Ireland’s Joseph O’Brien Running Horses at Kentucky Downs

September 7, 2022

Stakes Trio Highlights Closing Card, Including Juvenile Mile

FRANKLIN, Ky.— One of Europe’s top stables will make its first start at Kentucky Downs as the Joseph O’Brien-trained Stay Lost runs in Thursday’s seventh race for 2-year-old filly maidens.

Three O’Brien horses arrived at Kentucky Downs from Saratoga on Tuesday, heading to the track Wednesday morning for training over the undulating turf course. The horses were part of what was a four-horse New York contingent that came over from the trainer’s Ireland base.

Another horse, Saratoga’s Mahony Stakes runner-up Cadamosto, needs three scratches to run in Saturday’s overfilled $600,000 Franklin-Simpson Stakes (Grade 2) for 3-year-old sprinters at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs.

“It’s very like home,” said assistant trainer Gary O’Connor, who is overseeing the O’Brien horses. “The track is pretty much the same as home. It’s pretty nice, and the horses are settling in well.”

O’Connor said Kentucky Downs reminds him of Killarney, which is a left-handed course that also has a sharp first turn and undulates. Killarney also has a sweeping far turn and at 1 1/4 miles in circumference is a sixteenth-mile shorter than Kentucky Downs. One thing is very different, however.

“The prize money here is unbelievable, isn’t it?” O’Connor said. “It’s very good. A bit of luck and hopefully we’ll be there” to get some of it.

The Irish-bred Cadamosto has three fourth-place finishes in group stakes in Europe. Had any one of those been a third, he would have gotten into the body of the race under Kentucky Downs’ preference system, which prioritizes horses that have won graded or group stakes, followed by horses that have been in the top three in a graded or group stakes. The final tiebreaker for horses trying to get into a race is turf earnings, where Europe’s much smaller purses work against those horses.

“It’s a pity. Fingers crossed he gets in,” O’Connor said. “I’m not sure what the plan would be if he doesn’t. I’ll leave that to the boss and the connections that own him.”

The Kentucky-bred Stay Lost finished sixth in her racing debut at 1 1/16 miles at Saratoga. “She’s been doing great since she came here,” he said.

Reckoning Force, with a third and a fourth at Saratoga, got into a race for closing day, joining the field of ten 2-year-olds for the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile that was rescheduled after inclement weather forced its cancelation last Saturday.

Asked if O’Brien was sticking in his toe to test the water for running more horses at Kentucky Downs in the future, O’Connor said, “Hopefully. The two lads with me and I have been to Belmont and Saratoga the last few weeks. We seem to be traveling with horses to America more and more. I’m kind of getting the hang of it now.”

And that is? “If they travel well and keep eating and drinking, they’ve got a great chance,” he said. “And these three have been doing that.”

O’Brien, the son of leading Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, was a top jockey, including winning the 2011 Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf on St Nicholas Abbey at Churchill Downs. The next year Joseph O’Brien rode Camelot to victory in the 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and Irish Derby. Both horses were trained by his dad. In 2016, the younger O’Brien gave up riding races to concentrate on training.

Early in his training career, O’Brien’s U.S. runners were pretty much limited to coming over for the Breeders’ Cup. He won his first U.S. race in 2019 when Iridessa captured the $2 million Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita. He didn’t run in the Breeders’ Cup last year at Del Mar but O’Brien did train the winners of the Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup (Baron Samedi) and the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational (21-1 shot State of Rest). So far this year, he has two seconds, a third and three-fourths racing at Belmont Park and Saratoga.

Three Stakes Headline Closing Card

Entries were taken Wednesday for the closing-day 12-race card next Wednesday, Sept. 14, with the FanDuel Meet concluding its seven-day run with three stakes.

The $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile drew a field of 10 after being postponed a week because of inclement weather on Sept. 3. Among them: Saratoga debut winner Really Good and Indiana maiden winner Bourbon Therapy, both trained by meet-leader Mike Maker. Peter Miller is shipping Castleknock, a mile maiden winner at Del Mar, in for the race. Mayfield Strong and Laver were the 1-2 finishers in a solid Ellis turf maiden, also at a mile.

The new $400,000 Gun Runner Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile attracted a capacity field of 12, with another two horses on the also-eligible list. The Greg Foley-trained Stitched, one of the favorites for Saturday’s $600,000 Franklin-Simpson (G2) at 6 1/2 furlongs, was cross-entered in the Gun Runner. Among others: Belmont allowance winner Castle Leoch broke his maiden at Kentucky Downs last year; Iowa shipper Rome, the Prairie Mile winner and Ellis Park Derby runner-up at 57-1 odds, would be making his turf debut; and Fuerteventura, the Jersey Derby runner-up, was third in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Saranac. Others include the stakes-winning St Anthony and Fort Washington, along with Ellis allowance winners American Mayhem and Play Action Pass, who finished third in last year’s Juvenile Mile.

The $400,000 One Dreamer for fillies and mares that haven’t won a stakes in 2022 attracted an overflow of 13 entries. The stakes-winning Burning Ambition, trained by Cox, makes her first start since finishing third in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup 11 months ago. The Rusty Arnold-trained Navratilova won Keeneland’s Grade 3 Valley View last year. The Brazilian-bred Justify My Love makes her first start of 2022 and in the U.S. for trainer Paulo Lobo after racing in Argentina, where she was a Grade 2 winner who in her last start was second in a Grade 1 stakes. Hall of Famer Bill Mott entered allowance winners Poca Mucha and Petricor. Godolphin’s Alms (out of the mare Charity Belle) is multiple graded stakes placed for trainer Mike Stidham.

Kentucky Downs Press Release

Photo: The three horses trained by Joseph O’Brien heading to the track and training at Kentucky Downs Wednesday morning (Grace Clark)

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