Set to Square Off for Fourth Time
Owner Staton Flurry has called Saturday’s $750,000 Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs the equivalent of the Breeders’ Cup for his 4-year-old gelding Mr. Misunderstood, trained by Brad Cox.
“Brad and I talked and decided our best goal for the year should be the Tourist Mile instead of the Breeders’ Cup,” Flurry said recently. “Maybe, maybe not,” Cox said Wednesday with a laugh.
While usually it’s the trainer trying to keep the owner’s ambition in check, Cox believes Mr. Misunderstood would deserve a crack at the Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf should he run big in the Tourist Mile and possibly Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 6. The Breeders’ Cup is being held at Churchill Downs, a course over which Mr. Misunderstood is undefeated in three starts, including taking the Grade II Wise Dan two races back.
Cox thinks Mr. Misunderstood possesses the talent to be another Miesque’s Approval or Opening Verse. Those horses both won stakes over the Churchill Downs grass during the spring meet, then returned to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile at 24-1 and 26-1 odds, respectively. Miesque’s Approval won the Firecracker (the previous name for the Wise Dan), while Opening Verse took what then was the Grade III Early Times Turf Classic -- now the Grade I Old Forester Turf Classic.
“Who knows?” Cox said. “We’ll just see how it plays out Saturday. But the Breeders’ Cup is on the radar, that and the Shadwell Mile, races with extremely good purses. But I have not crossed the Breeders’ Cup off the list. Obviously he loves Churchill. He’s able to travel and has won at different tracks. But it definitely seems that Churchill is one of his favorites. I’m hoping he really likes Kentucky Downs.
“Moving forward, the Shadwell Mile is an option, a $1 million at Keeneland. He ran a great race in the Maker’s 46 Mile in the spring. He got away bad and was sixth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths for everything. With a good trip that day, I don’t know if he beats Heart to Heart but he’s probably second. Running sixth in a turf race, beaten two lengths, normally there’s nothing super positive off that, other than there was an excuse. He just broke flat-footed.”
Mr. Misunderstood is likely to be a heavy favorite in the field of eight older horses in the Tourist Mile, named for WInStar Farm’s 2016 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner who won the Kentucky Downs stakes the prior year when it was known as the More Than Ready Mile and the purse was $300,000. Both More Than Ready and Tourist are stallions at WinStar, the Tourist Mile’s presenting sponsor.
“He’s ultra-consistent, has been very good to us,” Cox said. “We found out he liked the grass early in his 3-year-old year. He’s coming into this race in great shape, really glad we were able to get a race into him at Ellis. He always carries a lot of flesh.”
Florent Geroux, the Kentucky Downs 2015 and 2016 riding champ, will have the mount. Geroux has been Mr. Misunderstood’s regular rider, though Shaun Bridgmohan rode the gelding last time out at Ellis Park while Geroux was in Saratoga. Geroux also is the rider of Cox’s Kentucky Oaks and four-time Grade I winner Monomoy Girl.
Chris Landeros has all the respect in the world for Mr. Misunderstood, against whom the jockey’s mount Mr Cub has been beaten three times in three starts. But Landeros also has a lot of confidence in Mr Cub and believes he could turn the table in the horses’ fourth encounter.
If you like Mr. Misunderstood, you have to consider Mr. Cub. The last time they met, Mr Cub led until right before the wire in Churchill Downs’ 1 1/16-mile Wise Dan, finishing third while losing by a total of a half-length. Mr Cub also is three-for-three at a mile.
“That was a big step up in the Wise Dan,” Landeros said. “He gave me a really big effort. If the race was a mile, I think he wins the race. I think a mile hits him right in the forehead. He’s already kind of proven over the track at Kentucky Downs. He won an allowance race there last year, so that’s going in our favor, along with the mile distance. I look forward to a big run from him. I’m super excited, and we’re going to have some fun.
“It’s going to be an interesting race with Mr. Misunderstood breaking from the 1 hole. But he’s a very good horse, and I don’t think it matters where he’s going to be.”
You wouldn’t bet Mr Cub off his last race, when he struggled home seventh by a total of 13 lengths in Saratoga’s Lure Stakes after pushing the early pace on a day with so much rain that they canceled the last two turf stakes.
“That’s kind of a throw-out race,” Landeros said. “We didn’t anticipate it would rain that bad. It poured all day, and soft going, we weren’t quite sure how he’d handle it. He never gave me a feel that he cared for it much. He kind of took care of himself and went around there.”
Landeros also rides English Affair, second in the Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf, in Saturday’s $250,000 One Dreamer for fillies and mares that haven’t won a stakes in 2018.
“I think she’s going to like that track a lot,” he said. “She’s an athletic little horse. She’s lightly framed. I like her a lot. So that will be a lot of fun…. I’ve got some good stuff coming up. I just love Kentucky Downs. Because it’s horse for course, really, and just be patient and hang out with then, and they’ll take you around there.
“I love grass, period. But you’re going up and down the hill, to the right, to the left, going back down a hill. I mean, it’s so much fun. I love it. I think it’s so cool. The money is definitely a plus, but I think it would be just as fun for me anyway. The money is just a little extra motivation to get some wins. This is my favorite time of the year anyway.”