- Five graded stakes races highlight Saturday racing at Kentucky Downs
- The European style turf course is unique to North American racing
- Where can we find money-making opportunities Saturday in Franklin, KY?
If you love a challenge and appreciate high-end racing in a unique environment, Kentucky Downs is for you. If you eat the same thing for lunch each day, and different is scary, the track which rests on the Kentucky/Tennessee border might be too much to handle.
Six days a year Kentucky Downs holds racing. They load up on top-end heats, making each day an event with great horses. They have just a single course. The grass is undulating and in the shape of a carabiner. In other words, top turf horses go uphill, around, and down, with a stretch run that is extremely long and includes a mild incline.
Saturday Kentucky Downs has five graded stakes races and a pair of $1 million contests. Let’s look carefully at the Grade 2 Calumet Turf Cup, a Breeder’s Cup Win and You’re In for the BC Turf, and examine the other quartet of races too.
Don’t be afraid to shoot for a big price at Kentucky Downs. The course is awkward, some horses like it a lot better than others. With big fields come unpredictable results. Let’s check out the field and prices for the Calumet Turf Cup.
2021 Calumet Turf Cup Odds
|Tide of the Sea||+600|
Odds as of September 9th
The turf course at Churchill Downs is currently closed for renovations, and there is no racing in New York this weekend as they transition from Saratoga to Belmont Park. With Del Mar’s racing calendar over until around the Breeder’s Cup, the number of opportunities to run in high-level grass races is limited. That creates large and competitive fields particularly since the purses are high at Kentucky Downs.
Big Dreaming and Artemus Eagle are entered as also eligibles in this mile-and-a-half marathon. They will only run if one of the other 12 horses gets scratched.
Trainer Mike Maker has won this race a record four times. He won with Zulu Alpha two years ago. He is one of four entrants Maker has in this year’s edition, with Tide of the Sea, Bluegrass Parkway, and Ajourneytofreedom also in the mix.
Arklow is the defending champ, and also got to the wire first in 2019. Of $2.75 million in career earnings over 34 starts, $1.2 million has come in three races at Kentucky Downs.
Post time is scheduled for 5:44 pm EST. TVG is the home to all races at Kentucky Downs.
When Arklow showed up at Kentucky Downs last year for this race, he had lost five straight and seemed to be in decline at the age of six. At +580 he won.
After winning this race, and finishing sixth in the Breeders Cup Turf, Arklow finished 2020 with a Grade 2 score at Del Mar in late November. His seasonal debut was a Grade 3 win in May at Churchill Downs. Since then he has finished sixth in a Grade 1 race at Monmouth Park, and seventh in a Grade 2 at Del Mar.
Trainer Brad Cox is among the best in the business, and Arklow clearly loves Kentucky Downs. You don’t want to take too short a price, and at the same time can’t ignore a classy horse for the course.
Channel Cat is one-for-one at Kentucky Downs, though that victory came three years ago. He has one victory in his last 12 races and has finished out of the money in his last two starts. In May he won a Grade 1 test at Belmont Park.
Channel Cat consistently faces the top competition, he just doesn’t win that frequently. His speed figures have declined since 2019.
Zulu Alpha is eight years old and seemingly not the horse that won this race by more than three lengths, beating Arklow among others, in 2019. He won a big race in July of 2020 at Keeneland, but it has been tough sledding since.
Since that win, Zulu Alpha was third behind Arklow in this event last September and has finished fifth and seventh in two tries, both at Arlington Park, this year.
Tide of the Sea is also perfect at Kentucky Downs, winning his only race on the track last year against a weaker field than this. His only win since came in January.
Against fields weaker than this though perhaps not by a lot Tide of the Sea has finished seventh, ninth, second, and fourth in a quartet of races since February.
In a race where the favorites are less-than-impressive, and at a track known for producing prices, longshots become very interesting. Picking the right one is more difficult.
Fantasioso and Ajourneytofreedom raced against each other last month at Saratoga.
