(Moon Over Miami / Coady Photography & Courtesy of KY Downs)

From the KY Downs Media Team / Jennie Rees:

Moon Over Miami, who needed a scratch the morning of the race to make it into the race, engaged front-runner Big Dreaming in mid-stretch and powered home to win Thursday’s 1 5/16-mile, $750,000 Gun Runner Dueling Grounds Derby by a half-length under Javier Castellano at the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs.
Kenny McCarthy, who runs the Churchill Downs division for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, said they faced a decision early Thursday morning when it was time for the van to leave for Kentucky Downs and there was yet to be a defection in the capacity 12-horse field that would allow Moon Over Miami to draw in off the also-eligible list. That happened when Fighting Seabee was scratched by the 10 a.m. Central deadline.
“We sort of took a shot sending him down, hoping that well, maybe, hoping in time, somebody would scratch,” McCarthy said. “They said we could stay in until 10 a.m. So we just sent him down with our fingers crossed. It doesn’t often work out like that. We got a little bit of racing luck in every which way.”
Coincidentally, the Mott-trained favorite in the $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks, Harvey’s Lil Goil, was beaten by Micheline in a similar manner, although in that case she was pretty much nailed on the wire.
“That’s the racing gods there,” McCarthy said of racing luck evening out. “But hey, we were happy with her. She ran a super race. Jose (Ortiz) gave her a nice ride. We just got rundown right at the wire. So hat’s off to the winner.”
Big Dreaming, ridden by Chris Landeros, led the field through the first turn and up the backstretch with Kid Mercury, Peace Achieved, Dynadrive, Jolting Joe and Summer Assault in closest pursuit. The initial fractions were a reasonable :24.39 for the first quarter-mile, :48.68 for the half and 1:13.26 for three-quarters of a mile. At that point, Moon Over Miami was ninth by six lengths, and tepid 4-1 favorite Bama Breeze trailed the field of twelve 3-year-olds.
Turning for home, Big Dreaming was still in charge and separated himself from Kid Mercury as horses bunched up for the stretch run. Moon Over Miami emerged from the pack to narrowly lead the way past the eighth-mile marker. The final time for 1 5/16 miles was 2:06.76.
“I had a beautiful trip. I never rode the horse before,” said Castellano after recording his first win of the three-day old meet. “The way I handicapped it, everything went against the horse. Big field, (drawing) 13, outside, a long, long distance. I think the key was a lot of patience — ride with a lot of confidence and patience and it’s going to pay off. And that’s exactly what I did with the horse. I rode with a lot of patience. I tried to save all the ground as best I could around the first turn and let it him develop a hole little by little on the backside and get him a clear trip. And that’s exactly what I did with the horse.”
Moon Over Miami, a son of the Spendthrift Farm stallion Malibu Moon, paid $16 to win as the fifth choice in the field of 12. He now is 3-0-0 in nine starts, ballooning his earnings to $540,152 with the $432,450 payday for owner-breeder Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Equine.
 Big Dreaming gamely stayed on to finish second, 3 3/4 lengths ahead of the late-running Shamrocket.
“He did run big,” said Wayne Catalano, who trains Big Dreaming for owner Frank Calabrese. “All week long when the overnight came out, I didn’t want the 13 to draw in. You don’t want Billy Mott drawing in at 5-1. And he draws in and beats me. But our horse did everything good. This kid rode a great race. The horse ran a great race. He looked like we were coming back, coming back and that we might get there. But we were second-best.”
Peace Achieved, winner of last year’s 2-year-old mile stakes at Kentucky Downs, was another 1 1/2 lengths back in fourth while nosing out Kid Mercury. Rounding out the order of finish were Kinenos, Bama Breeze, Angelus Warrior, Natural Power (IRE), Summer Assault, Jolting Joe and Dynadrive. Fighting Seabee and also-eligibles Buy Me Candy, Salow and Sunsation were scratched.
(Micheline / Coady Photography & Courtesy of KY Downs)
Dueling Grounds Oaks; Micheline nails favored Harvey’s Lil Goil
Godolphin’s Micheline, sent off at 10-1, ran down favored Harvey’s Lil Goil in the final strides to win the $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks by a neck.
Micheline has been a labor of love for Michael Stidham and his crew at Fair Hill. The filly apparently is claustrophobic and will tear down a barn — this is not too much of an exaggeration, her peeps say — before being confined in a stall. So they keep her in an open-air, covered outdoor stall at Fair Hill, and when she hits the road a portable stall is in tow.
