Oscar Nominated Takes Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup
For the first time in its history, Kentucky Downs unveiled three graded stakes on a single race card on Saturday. The Kentucky Downs Ladies Classic and Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint were graded for the first time this year, joining the Grade III Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup.
In all, four stakes worth $1.7 million were run on the 10-race card that offered total purses of $2,515,000.
A total of $8,487,232 was wagered from all sources. To say this shattered the track record is an understatement, as betting was up 47 percent over the prior handle record of $5,769,505 on the same Saturday last year.
Kentucky Downs doesn’t charge admission and as such doesn’t have a turnstile count. But the eyeball test suggested it was a track-record crowd on a glorious, sun-kissed day that wagered a record $347,002 on track, or up 62 percent over a year ago.
"After the entries came out, I was hoping for a big day,” said Kentucky Downs senior vice president and general manager Ted Nicholson. “But I never could have imagined us handling nearly $8.5 million today. Wow!”
Oscar Nominated Gives Maker Third Turf Cup
On a record-shattering day Saturday at Kentucky Downs, Mike Maker became the first trainer to win the signature $600,000, Grade III Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup three times as Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Oscar Nominated closed under Julien Leparoux to wear down favored Postulation by a head. Muqtaser was another half-length back in the stakes field of 12 older horses.
It was Maker’s third stakes victory of the meet, as the two-time defending track training champ also took Saturday’s $400,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint with Hogy and Thursday’s $150,000 Old Friends with the Ramseys’ 2016 Queen's Plate winner Sir Dudley Digges.
Oscar Nominated last won a year ago in Kentucky Downs’ Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby. But he’d been running well while often beaten by stable mates such as Enterprising, the Kentucky Turf Cup’s program favorite that finished ninth.
Julien Leparoux, who leads the jockey standings for the five-day meet with two days go to at 5-4 in wins over Florent Geroux, settled Oscar Nominated into seventh behind a dawdling pace before kicking into gear on the far turn and reeling in the leaders through the stretch to nip a gritty Postulation. Muqtaser, trained by Lexington product Kiaran McLaughlin, ran well in his American stakes debut to get third.
Oscar Nominated covered 1 1/2 mile in 2:31.37, paying $9.40 as the second choice. Oscar Nominated blisterd his final quarter mile in well under 44 seconds.
Oscar Nominated, a son of the Ramseys’ stallion Kitten’s Joy, was bred by Jerry Amerman, with the Ramseys snapping him up when presented in a $75,000 maiden-claiming race early in his career. He won Turfway Park’s 2016 Spiral Stakes on Polytrack, and, after finishing 17th in the Kentucky Derby, found his best stride back on turf, including a romp in the Dueling Grounds Derby. The Kentucky Turf Cup ended an eight-race drought in which he had three seconds and two thirds. He became a millionaire at $1,168,155 with the $345,960 payday.
Maker also finished fourth with 42-1 St. Louie, who pushed the early pace, as well as fifth with grade-stakes winner Taghleeb. Bullards Alley, Nessy, pacesetting One Go All Go, Enterprising, Zulu Alpha, Lucky Ramsey and Crescent Drive rounded out the capacity field.
Mike Maker, winning trainer: “He’s never had a bad day in his life. Unfortunately it’s taken this long this year to get his first victory. We’ll get through this and there are plenty of options.”
Julien Leparoux, winning jockey: “For sure they (the Ramseys) are very successful at this track . It’s like they point for this kind of meet. It’s something they enjoy, the grass, European-style turf course. it was good to win for Mr. Ramsey for sure.
“It’s a fun track to ride, a little bit technical. We saved ground around the first turn, which going that far is a big key. You have to have your horse very relaxed during the race. And you also have to be able to handle up and down the hill. He won last year, so I was confident he was going to handle it. But he actually really loved it.”
Jeff Ramsey, son of owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey: “Mike really liked him. He was doing well. We scratched him out of the race the other day (the Old Friends Stakes) because we thought he could win. So it was great. We knew he liked this course. He won here last year huge.
“Julien gave him a perfect ride. We were talking about it as he was coming around, that he seemed he was in a perfect spot — unless he was still half-way in the pack when we ended the race. But we thought he had him placed perfect, was patient with him and let him hang in there but didn’t let him get too far back. Very excited.
Eddie Graham, trainer of Postulation: “He ran a good race. I mean, Oscar Nominated has won on this course before. He got out-footed at the end. It was our horse’s first time here, running him back after Arlington (win in American St. Leger Aug. 12). But when you get a beat like that … Another time.”
