(Lull wins at KY Downs in 2017 / Photo Courtesy of KY Downs)
(Trainer Wesley Ward could have a big day at Kentucky Downs on Saturday / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)
Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint:
This event will be contested at 6.5 furlongs and be worth $500,000, which includes $250,000 from the KTDF. A field of 11 is led by Mae Never No, a 2YO filly by No Nay Never and trained by Wesley Ward.
Mae Never No has started three times so far and has two wins and a third already on the resume. After a brief break, she most recently won by over 7 lengths in the Colleen Stakes at Monmouth Park on Aug. 4. That race, though, was washed off the turf and moved over to a sloppy main track. Despite the easy win, the filly only beat five others that day.
In her only defeat so far, Mae Never No lost to the colts in the Tremont Stakes — running third against some fine company — including Somebaya, a Stakes winner at Saratoga this summer. She will be facing the colts again in this spot.
The main question is whether this one, out of a Broken Vow mare who has not produced a turf winner yet, can run over the grass. This will be her inaugural trip over the sod.
The main competition looks to be another one from the barn of Wesley Ward, and another filly — Moonlight Romance. This filly by Liaison was an easy winner over the grass at Belmont Park to break the maiden, but was not a factor while running 13th at Royal Ascot against the colts on June 23. Gets a top rider in Jose Ortiz.
Another contender figures to be Chattel, who has won two in a row over the grass. His last win came in the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga, running off to an impressive 31/4 length victory over a solid field. This son of Giant Oak is trained by Brandon McFarlane and will be ridden by Kenrick Carmouche.
Carter Cat, who ran fifth in the Skidmore, never put in a serious bid in the last out, which was his first try over the grass. But he had two seconds and a win before that for the barn of Steve Asmussen.
G3 Ladies Turf Stakes:
I’m Betty G, a speedball from the barn of Mike Maker, may be the headliner for the Grade 3 Ladies Turf Classic. In her last out, she captured the KY Downs Ladies Turf Prevue at Ellis Park by a front-running length.
In 12 turf tries to date, this daughter of Into Mischief has put together an impressive resume of 5 wins, 1 second and 5 thirds. She enters this spot with three wins in a row and will get Tyler Gaffalione back in the saddle.
But the 1-mile turf event on Saturday will not be easily had, on a course that is normally unkind to the speedy types. Especially with a ton of quality later closers adding serious depth of this field.
Storm the Hill, winner of the G3 Wilshire Stakes at Santa Anita on June 24, will ship in for this try for trainer Phil D’Amato. This one ran fifth in the G2 Yellow Ribbon at Del Mar last time out, but was hung wide throughout much of that one.
Valadorna, trained by Mark Casse, comes in off a sixth in the G2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs this summer, but got a freshening after that and this one does perform well off a layup. Two starts back, this daughter of Curlin on the G3 Doubledogdare at Keeneland. Gets a new rider in Florent Geroux today.
Hallie Belle is another deep closer with quality runs in the past, as well. She was beaten less than 3 in the G2 Yellow Ribbon last time out and was third in the G3 Modesty Handicap before that, as well. In four starts at this distance, she has 2 wins and a second.
Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint:
Lull, a 4-year-old filly by War Front and owned by the team of Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, looks to be one of the favorites for this sprint over the hills and dales of KY Downs. She has run two thirds in a row since winning the G3 Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream Park back in March. But she has had troubles with the break in each of the last two.
With a clean break, this one looks to push the pace early and will be teamed up with Brian Hernandez, Jr. again. So far this meet, Hernandez has been doing well — with a win, 2 seconds and a third to his credit.
The thing so intriguing about Lull is that she has run over this track twice previously. And?
She has won them both. Impressive.
The horses to beat may be Brielle’s Appeal and Con Te Partiro. The former is coming off a last place finish over a soft surface up at Saratoga. She pushed the pace in that one and wilted early on, but may not have liked the footing. Before that, she had three wins and a third in the only four other starts. The latter is coming off back-to-back fourths while routing over the grass. Now, she will shorten up to a distance where she has run only once — finishing second. But she is trained by a master — Wesley Ward — at this specialty distance, and has been working great at Keeneland.
Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint:
A horse to watch in this spot may be Conquest Panthera, trained by Mark Casse. This 6YO comes in off three straight thirds, but he has been running against some real good ones of late and has been wide in nearly all of them. Today, he will get the services of Florent Geroux for the first time, and that could make a huge difference for this deep closer.
He will need a clean trip late in the going, but does have a win in his only try at this 6.5-furlong distance. Interesting choice here.
Undrafted, trained by Ward, could be the one to beat. He has raced only twice this year, with a third, and has not been out since running poorly at Royal Ascot. But he does have earnings that are nearing $1.5 million and he has a second and two thirds in four previous tries over this sod.
Beware, though. In five starts at this distance, he has only three thirds to his credit.
Jazzy Times, who won the Prevue race at Ellis Park on Aug. 5, comes into this one with back to back wins at the shorter distances. But he won for a $25,000 tag just two back before winning the Stakes event last time out for trainer Wesley Hawley. Will get Ty Kennedy back in the saddle.
Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes:
Oscar Nominated, who is an undefeated 2-for-2 at KY Downs, is one of the likely favorites for this $750,000 Stakes event. Trained by Mike Maker, who normally dominates this oval, Oscar Nominated is coming in off a sixth place finish in the G1 United Nations at Monmouth Park last time out. He was checked going into the first turn that day, though, and still made a serious run, despite the obstacles.
With a clear run, like he got in the G2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland in April, and this one could be tough holding off at the end of this endurance test. Bred for the grass and the distance.
Arklow, who got up in the last inch to win the Prevue race at Ellis Park on Aug. 5, will get the saddle from Brad Cox today. This one is a G2 winner, having captured the American Turf at Churchill Downs in May of 2017. This year, he has two wins and a second in just four starts. Looms larger in this spot.
Big Bend, who won the Dueling Ground Derby here a year ago, is another who has shown a liking for this hilly course. He has not hit the board in four starts this year for trainer Tom Proctor, though. Ran fourth in a Stakes event at Delaware Park in the last out, but was beaten only 11/2 lengths. Looks to be on the improve.
From the Media Team at NYRA:
Royal Delta Stakes:
Set to make her first start since capturing the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher in July at Monmouth Park, Robert Masiello and West Point Thoroughbred’s Berned will headline a field of seven in the inaugural running of the $100,000 Royal Delta for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on Sunday at Belmont Park.
A 4-year-old daughter of Bernadini in the care of trainer Graham Motion, Berned kicked off her 2018 campaign with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie on February 17 at Laurel Park. Following up with a sixth-place finish in the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap on April 6 at Aqueduct Racetrack, Berned won the Serena’s Song at Monmouth Park on May 12. She ran sixth in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont on June 9 before winning the Molly Pitcher on July 29.
With two wins from five starts at the distance, including a win at Big Sandy where she broke her maiden as a juvenile, Berned will depart from post 5 with Joe Bravo aboard.
Dreamcall, a homebred for owner Mike Rutherford, will look to turn the tables after finishing second by three-quarters of a length to Berned last out in the Molly Pitcher.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Dreamcall has three wins from five starts this year including back-to-back wins in the Jack Bishop and Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows. Sired by Midnight Lute, Dreamcall has an impressive five wins with a pair of second-place finishes and two third-place results at the distance.
Dreamcall will leave from post 2 with Manny Franco in the irons.
Divine Miss Grey, for owners Corms Racing Stable and R. A. Hill Stable, is also entering the Royal Delta from the Molly Pitcher and looking to kick off a successful fall campaign.
A 4-year-old daughter of Divine Park, she will make her first start at Belmont on Sunday since running fourth in the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses on June 8. Since then, the Danny Gargan trainee won the Lady’s Secret on June 30 at Monmouth before running third in the Molly Pitcher.
Divine Miss Grey will depart from post 4 with regular rider Kendrick Carmouche.
Also entered is Sneaky Betty for Super C Racing and trainer Claudio Gonzalez, who finished second in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap on July 14 and followed up with a second-place running in the Lady Jacqueline at Thistledown last out; No Need to Appeal, for trainer Chad Brown and Waterford Stable; and Come Dancing for Blue Devil Racing Stable and trainer Carlos Martin.