Big Handle; King Leparoux; Visitors from California and Muhlenberg County; and More
By Dick Downey
Day 2 of the 2017 Kentucky Downs meet was conducted with sunny skies, temperatures in the 70's, a dominating jockey performance and another great handle figure.
Julien Leparoux was King of the jockey colony on day 2 of the track's boutique five-day meet. The French-born rider won four races on the card, sweeping the sixth through eighth races, and embodying the winning ticket on the track's new Jockey7 wager.
Leparoux teamed with trainer Eduardo Caramori and owner Vincent Tew on Downton Kitten in race 4; and with trainer Ian Wilkes on Res Ipsa, owned by Deborah V. Wilson, in race 6. He followed up on Heavenly Love in race 7, trained by Mark Casse and owned by Debbie Oxley; and on Miss Nancy at 15-1 odds in race 8 for Wilkes and owner Fred M. Allor.
Leparoux's prowess led to winning tickets in the Jockey7 wager that returned backers $13.20 to win, $6.00 to place and $3.60 to show on $2 wagers. The Field was second and paid $5.60 and $2.60. Tyler Gaffalione, winner of the Jockey7 competition on Day 1 of the meet, was third today, paying $3.40 to show.
All-sources handle today rolled in at $5,402,254, up 34 percent from day 2 of the 2016 meet. It is the second highest single-day all-sources handle figure in track history. The highest amount was $5,769,505 on day 3 of the 2016 meet, and day 3 of the 2017 meet is Saturday.
Besides Leparoux, winning jockeys were Florent Geroux, Brian Hernandez, Jr., Cesar Ordaz, Jon Court, Gaffalione and Jose Ortiz. Ortiz, winner of the 2016 Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey, rode at Kentucky Downs for the first time today.
Mike Maker, who won the Kentucky Downs training title in 2015 and 2016, took a lone race on day 1 of the meet and was quiet again today until he won the last two events on the card, the first of which was the Old Friends Stakes. Sir Dudley Digges, winner of the $1 million Queens Plate in Canada last year, had Gaffalione aboard.
Winning horses came from all over, which has become the norm at Kentucky Downs. Last year, 17 of 50 winners had last raced at Ellis Park. Today, three had competed there most recently, followed by Indiana Grand with two winners, and Saratoga, Arlington Park and Gulfstream Park with one each. A most unlikely last-race venue was Haydock Park in England, where race 4 winner Downton Kitten last competed. One winner was making her debut, Heavenly Kingdom in the first.
Favorites had a tough day at the track. Only one of them prevailed, the first-time starter Heavenly Kingdom. One other winner was 7-2 on the board along with another horse that finished last, but the other horse had a few more dollars bet on her.
Not that any of this bothered Andy Thomason. He put $50 down on King Valero's nose in the third race, and the result was a payoff of $885.00. Thomason was visiting the track today with his buddy Joe Vito.
The race track is a place where you can make friends. Thomason, who's from Muhlenburg County, was playing the horses in the clubhouse at Arlington Park one day and got into a conversation with Vito, who is from San Diego. The next thing they knew, they were friends. So today, Vito, who has a reserved box at all the Del Mar meets, was here with Thomason, and they were living large.
"I was 80 percent to make the trip anyway," Vito said, "and when I found out the Raiders were playing the Titans this weekend, that sealed the deal."
Not that he needed much persuasion. Vito has traveled from Calfifornia to Kentucky Downs three different times. The $20 win ticket he had on Gaffalione in the Jockey7 wager made the day that much better.
"We'll be back on Saturday," Thomason said.