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Horse Racing, Kentucky Derby at The Downey Profile®

Maker Seeks Third Straight Training Title


Wouldn't Be Kentucky Downs Without Him

Mike Maker will have lots of horses running again this year as he pursues a training-title three-peat at Kentucky Downs. He just won’t have Da Big Hoss.

Da Big Hoss, winner of the Grade III Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup in 2015 and 2016, can’t attempt his own hat trick because of an ankle injury that surfaced early this year. The injury didn’t require surgery, and Da Big Hoss is expected to resume training soon. Unless he winds up going to stud, the target objective for Da Big Hoss will be the 2018 Kentucky Turf Cup.

Maker, however, will be well-stocked for the 2017 Kentucky Turf Cup. He says he expects to run four horses, all graded stakes-winners, in the event.

Maker last year won five of Kentucky Downs’ 12 stakes, all of them with horses he claimed. He could continue that pattern and his Kentucky Turf Cup run with Grade I winner Bigger Picture, Taghleeb or Oscar Nominated. He also plans to run Enterprising, winner of the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap and Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial and who in the Grade 1 Arlington Million was fourth, beaten only a length at 80-1 odds.

Bigger Picture was a $32,000 claim by Three Diamonds Farm, with Maker training the horse earlier in his career before losing him via the claim box. On his second tour with Maker, Bigger Picture has won three graded stakes, capped by Monmouth Park's Grade I United Nations and narrowly losing Saratoga's Sword Dancer in his last start.

Taghleeb, second in Arlington’s Grade III American St. Leger in his last start, was a $62,500 claim last summer at Saratoga. The horse, now six, was a good third in a mile Kentucky Downs allowance race in his first start for owner Michael Hui and Maker. But, as with Skychai Racing’s Da Big Hoss, he seems to have found his niche stretching out. Taghleeb has won three stakes for his new team, including Gulfstream Park’s two-mile H. Allen Jerkens and the Grade III McKnight at 1 1/2 mile. In May, Taghleeb was second in Belmont Park’s Grade 1 Man o’ War.

Oscar Nominated, a $75,000 claim out of a maiden race by owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, has been running well but finishing in behind stablemates Bigger Picture and Enterprising. Oscar Nominated, winner of Turfway's Grade III Spiral Stakes to earn a shot at the 2016 Kentucky Derby, will attempt to end an eight-race losing streak — albeit with three seconds and two thirds in stakes races — since he romped in last year’s Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs.

“I’d like to duplicate it; that’s for sure,” Maker said of last year’s meet.

In 2016, he led all trainers with eight wins, six seconds and five thirds, purse earnings of $1,469,336, which was almost $1 million more than runner-up Christophe Clement, and 35 starts, which was double second-place Joe Sharp’s 18.

“You have a good meet by getting your horses in. I was very fortunate to get the majority of my horses in. Having said that, when you have a good meet, the ones who don’t get in, you don’t remember anyway.”

Maker has eight horses entered in seven races for Wednesday’s opening card, postponed from Saturday after heavy rains. They include Frozen Hannah in the One Dreamer, Go Noni Go (making her first start for Maker) in the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies, and Shining Copper running for the first time in a year in the Tourist Mile.

One stakes Maker naturally is targeting is the Ramsey Farm Stakes, named in honor of Kentucky’s all-time winningest owners and a major client of the trainer. Ken and Sarah Ramsey won the race last year, when it was called the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon, with former claimer Al’s Gal. Maker is pointing Churchill Downs’ Keertana winner Daring Duchess and the Fair Grounds’ Marie Krantz winner Kitten’s Roar for the Ramsey Farm. Both are owned by the Ramseys.

Hogy, an $80,000 claim, is pointing for the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint, which this year has been awarded Grade III status. Hogy was second by a neck in the stakes last year.
Benefactor and Kitten’s Cat are likely for the Franklin-Simpson for 3-year-olds at seven-eighths of a mile Sept. 14, Maker said.

The Louisville-based Skychai partnership bought the 3-year-old Benefactor for $135,000 at Fasig-Tipton horses of racing age auction. Running on turf for the first time, he was a good second in a Saratoga allowance race.

Skychai also claimed Special Ops for $50,000 in June at Churchill Downs, much as they did Da Big Hoss. In two starts for Skychai and Maker, Special Ops was third in Indiana Grand’s $100,000 Warrior Veterans Stakes and won Mountaineer’s $75,000 West Virginia Speakers Cup. Because he ran in a $25,000 claiming race within the past year, Special Ops is eligible for Kentucky Downs’ $75,000 Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes Prep, a race whose winner gets an automatic berth in the Claiming Crown Championship at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 2.

“It’s our major turf destination of the year, other than Breeders’ Cup,” Skychai head Dr. Harvey Diamond said of Kentucky Downs. “We were thinking that for Special Ops when we claimed him…. We have had incredible success down there, and we feel very lucky. It’s unbelievable. We’ve won allowance races and big stakes races. So why wouldn’t we want to go there?… I know when we claim these horses, that’s something he looks at really hard: Are they eligible for something at Kentucky Downs and to run in one of the Claiming Crown races?”

Maker encouraged both Tyler Gaffalione, the 2015 Eclipse Award apprentice jockey, and Jose Ortiz, who captured the Belmont Stakes aboard Tapwrit and is on his way to a second Saratoga riding title, to ride at Kentucky Downs for the first time.

“When you give that much money away, it’s going to attract a lot of attention,” Maker said.

Edited Kentucky Downs release

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