Imprimis, with Irad Ortiz up, won Kentucky Downs’ $700,000, Grade 3 RUNHAPPY Turf
‘Proof is in the pudding, and we’re seeing the pudding,’ says Casse
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020) — Kentucky Downs only races six days, but the all-grass track has super-sized representation in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships this Friday and Saturday at Keeneland Race Course.
A total of 15 horses who raced at Kentucky Downs’ meet in early September are in the body of the seven Breeders’ Cup turf races, with three grass events for 2-year-olds on Friday and four for 3-year-olds and older horses on Saturday. Three other runners at the 2020 meet are in Breeders’ Cup dirt races.
An additional three horses that ran at the September meet in Franklin are on the “also-eligible” list and need scratches in order to compete in the Breeders’ Cup.
“That speaks volumes of how Kentucky Downs has become such a factor to the Breeders’ Cup,” said Mark Casse, the Hall of Fame trainer whose deep barn includes $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint 7-2 favorite Got Stormy, winner of Kentucky Downs’ Grade 3, $500,000 Real Solution Stakes in her first attempt at sprinting. “The money is great, and people are getting more and more used to running at Kentucky Downs. I think you’ll see those races start becoming better graded as well. The proof is in the pudding, and we’re seeing the pudding on Friday and Saturday.”
Among other Kentucky Downs-raced headliners:
Arklow, winner of the $1 million, Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup for the second time in three years, is the 5-1 co-third choice in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. The 6-year-old $2.4 million-earner and Grade 1-winner has stepped up his game even more since racing in blinkers for the first time in the Kentucky Turf Cup.
“It’s been a phenomenal program the last four or five years — just thriving,” Brad Cox, who trains Arklow for Donegal Racing, said of Kentucky Downs. “It’s been really good for Kentucky and good for racing in America. The money is phenomenal. It’s a great venue. Only downside is it’s only six days.”
Imprimis, the 4-1 second choice, earned a fees-paid spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint by virtue of taking Kentucky Downs’ $700,000 Grade 3 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint, a “Win and You’re In” event as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint also attracted the two horses who finished in a dead-heat for second at Kentucky Downs while only a neck behind Imprimis: Bombard and Front Run the Fed, as well as Real Solution third-place finisher Into Mystic. Got Stormy and Into Mystic met again in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Buffalo Trace Franklin County, with Got Stormy getting up for a nose victory.
“It’s a very safe track,” said Joe Orseno, Imprimis’ trainer. “Horses handle it and get over it OK. When you giveaway the money they want to give away, and you get a Win and You’re In, you’re going to get the best horses. Everybody wanted to be in that $700,000 race. They wanted to be in Got Stormy’s race.”
The Brazilian-bred Ivar, an Argentine Grade 1 winner on turf and dirt before being relocated to America, was a good third in Kentucky Downs’ $750,000 Tourist Mile and then captured Keeneland’s Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile. He’s the 4-1 favorite in a wide-open running of the $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile on grass. The Tourist Mile is named for the winner of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Mile the year after he captured the Kentucky Downs stakes, then known as the More Than Ready.
“I think people are looking more seriously at Kentucky Downs,” said Ivar’s trainer, Paulo Lobo. “Huge purses and I think Grade 2 or Grade 1 status is coming for their races in a couple of years.”
Unbeaten Plum Ali, whose middle of three victories came in Kentucky Downs’ $500,000 The Mint Juvenile Fillies, is the 4-1 co-second choice in Friday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Harvey’s Lil Goil dropped a close decision to Micheline in the $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks but then turned the tables with a victory in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. She’s the only American 3-year-old filly in the field and her morning-line odds are 20-1. But she’s a quality filly on turf and dirt who has no problems with 1 3/16 miles.
“I don’t feel we’ve got a lot to lose with her,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. “We’re ready to take on the challenge and see what we’ve got.”
Bodenheimer — Keeneland’s Indian Summer winner whose only defeat in four starts came over soft turf in Kentucky Downs’ $500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint — is a great value play in Friday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at 8-1.
Kentucky Downs also launched a pair of 2-year-olds into the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on dirt. That includes Kentucky Downs maiden winner Next, who won a Keeneland allowance race by 11 lengths in his next start. Bon Raison is contesting the $2 million Sprint off of a Keeneland allowance triumph that followed his 10th place in the RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint.
Six other Breeders’ Cup horses ran at Kentucky Downs’ 2019 meet. Those include leading Turf Sprint contenders Leinster and the mare Oleksandra, both of whom experienced minor but untimely setbacks that kept them from a return to Kentucky Downs. Leinster most recently won Keeneland’s Grade 2 Woodford, while the 6-year-old mare Oleksandra comes in off a 4 1/2-month layoff since beating the boys to take Belmont’s Grade 1 Jaipur.
Another 2019 Kentucky Downs product is the 3-year-old Art Collector, Keeneland’s Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass and Ellis Park Derby winner now in the $1 million Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile. Art Collector’s first victory came on the Kentucky Downs’ grass last year.
“It’s the most unique place in America for turf racing,” Donegal head Jerry Crawford said of Kentucky Downs. “It’s really created a whole new dimension. We don’t plan a racing season for a turf horse without looking at the schedule there. That’s first-stop shopping for us.”
Photo credit: Coady Photography