Fantasioso has not won in five tries since coming over from Argentina in the spring. Ajourneytofreedom has never beaten this caliber of horse. Both need career-best efforts.
Breakpoint won all five of his races in Chile before coming to the US this summer. He was fourth in a high-level optional claiming race at Belmont Park, before finishing last against Grade 2 horses at Saratoga. He may appreciate more distance in the Turf Cup and has been transferred to the barn of elite trainer Steve Asmussen.
Pick: Channel Cat (+450)
Other Grade 1 Races at Kentucky Downs Saturday
The stakes action begins at 3:57 pm EST with the six-and-a-half furlong $600,000 Mint Ladies Sprint. At 4:34 pm the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf has a purse of $750,000. The $1 million six-furlong Turf Sprint is scheduled for 5:09 pm and the winner earns a starting spot in the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint. At 6:18 pm the Franklin-Simpson Stakes is six-and-a-half furlongs with $600,000 on the line.
The Mint Ladies Sprint
This is a wide-open full field and the favorite, Venetian Harbor, is not a typical turf horse. She won on the sod at Santa Anita in June, but only two of 10 career races are on grass.
Venetian Harbor has been running against Gamine and Speech and Shedaresthedevil, the best horses in the female dirt sprint division. It is unclear how she matches up with top grass foes.
Jeanie B is second off a layoff after just missing in her graded stakes debut at Woodbine last month. She may sit just off of Venetian Harbor and get the first run on the favorite as they turn for home. Jeanie B beat a lesser field at Belmont Park in May.
Superstition and Constantia finished second and third behind Venetian Harbor in the grass race at Santa Anita. Superstition returned to win in late July at Del Mar in a stakes race. Constantia, who beat Superstition in April, was fifth, behind her, at Del Mar.
Pick: Jeanie B
Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf
A winner of five out of six career races, Princess Grace is cutting back in distance for this one-mile Grade 3 try. She has won three graded stakes including an impressive victory at Del Mar in August.
Kentucky Downs is the seventh track Princess Grace has run at, and she has taken to each of the previous six surfaces.
Abscond has been running against top horses and though not winning just missed last time out at Woodbine. She won a grade one race in 2019, but in 11 starts has just two victories, to go along with four seconds and a pair of thirds.
Dalika might prefer longer distances, but is taking a minor step down in class against this field and won her only race at Kentucky Downs. She is reunited with top jockey Joel Rosario in this race. Rosario rode her a few times in sprints, one of which was a win, last year.
Most of Casa Creed’s career has been in two-turn races. However, two recent sprint victories set him up nicely for this six-furlong affair.
Since winning at Belmont in early June, Casa Creed’s only try was at a mile, a third-place performance in a Grade 1 race at Saratoga. The return to sprinting seems like a good idea, but he will need a reasonable pace to come from behind and win.
Imprimis ran his best career race in this event last year. He has just a single win since, but is second off a layoff, and has consistently been competitive against good horses in 2021.
Bombard is stepping up in class but may have a relatively easy lead in a somewhat paceless race. He won a Grade 3 event wire-to-wire in California in May and missed by a neck as the pacesetter to Imprimis in this race last year. The price should be right.
Point Me By is the tepid favorite after scoring in the Bruce D stakes at Arlington Park last month.
A winner of two out of three career starts, he beat Tango Tango Tango, and King of Miami, who return to face him again in this event.
The other big prep race for the Franklin-Simpson was Saratoga’s Hall of Fame Stakes last month.
Runner up Annex, fourth place Next, and fifth place Easy Time are back to go at each other again.
With what looks like a B-list of American three-year-olds, two Irish horses are intriguing. The Lir Jet has been mostly overmatched against better horses, but is a first-time gelding and won a big-time Group 2 event in 2020. Miss Amulet came to America and finished third in the Breeders Cup Filly Turf in November. Her two races against better in Europe since then have not been inspiring.
Pick: The Lir Jet