Three-Time Titleist in Three Stakes on Saturday
To show how Kentucky Downs has evolved, a graded stake at Saratoga was the back-up plan for Henley’s Joy, one of 11 two-year-olds entered for Saturday’s $400,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile on opening day.
Henley’s Joy, owned by Jeff Bloom's Bloom Racing Stable and trained by Mike Maker, debuted by winning an Ellis Park maiden race at the Juvenile’s new one-mile distance on July 21. The Kentucky Downs race was the plan even before that. But, fearful that the stakes might overfill and Henley’s Joy not get in, the colt also was entered in Saratoga’s $150,000 With Anticipation, a Grade III race set for today in which he was set as the third choice in the morning line.
“We’ve been high on this horse from the get-go,” Maker said.
Jeff Bloom won the Kentucky Downs Juvenile last year with the Steve Asmussen-trained Snapper Sinclair. Asked who was pointing toward the race more, the trainer or the owner, Maker joked, “Actually, Jeff. Well it was close. It might have been dead heat. We got a little worried about getting in, so we entered at Saratoga as a backup.”
Maker, Kentucky Downs’ all-time winningest trainer and the three-time defending meet titlist, has five horses entered on Saturday’s card. If he had his way, he’d be running at least twice that many.
Maker has horses in three of Saturday’s four stakes: Jordan Wycoff’s Gianna’s Dream in the $250,000 One Dreamer, Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Camelot Kitten in the $750,000 Tourist Mile and Henley’s Joy in the Juvenile.
Two other Maker-trained horses will need three defections each in order to get in overfilled allowances races Saturday. And that doesn’t take into account horses he entered — “five or six,” according to Maker — that didn’t make the main body or the also-eligible list.
A total of 190 horses were entered for Saturday’s 10-race card, including a 2-year-old filly maiden race that attracted 53 entries. Twelve horses can start in a race, with up to four more put on the also-eligible list, making them eligible to run if there are scratches.
The only races that didn’t draw more than 12 entries were the Juvenile and the eight-horse Tourist Mile.
Maker said all the rain at Saratoga, creating soft turf or races coming off the turf, has gotten some of his horses off schedule. That said Kentucky Downs is always on his radar. “But obviously anything that fits, we want to run there,” he said.
Gianna’s Dream, entered in the One Dreamer, is a multiple stakes winner that has also placed in multiple graded stakes. She steps back from graded company in the One Dreamer, held at a mile and 70 yards and for fillies and mares that have not won a stake in 2018. As an Oklahoma-bred, Gianna’s Dream will run for $150,000 rather than the entire $250,000 pot made available from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.
Maker said the 5-year-old mare, who is 9 for 22 overall with two seconds and five thirds, at times hasn’t gotten the trip needed to win. She suffered a bout of colic the morning of a stakes race at Mountaineer Park earlier this month, forcing a scratch.
“She’s doing well, and I like the opportunity for the one-turn mile, too,” he said. “We’ve been trying to get her a graded victory, but that hasn’t worked out so far.”
Camelot Kitten, a four-time graded-stakes winner two years ago at age three, seeks to regain his millionaire form in the Tourist Mile, presented by WinStar Farm. He was a decent fourth after dueling for the lead in the stretch in Woodbine’s 1 1/2-mile Singspiel in his last start. Before that, he was seventh in in a seven-furlong race in Canada.
“He’s Bobby’s Kitten’s brother, so we tried sprinting,” Maker said of the winner of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. “A mile and a half is too far and seven-eighths is too short. So we’ll try to give him something in the middle.”
Maker expects to have multiple entries in some of next week’s stakes, including Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Oscar Nominated in defense of last year’s victory in the Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, a Grade III race now worth $750,000.
Maker is seeking a record-breaking fourth victory in the 1 1/2-mile stakes, having also won in 2016 and 2017 with Da Big Hoss. He’s the only trainer to win Kentucky Downs’ signature race three consecutive years, with Jonathan Sheppard the only other three-time winner.
“He’s doing fabulous,” Maker said of Oscar Nominated, “Looks better than I’ve ever seen him.”
Bloom Looking Forward to Return
California owner Jeff Bloom loves Saratoga but says the chance to run for an additional $250,000 provided powerful motivation to make the $400,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile the first choice for his Bloom Racing partnership’s Henley’s Joy.
“It is a lot of money,” he said. “And we have a great affinity for Kentucky Downs. obviously it’s been a great spot for us, and $400,000 is a big pot. I love it there. It’s a quirky charm, kind of like going to a really cool fair with top-notch horse racing. It’s just a very fun, exciting and lucrative place to be racing. And it’s really close to Nashville, which is one of my favorite towns to visit. You’ve got great culture and food to take advantage of, and it’s actually quite easy to get to Kentucky Downs coming through Nashville.
“And it’s a cool time of the year, as summer is winding down. It gives you that little extra boost of summer racing.”
Bloom Racing is unbeaten in two starts at Kentucky Downs, having won not only the then- $350,000, seven-furlong Juvenile with Snapper Sinclair last year but also a 1 1/2-mile, $135,000 maiden race immediately afterward with Run Time, the first horse Bloom Racing had with Maker.
“Hopefully we’ll keep our win streak going,” Bloom said.
Henley’s Joy was shuffled back from sixth to ninth midway through his debut before coming on to win at 15-1 odds in the 12-horse field at Ellis Park. “He’s only run that one time. But what he did in that race was pretty impressive for a first-time starter, a green 2-year-old. So we’re excited. I’m thrilled we got him in there. Snapper came in with a little more experience, not much. Henley has the one race, but he got a lot of education in that one race.
“We kept him in Kentucky this whole summer pointing for this specific race. Look, everybody loves racing at Saratoga. We do, too. It’s great racing there. But you can’t discount what’s going on in Kentucky, either. It’s nice to have those options as indicated by what we’ve done with Henley’s Joy. The Kentucky Downs Juvenile was our first priority and target since he broke his maiden.”
As for Snapper Sinclair, the 2017 Juvenile winner got time off after finishing fifth in the Louisiana Derby. “He wasn’t on the shelf,” Bloom said. “We just kicked him out for a little breather, but he’s been back with Steve for a while. He’s just getting his legs underneath him. He’ll get back on the official worktab pretty soon and we’ll have him ready for a fall campaign.”