By Gary West
The opening-day card features four stakes offering $1.8 million in purses, and, of course, the stakes comprise an enticing Pick 4 wager. Although the unique track already could lay claim to having the lowest overall takeout, or cost of betting, in the country and although it already had been named the No. 1 racetrack in the nation three consecutive years by the Horseplayers Association of North America, Kentucky Downs this year lowered the takeout on its Pick 4 from 19 to 14 percent. In other words, on Saturday, this is the best bet you’re going to find anywhere: Kentucky Downs’ all-stakes Pick 4:
Race 7, The $250,000 One Dreamer: On Leave never has failed to earn a paycheck in her 18-race career while keeping company with some of the game’s best turf mares — such as Lady Eli, A Raving Beauty and Proctor’s Ledge. She most recently finished fourth on soft turf at Saratoga, but she has given her best performances, including all five of her stakes victories, on firm ground. She’s also at her best when able to stalk the leaders, within a couple lengths, and she should benefit from just such a trip in the One Dreamer. On Leave could push her earnings beyond $1 million with a victory. Prado’s Sweet Ride, another very accomplished stakes winner, comes to Kentucky after a runner-up finish behind highly regarded Daddys Lil Darling in the Modesty at Arlington. That was at 1 3/16 miles, and Prado’s Sweet Ride will probably need a lively and contentious pace Saturday to be most effective at this mile-and-70-yard distance, but she probably won’t be too far back in the early running. I Remember Mama ran second as the favorite in a recent stakes at Ellis Park, but with a better trip might have won. She raced four-wide in the first and five-wide in the second turn, storming home in about 23 seconds for the final quarter-mile. She’s stepping up into some staunch company here, but the lightly raced filly could be ready to deliver the best race of her career in this her third start of the season.
Race 8, the $750,000 Tourist Mile: The richest race of the day looks like a contest between reliability and brilliance. Mr. Misunderstood is as reliable as your mailman, having won 10 of his 13 turf outings. He comes into the Tourist Mile with consecutive victories, in the Kentucky Downs Preview at Ellis and the Wise Dan at Churchill. If you’re looking for flaws or weaknesses, look elsewhere — Washington, maybe. Mr. Misunderstood has won five of six at this distance, his only loss coming in the Grade I Makers Mark at Keeneland, where he got caught daydreaming at the break and ended up seven-wide. (Daydreaming isn’t a flaw; it’s an indulgence.) Reliability gets the nod here, but barely. Bound For Nowhere is brilliantly fast. In April, he won the Shakertown by four in sparkling style, and then he traveled to Ascot where he almost won the Group I Diamond Jubilee. Yes, Ascot. He opened up quickly on a field that included some of the best sprinters in Europe; he raced out in the middle of the course, all by himself and looking more than a little lost, and then, after easing closer to the rail to join his colleagues, he responded when challenged only to find himself sandwiched between horses for the final yards. He finished third, beaten less than a length. And, keep in mind, that although the distance was three-quarters of a mile, it was all straightaway and so very demanding. Can he get the mile? His sire, The Factor, won at 1 1/16 miles (The Rebel Stakes). If Bound For Nowhere, who almost certainly will be on the early lead, can slow the pace down to whatever he finds comfortable, he can indeed succeed at this distance. Mr Cub has won at Kentucky Downs, and could inherit the lead if Bound For Nowhere falters. And Camelot Kitten, who won four graded stakes in 2016 and is looking to recapture his best form, could benefit if a rapid develops.
Race 9, the $400,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile: This looks like one of the more contentious races of the day and an ideal place to spread out in a Pick 4. Good Good is the most accomplished of the group, but he never has raced beyond 5 1/2 furlongs, and during that effort, he showed his inexperience. He angled out seven-wide, lugged in and ducked in and finally checked in third in the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga. He galloped out quite strongly, suggesting the son of Quality Road will appreciate more distance. Dragic will take on the “boys” here, which speaks loudly about the confidence trainer Wesley Ward has in this filly. She’s fast. Trapped in traffic inside, she pushed a rapid opening half-mile in the recent Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar, and she’ll probably be on the early lead as she makes her turf debut. But Tracksmith also has considerable speed, which creates the possibility of a hot pace, which would enhance the chances of Henley’s Joy and Pole Setter, both maiden winners at Ellis; they’ll issue their loudest challenges in the stretch. Others to consider when spreading out in this intriguing race: Jais’s Solitude, All American Hero and Coral Legacy.
Race 10, The $400,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies Stakes: Two fillies stand out here, Miss Technicality and Two Shakes. Miss Technicality won her debut on the grass at Belmont Park back in July, rallying from sixth and running the final quarter-mile in a jaw-dropping 22.48 seconds. Since then, the half-sister to two-time stakes winner Stays in Vegas has been training sharply at Saratoga. On Aug. 16, for example, she worked in company with a 2-year-old named Quiet Out East. Miss Technicality left the half-mile pole about two lengths behind while in hand, and then, without much encouragement, she easily rolled by her workmate and drew clear. She’s a runner. But so is Two Shakes, who won her debut at Saratoga about three weeks ago. A full-sister to stakes winners Sunset Glow and Defiantly, Two Shakes raced three-wide while pressing lively fractions and then proved to be quite determined in the stretch, surging to win by a nose. Of course, these are juveniles, who can leap forward at any moment with vast improvement, and there are others in here who have hinted at potential, most notably Lightscameraaction, Sexyama, My Jilly and City Diva.