Kentucky Oaks runner-up Daddys Lil Darling headlines Sunday’s Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs as she attempts to win her first race since last fall’s Grade II Pocahontas at Churchill Downs.
Daddys Lil Darling comes into the 1 5/16-mile Dueling Grounds Oaks off a fifth-place finish in Saratoga’s Coaching Club American Oaks won by Kentucky Oaks heroine Abel Tasman. Before that, Daddys Lil Darling finished a close fourth in the Belmont Oaks on turf.
“The Belmont Oaks was a tough race, and she ran a big race,” said Julien Leparoux, her rider in the CCA Oaks and Kentucky Oaks. “I wasn’t there that day, but it was a good group of fillies, and she was running at the end. It’s the first time I’ll have ridden her on grass. But she ran good before on it, and I’m expecting her to run a big race.”
Trainer Kenny McPeek will missing the Dueling Grounds Oaks as he’s in Seoul, Korea, running The Truth Or Else in the $600,000 Keeneland Sprint.
Leparoux, who won four races at the track Thursday, rides Parlor for trainer Eddie Kenneally in Sunday’s Exacta Systems Dueling Derby, also at 1 5/16 mile. Parlor, who narrowly lost the Kentucky Downs Juvenile last year, was most recently sixth in Saratoga’s Hall of Fame Stakes but lost by only a total of four lengths after an awkward start that forced him to try to rally behind a modest pace.
“He ran a good race, even though he was sixth,” Leparoux said. “They all finished in 22 (seconds for the last quarter-mile), and even he did. But we were coming from behind, and just a whole group of horses finished very fast that day. So he ran a sneaky good race over there. First time he’s going to try the distance, so that’s the only question for him. But if he relaxes, why not?
“He’s a nice horse. I always liked him. I think I’ve ridden him three times. We already know he likes the track.”
Kittens All Over Kentucky Downs
Ken Ramsey’s litter of Kittens continues at Kentucky Downs Sunday. The master of Ramsey Farm in Nicholasville, where his stellar stallion Kitten’s Joy resides, has progeny Gentle Kitten in the Dueling Grounds Oaks and Gorgeous Kitten in the Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby.
Gorgeous Kitten, a 9-2 morning line, most recently was fifth in Arlington Park’s Grade I Secretariat won by the accomplished Oscar Performance. Before that, Gorgeous Kitten was second in the Arlington Classic and American Derby.
“He’s the only horse that we nominated to the Kentucky Derby (this year),” Ramsey said. “Of course he wasn’t good enough to get in. I don’t really know what kind of a chance he’s got. I’ve been tied up with some other things. Yesterday I harvested my hemp crop all day. I’ve got a horse named Hemp Hemp Hurray. I guess you know he’s smoked them twice already.”
The Ontario-bred Hemp Hemp Hurray, is 2 for 2 for trainer Wesley Ward after winning Monmouth Park’s Tyro on grass.
“Gentle Kitten, I don’t know if she’s good enough to win it,” Ramsey said of his filly making her stakes debut. “But she did win her last race at Arlington Park. I’ve probably got some in over their head. But Oscar Nominated won that Derby down there last year, so it would be nice to repeat. They do give out a really nice trophy for it.”
Ramsey also got the scratches he needed to get Bingo Kitten into the $75,000 Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes Prep, one of a pair of starter allowance races. The other is the $75,000 Claiming Crown Distaff Dash Stakes Prep, both serving as qualifiers for the Claiming Crown at Gulfstream Park in early December.
Ramsey is at a family reunion at Levi Jackson State Park this weekend, but he plans to be at Kentucky Downs for Thursday’s closing card.
“We’re trying to preserve the fact that we’ve won the (owners title) down there four years in a row,” Ramsey said. “So I’m coming down Thursday hopefully to get the leading owners trophy for the fifth consecutive year. I have 11 horses to run today, Sunday and Thursday.”
He puts the Kentucky Downs owners title up there with his goals such as winning the Barbados Gold Cup — for which he’s already pegged Kentucky Downs’ Old Friends winner Sir Dudley Digges to run in next March, along with Shining Copper, who was third in Wednesday’s Tourist Mile.
Mike Maker, who after two days of Kentucky Downs’ five-date meet, is tied for the training lead with Ian Wilkes at three wins apiece, has a pair in both the Dueling Ground Derby and Oaks. Besides Gentle Kitten and Gorgeous Kitten, Maker has $40,000 claim Thrice in the Oaks and Bronson in the Derby as part of his eight-horse contingent running Sunday.
Landeros Has Best Day Ever
Chris Landeros, who is scheduled to ride Canterbury’s Mystic Lake Derby winner Giant Payday in the Dueling Grounds Derby, was off his mounts Saturday because his wife, Shelby, gave berth to their first child, a son named Beckham Wilkes Landeros born shortly before noon CT.
“This is the best day of my life,” Landeros wrote on his Facebook page. “Beckham Wilkes Landeros is here. Shelby and I want to thank you for all the calls and messages.
Giant Payday is trained by Landeros’ father in law, Ian Wilkes. The jockey also is scheduled to ride the 2-year-old Jacktastic and allowance horses Fun and Zipp On By Sunday for the barn.
Edited Kentucky Downs release
Photo by Coady Photography
Dueling Grounds Oaks
Post time: Sunday at 4:54 p.m. Central
Purse: $200,000 ($100,000 KTDF)
Distance: 1 5/16 miles
pp horse (weight) jockey/trainer odds
1 Daddys Lil Darling (118) Leparoux/McPeek 3-1
2 Lift Up scratched
3 Summer Luck (118) J. Ortiz/Casse 4-1
4 La Manta Gris (118) Lezcano/Arnold 6-1
5 Thrice (118) Gaffalione/Maker 12-1
6 Holiday’s Angel (118) Canchari/Hartman 15-1
7 Quebec (118) Van Duke/Sweezey 5-1
8 Gentle Kitten (118) Albarado/Maker 8-1
9 Point System (118) Prado/Motion 10-1
10 Lantiz (118) Lanerie/Nihei 12-1
Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby
Post time: Sunday at 5:27 p.m. Central
Purse: $350,000 ($175,000 KTDF)
Distance: 1 5/16 miles
1 Giant Payday (124) Landeros/Wilkes
2 Bronson (124) Gaffalione/Maker 6-1
3 Big Bend (118) Van Dyke/Proctor 12-1
4 Society Beau (118) Graham/Howard 10-1
5 Parlor (120) Leparoux/Kenneally 3-1
6 Watch Me Whip (118) Albarado/Romans 10-1
7 Holiday Bonus (118) Prado/Motion 12-1
8 Gorgeous Kitten (118) Geroux/Maker 9-2
9 Muggsamatic scratched
10 Hollow Point (118) J. Ortiz/Casse 8-1
11 Capture the Glory (118) Cardenas/Gallagher 20-1