FRANKLIN, Ky. (Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021) – As usual, Mike Maker, the all-time leading trainer at Kentucky Downs, is very well-armed for the $1 million, Grade 2 Calumet Turf Cup Saturday.
Maker is scheduled to saddle five of the 12 horses in the 1 5/16th miles race. While it is already a personal-best for him in the race, it is possible, but not likely, that he could have half the field if Dynadrive draws in from the also-eligible list. This will be the eighth-straight year that Maker, 52, has had two or more starters in one of the track’s premier races, which he has won a record four times. He has had at least one horse finish in the money seven straight years.
The Calumet Turf Cup, one of the five graded stakes on Saturday’s program, is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race and will be broadcast live on NBC.
Maker has made it clear that he points for this race and will start as many runners as he can. He has built a solid reputation for developing horses – many of whom he has claimed – that can go long on the grass.
“I have a lot of horses that can go a mile and a half on the grass, there are limited opportunities and this purse is always lucrative,” he said.
Maker said he developed his ability with distance-loving turf horses earlier in his career when he worked for breeder-owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey.
“I had a lot of offspring by Kitten’s Joy,” he said, naming the Ramsey’s prominent turf stallion. “You have to play the hand you’re dealt.”
According to Equibase stats, Maker has saddled a record 22 starters in the Turf Cup and his purse earnings of $2,225,240 is a record, nearly $1 million ahead of Brad Cox. He quietly served notice that he might do well in the race by finishing second with his first starter, Stream of Gold, in 2008. Since 2014 he has had at least two runners. Twice he has sent out four runners. In 2018, his horses finished second, third, fourth and fifth. His record in the race from the 22 starts is 4-2-4.
This year, Maker has Three Diamonds Farm’s Tide of the Sea in post 4; Michael Ryan’s Bluegrass Parkway in post 6; Paradise Farm’s and David Staudacher’s Ajourneytofreedom in 8; Three Diamonds’ Glynn County in 9 and Michael Hui’s 8-year-old Zulu Alpha, who won in 2019 and was third last year, in 11.
“Glynn County was a Kitten’s Joy and only had a couple of starts when we got him,” Maker said. “He’s a nice horse and I think you’re going to hear a lot of him in the future. He ran well at Arlington (third in the G1 Mr. D). I think he’s one of my better chances.
“Tide of the Sea is an English Channel who was bought out of the sale. Bluegrass Parkway was sent to me with these type of races in mind. The first we ran him I think was a mile and three-eighths race he won, a conditioned allowance race. Ajourneytofreedom was bred for these type of races and that’s why we claimed him. Obviously, Zulu Alpha doesn’t need any explanation.”
All five of Maker’s runners are stakes veterans and Tide of the Sea and Zulu Alpha are graded stakes winners.
Zulu Alpha, a Grade 1 winner and $2.27 million-earner, has not hit the board in his two starts in 2021, but Maker said that is too small of a sample to judge him. In the Mr. D at Arlington Park on Aug. 14, he was a non-factor.
“It was slow paced and didn’t suit him,” Maker said. “We’re going to cross it out and bring him to the track he loves. I think it should be a strong pace Saturday with Tide of the Sea and Channel Cat.”
Kentucky Downs Press Release
Photo: Tide of the Sea, with Irad Ortiz up, won an allowance race at the 2019 Kentucky Downs meet. Coady Photography