Nessy is just warming up when he gets to the Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup’s 1 1/2-mile distance, having won Santa Anita’s 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano earlier this year. He hasn’t fared as well since, however, with a sixth in the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup and fifth in Arlington’s 12-furlong Stars and Stripes.
Nessy is part of a solid contingent that trainer Ian Wilkes is running in stakes Saturday. He also has Bonnie Arch in the Ladies’ Turf, Originator in the Ladies Sprint and Done Deal in the Turf Sprint.
“I freshened Nessy up for a fall campaign here,” Wilkes said Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs. “He’s trained well. He’s ultra-consistent. If he runs his race, he’ll be right there.”
Nessy has run the past two years at Kentucky Downs, finishing fifth in the Dueling Grounds Derby and then seventh in last year’s Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, but beaten by less than four lengths. He'll be ridden by 2017 Kentucky Downs meet-leading Julien Leparoux, who won the stakes last year on Oscar Nominated.
Bonnie Arch is in the best form of her career, winning a Churchill Downs allowance race and the Ellis Park Turf before finishing a close third in the Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf.
“Bonnie’s overcome a lot,” Wilkes said. “She’s doing really well and is in good form. Bonnie is her own worst enemy sometimes. How she handles the paddock, how she handles the pre-race, is the biggest key. She wasn’t bad at Ellis, but she can be. She anticipates everything. You can school her, school her, school her. And she still is like that.”
Originator comes in off three straight seconds, most recently in Saratoga’s $100,000 Coronation Cup. A 3-year-old taking on her elders, she has four seconds in five starts since winning her debut.
“She’s just a 3-year-old filly, but she’s been very consistent and is getting better,” Wilkes said. “Her races have been very solid."
Done Deal won four straight races by a combined 19 1/4 lengths, including the Iowa Sprint by four, before getting a reality check in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Vanderbilt on dirt, in which he was seventh, beaten 14 lengths. Now the 5-year-old gelding is back on grass, over which he’s 2 for 2. He has been working extremely well at the Skylight training center in Oldham County.
“He’s a naturally fast horse,” Wilkes said. “He’ll run turf or dirt. The horse is doing well, and it’s a good spot for him. He’s a fun horse, a cool horse. You wouldn’t know he’s around. He just does his thing.
“I have no excuses coming in with any of them. It’s just whether they’re good enough.”