FRANKLIN, Ky.— The pre-race hype before the 31st running of the G2, $1 million Kentucky Cup Turf centered around two horses. One, the imposing Gufo, was making his first ever start ever at Kentucky Downs and coming off a win at G1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga.
The other was the sentimental story of Arklow, the 8-year-old gelding who was making his fifth start in this race and already owned two wins and two seconds.
In the end, it was 12-1 long shot Red Knight who stole the show. The 8-year-old son of Pure Prize, who was ridden by Gerardo Corrales and trained by Mike Maker, won the 11/2-mile race in pulsating fashion. He prevailed by a nose over the 8-5 favored Gufo, whose furious rally came up just short.
Red Knight, a New York-bred owned by Tom Egan’s Trinity Farm, won his second straight race after coming to Maker’s barn following almost a year away from the races. Because he was not a Kentucky-bred, Red Knight was running for $550,000 in the Turf Cup; the other $450,000 was only available to registered Kentucky-breds through the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund. The total purse paid out was $694,180.
Red Knight began to find his best stride heading into the long stretch and took the lead at the eighth pole. He then held off the fast charge of Gufo to give Maker his 10th win of the meet; this was also his record fifth career win in the Kentucky Turf Cup.
“You know, I didn’t think about that until you mentioned it,” Maker said. “Any race here is meaningful. Mr. Egan is a great guy. This was a tremendous effort, to be honest with you. I thought he was going to get beat but he dug in and fought hard. He’s a fighter, a tough horse.”
Egan sought out Maker to train the horse after he had been with Hall of Famer Bill Mott. The horse had not run since a sixth-place finish in the John’s Call at Saratoga in late August of 2021. Egan, originally from Connecticut, sent the horse to trainer Chad Stewart in Ocala, Fla. in September of 2021.
“Chad was wondering if he was done or not,” Egan said. “The horse was tired. We turned him out for 90 days. The first week wasn’t too good, then he said, ‘Tom, I think he’s back.’ Then I gave him to Mike in January.”
Egan also bred Red Knight at his farm in New York.
“Just remarkable; he is a gift from above,” Egan said. “A year ago, I thought he was done. So, he’s the comeback kid.”
Gufo, who was ridden by Joel Rosario, was coming into this off two weeks rest, which trainer Christophe Clement admitted was a concern. He was eighth with a half mile to go and then had a sustained rally but just missed.
“It was a good effort,” Rosario said. “He did everything right. I thought we were going to get there.”
“When Gufo came next to Red Knight, Red Knight actually saw him eye-to-eye and he got additional energy,” Corrales said through DRF en Espanol announcer David Merida. “He just never quit.”
Red Knight’s connections won $317,130 and got his 10th career win while going over $1 million in earnings ($1,210,388). The Kentucky Turf Cup was a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” to the $4 million Longines Turf on Nov. 5 at Keeneland.
Egan would not commit to the Breeders’ Cup, for which Red Knight gets a fees-paid berth, on Saturday. “But Mike was very supportive of the concept,” he said. “I think this is a tough field. You get the Europeans coming over there. Who knows? … But fourth is a heck of a thing in itself.”
Red Knight, then in Mott’s care, had finished second in this race behind Arklow in 2020.
Arklow was second heading into the stretch but faded to sixth.
“He was traveling great,” said his jockey, Florent Geroux. “Turning for home, I thought all I had to do was turn him loose and get the money. But he just stayed there.”
Red Knight was timed in 2:26.96 for the 1 1/2 miles over firm turf and paid $26.04. Another Mystery finished a neck behind Gufo for third and was followed by Another Mystery, Highest Honors, Admission Office, Arklow, Glynn County, Who’s the Star, Rogue Element, Breakpoint, Temple and Keystone Field.
Kentucky Downs Press Release
Main photo: Red Knight (inside) wins the Kentucky Turf Cup (Coady Photography)