a clear run when he hits the long, uphill stretch run today. Gets a huge rider switch for this one, too. Love his chances. I bet the 4 to win/place/show and then key over/under the “all button” in the exactas. 

Good Luck & All the Best/Gene