Micheline had won stakes before, Gulfstream Park’s $75,000 Honey Ryder and Monmouth Park’s $100,000 Sorority at age 2, but the $500,000 stakes triumph put her in a new category.
“It’s been a journey with her, and it’s been well worth it,” Stidham said by phone. “When she came to us, we were told that you could not put her in a barn because she wouldn’t just walk the stall, she’d run the stall. We were told that she had to be turned out after she trained. She couldn’t be put in the barn. So we had to figure out a way to facilitate her. We had an outdoor stall built for her at Fair Hill. She had a roof over her, but it was an outdoor stall. She’d have a pony next to her to keep her company. Now, any time we’ve taken her anywhere, we have a portable stall with a canvas roof over it and she lives outside in a portable stall. She’s OK in the van, but you can’t put her inside a barn.”
Joel Rosario bided his time on Micheline in the Dueling Grounds Derby while Lucky Polly, Stand Tall and Harvey’s Lil Goil contended through tepid early fractions of :25.07 seconds for the first quarter-mile, :49.34 for the half and six furlongs in 1:13.56. At that point, Micheline was eighth of 11 runners, 4 3/4 lengths off the pace but launching a bid.
Harvey’s Lil Goil seized command in the latter part of the sweeping far turn and led by two lengths at the furlong marker, only grudgingly giving up the lead in the last couple of jumps as Micheline came flying, covering 1 5/16 miles in 2:06.41.That’s the fastest time recorded at the distance in track history. But Kentucky Downs, which previously has always been hand-timed, this year is testing Equibase’s new Gmax tracking and timing system, which uses GPS technology and has starting points for timing that vary from those utilized in the past. Because it’s not an accurate comparison, Kentucky Downs is not at this time referencing track records, either new or old.
Luck Money was another length back in third. Stunning Sky, the second betting choice, was fourth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths.
“My filly is a big horse,” said winning jockey Joel Rosario, who finished a good fourth in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Lake George in Micheline’s prior start. “I thought she’d like the wide-open (course). That horse kind of got away from me. I thought I was never going to catch her. But she kept trying. I was riding, and she kept trying. Finally the last part of it, I got close to the horse and she got up and ran really well.”
Micheline paid $22 to win as the fourth choice in the field of eleven 3-year-old fillies. Following the top four across the finish line were Stand Tall, Ask Bailey, How Ironic, Sursum Corda, Carpe Vinum, Lucky Polly and Embossed. Island Hideaway (GB) was scratched along with the also-eligibles Redemption Day, Blame Debbie and Envoutante.
The daughter of the Darley America stallion Bernardini, the 2006 Preakness and Travers winner and 3-year-old champion, now is 4-1-1 in 11 starts, earning $445,978 with the $291,400 first-place money.
“She ran against some pretty good fillies, with Mott’s filly,” Stidham said. “I thought it was a pretty solid field, for sure. We always thought the added distance was going to be what she wanted, we just hadn’t had the opportunity until to try her — and she loved every bit of it.
“She’s one of the prettiest gallopers I’ve ever been around. She floats over the ground in her gallop. She’s got this big, huge pretty stride. She’s actually mellowed a little bit as a 3-year-old. She really doesn’t do anything crazy. But if you put her in a barn she will get crazy. I think she’s just claustrophobic. They are people that way; I guess horses get that way.”
Stidham said Keeneland’s Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup will “absolutely” be under consideration.
Micheline is out of the 16-year-old mare Panty Raid, who as a racehorse won Pimlico’s Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on dirt, Hollywood Park’s Grade 1 American Oaks on turf and Keeneland’s Grade 1 Spinster on a synthetic surface, earning more than $1 million before selling for $2.5 million at auction.
“This is her first really good foal,” Stidham said. “That’s the cool part.”
The stakes was delayed a half-hour after the power failed in the TV truck and its back-up supply system also failed. Kentucky Downs quickly pulled over one of its generators, which restored the power, track management said.
Micheline was cool as a cucumber in the paddock and throughout the delay.
“But she’s outside, so it doesn’t matter,” said T.J. Stuckey, Stidham’s assistant trainer at Kentucky Downs. “She’s not locked up in a stall. She’s walking around and she’s moving.
“The race set up perfect for her. She settled pretty good behind those horses. They gave her good leeway, and she followed and finished well. I take my hat off to the jockey. He did a heck of a job with her.”
Betting on the 10-race card totaled $8,983,981, a record for a week day and the third-highest all time. That number is topped only by a pair of Saturdays for Kentucky Downs’ showcase five-stakes Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup Day, on which $11,321,492 was bet last year and $10,039,008 in 2018.