Jorge Vargas, jockey of Postulation: “He ran hard. Good training job. He kind of went for it, then he kind of hung. Then he saw the horse on the outside and tried to come again. But second best.”
Joe Bravo, aboard Muqtaser: “He ran a great race. He was keen on it, in position wherever I wanted him to be. I really thought at the eighth pole, when I could kind of tuck in that I could split horses. And he punched through there. (But) he kind of hung a little bit like he never has. But you know what? There were some good horses in there. They were all running.”
Hogy Proves His Worth in Turf Sprint
In his first try since being claimed for $80,000 at Saratoga last month, 8-year-old geldingHogy earned the biggest payday of his life while winning the $400,000, Grade III Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint by a half-length over Commend. Hogy completed 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.88, just off the course record of 1:16.51.
Hogy relaxed toward the rear of a tightly bunched field early under Florent Geroux as longshot Indy Hill set early fractions of 23.87 and 48.37 seconds. Coming out of the sweeping bend that makes up part of the first half-mile of the 6 ½-furlong distance, Hogy fanned five-wide and took aim on the leaders.
Indy Hill held a one-length lead into the stretch before ceding to Commend approaching the eighth-pole. Hogy, however, was finding his best stride outside and hit the front in the final sixteenth, getting past Commend and holding off a late surge from millionaire Undrafted, who finished a nose back of Commend in third. Pacesetter Indy Hill held on for fourth, followed by Crewman, Bondurant, Dimension, Wyeth, Mikes the Man and Black Bear. Tell All You Know was scratched.
Winning trainer Mike Maker had long been a fan of Hogy’s when hoped to claim the gelding earlier this year, but Hogy was scratched. Maker was patient and got him later.
Hogy, by Offlee Wild, improved his record to 45-17-11-6 and surpassed the million-dollar mark with earnings of $1,131,927. A $2 win bet on the favorite returned $7.00.
Mike Maker, winning trainer: “He’s a nice horse. $80,000 at Saratoga is like a stakes race. We (he and owner Michael Hui) both have been fans of those horse for a long time. As soon as the overnight was printed, he was ready to claim him. Claim an 8-year-old gelding for $80,000? But he’s the exception to the rule.
Florent Geroux, winning jockey: “It was great to have the win today, his biggest win. it was nice to upgrade to a grade three this year. It was nice for the horse. He’s a gelding but he’s a nice horse, a neat horse. And he deserves everything he’s got. He always tries hard.
“I decided to go on the outside, because my horse for some reason is not very brave on the inside. He just doesn’t like to run that way. The one horse kind of spurted away from me, and my horse was able to run him down at the end.”
Owner Michael Hui: “I’m pretty much a novice. I rely on a guy named Mike Maker. I tell him two things: one, get me out, and two, I’m just going to hide and watch. That’s really what I do. This is kind of a bucket list for me. I’m just excited. I asked Mike, ‘Does anyone claim an 8-year-old horse for $80,000. And Mike Maker is a man of few words. He really just says, ‘I like him.’ And that’s really all I needed to hear.”
Lull Redux at Track in Ladies Sprint
The 3-year-old filly Lull took command in the stretch and kept late-running 20-1 shot Happy Mesa at bay for a two-length victory against older fillies and mares in the $350,000, Grade III Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint. It was Lull’s first victory in seventh starts since taking Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies last year.
The daughter of the popular Claiborne Farm stallion War Front covered 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.22 and paid $8.00 to win as the co-favorite with third-place Morticia.
It's not as if Lull wasn't competitve coming into the race. Since that win a year ago, she’s had three seconds in stakes and was a good fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Winning jockey Brian Hernandez also rode Lull last year at Kentucky Downs.
Claiborne president Walker Hancock said it’s up to trainer Christophe Clement where the filly runs next, but said it could be at Keeneland or Belmont Park.
Happy Mesa, at odds of 20-1, closed well to be second under Tyler Gaffalione, nipping Morticia, who took the lead at the eighth pole. Fair Point, Corby, 2016 Ladies Sprint winner Mississippi Delta, Miss Gossip, Sea Cloud, Scatter Gun and Marquee Miss completed the order of finish of the field of 10.
Lull now is 3-3-0 from nine starts with earnings of $598,057 with the $206,105 first-place check earned today. She is from the female family of Horse of the Year Saint Liam as well as leading 2017 handicap horse Gun Runner.
Rudy Nerbonne, assistant to winning trainer Christophe Clement: “She likes the course, she likes the distance, too — 6 1/2 furlongs. Today she relaxed perfect, and she made good run. Congratulations to Claiborne Farm and everybody.”
Walker Hancock, president of Claiborne Farm: “Shortened her up, and it looks like she likes the one turn. She obviously loves it here at Kentucky Downs, and we couldn’t be more pleased with her. We got her stakes win this year now, so maybe we’ll get a little more aggressive and see if we can shoot for something big. We’ll talk to Christophe about it, Ms. Dilschneider and everybody else.”
Mike Maker, trainer runner-up Happy Mesa: “She ran great. Second best. On the turn I thought, ‘Boy, if she gets out, she’s going to be right there.’ And she got in the clear. Obviously the other horse was loaded for bear.”
Miss Temple City Regains Form in Ladies Turf
Exhibiting the class that has made her a multiple grade I winner in the U.S., a regular at Royal Ascot, and arguably the most accomplished mare to ever run in Franklin, Ky., even-money favorite Miss Temple City overtook a stubborn Zipessa in the final eighth to win Saturday’s Grade III, $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Presented by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association by a neck.
With regular rider Edgar Prado aboard, Miss Temple City broke alertly and sat just off Zipessa, who held a comfortable lead through fractions of 26.42 and 48.96 seconds. Into the uphill stretch, Miss Temple City made her move and closed the gap on Zipessa – a solid fifth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf -- but the early leader dug in gamely before she was overcome by the winner.
Prado thought Miss Temple City may have made it closer than it should have been by waiting once she hit the lead. He said he had to ask her a second time before stopping the timer in 1:36.91 for one mile over a firm course. Zipessa fought on for second, with the top two finishing three lengths clear of the rest of the field. Linda got third and the order was completed by Beauly, Susie Bee and Seeking Paradise. Hone In and Majestic Angel were scratched.
Miss Temple City was winless in her two prior starts this year. Both times, first at Royal Ascot, then at Monmouth Park she had trouble relaxing before racing, and perhaps the nine furlong race at Monmouth Park was too far for her that day. Today, trainer Graham Motion was more relieved than elated to get a win from what he called the best filly he ever trained.
Miss Temple City will be pointed to the Keeneland’s Fall Meet, with a decision still to come between a try at repeating in the Shadwell Turf Mile against males or the First Lady versus fillies and mares. Both are grade 1 stakes on Oct. 7.
Miss Temple City, by Temple City, earned her fourth graded stakes win while running her overall record to 19-7-3-3 with earnings of $1,677,868 for owners The Club Racing LLC, Needle In A Haystack, LLC and Sagamore Farm. A $2 win bet returned $3.60.
Graham Motion: “I’m always nervous when I run her. Obviously I’m very attached to her and just want to see her run well. Look, it’s relief. You get much more nervous about these deals when you’re a favorite. And it’s a filly (sic) we’re all obviously really attached to. Not that you don’t get attached to all of them. But she’s the best filly I ever trained. There’s a lot more riding on it, and I’m just glad it worked out. It couldn’t have worked out better today. We’ll see how the races shape up and choose which one we go in. We get a little weight break in the Shadwell, and she loves Keeneland.”
Edgar Prado: “She settled off the pace nice and relaxed, and when I asked her, she gave me that kick. When I turned her loose, she went by that horse easy and she thought it was all over. She tried to slow down a bit. She got the job done, and everybody is happy.”
Breeder and minority owner Bob Feld: “That was the idea after the Ascot race to find an easier spot, which I think we did. In hindsight, it was a little too far for her condition at that time. I don’t think she got a real good prep out of the Ascot race, because she kind of stopped on us at the three-quarters. Going into that race to go a mile and an eighth, I think that’s why she didn’t punch it in. Edgar said she didn’t punch it in and kick like she usually does. I think she just got tired. And that was our theory coming into this race. This is third race off the layoff, flat mile. We thought this race was hers to lose.”
Joe Bravo (runner-up Zipessa): “She didn’t want to get beat today. She fought hard and she wanted to win. I give all credit. That horse is a nice horse of Graham’s. But (trainer) Michael (Stidham) had this horse ready. She went around there really nice. Her ears were up listening and breathing. Two good horses matched up, and let the fireworks begin.
Edited Kentucky Downs release
Photos by Reed Palmer Photography