Brian Lynch on Mint Million: ‘I like the zeroes on the end of it’
FRANKLIN, Ky.— The FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs was prominent in horsemen’s minds both going in and certainly coming out of Ellis Park’s four $100,000 turf stakes Sunday.
That’s what paying out $18 million to horsemen over seven days will do. Kentucky Downs is offering America’s richest purses during its run Sept. 1, 3, 4, 8, 10, 11 and 14 at the unique all-turf meet on the Tennessee border just north of Nashville.
Brian Lynch, who had a horse in each Ellis Park stakes Sunday, said three likely will advance to Kentucky Downs, headed by Henderson Turf Mile winner Gray’s Fable. That 7-year-old gelding gave 27-year-old Mickaelle Michel of France her first victory in a U.S. stakes.
“This old guy here definitely stamped a ticket,” Lynch said. “There’s definitely a race for him down there somewhere.”
Most logically would be the Grade 3 WinStar Mint Million Mile on Sept. 3. Lynch acknowledged that its “$1 million purse” has a nice ring to it.
“Yeah,” he said with a laugh. “I like the zeroes on the end of it.”
Tobys Heart won the $500,000 Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey Music City Stakes last year at Kentucky Downs. After she finished third in Sunday’s 5 1/2-furlong Laguna Distaff Turf Sprint, Lynch is looking at the $600,000 The Mint Ladies Sprint (G3) on Sept. 10. The purse for that race will increase to $1 million, including purse supplements for registered Kentucky-bred horses, if a Grade 1 winner runs in the stakes.
Lynch said that Take Charge Ro, who was flying late to take fourth by a total of a length in the Exacta Systems Distaff Turf Mile, will benefit from more distance, making the $550,000 AGS Ladies Marathon (G3) at 1 5/16 miles an option.
“Take Charge Ro, I thought she was the best in there,” Lynch said. “She got a really tough trip to get out late to finish a very close fourth. Toby, she’s looking for a bit more ground. It’s a short stretch here, and she likes Kentucky Downs. So I’d say she’s definitely on schedule.”
The winners of the other Ellis turf stakes also were enthusiastic about making Kentucky Downs their horse’s next stop.
“No doubt about it,” said Geoff Mulcahy, who earned his first stakes victory as a trainer when Michael Burns’ Henrietta Topham captured the Exacta Systems Distaff Turf Mile under apprentice jockey Gage Holmes. “She’s a big, galloping type of filly. I think the track will suit her.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen ran All in Sync against older horses in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint to get the colt on grass in hopes of making the $600,000, Grade 2 Franklin-Simpson for 3-year-olds Sept. 10.
“If we ran well here, we certainly wanted to target that,” Ed Orr, who with wife Susie owns All in Sync, said after their victory with jockey Vincent Cheminaud. “We’re going to go in there with maybe a little more confidence than we would have otherwise.”
As with the Ladies Sprint and $750,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf, Kentucky Downs will raise the Franklin-Simpson to $1 million in purse and supplements for registered Kentucky-breds if a Grade 1 winner runs in the stakes.
“Let’s hope for a Grade 1 winner in there,” Orr said. “I’d love to compete against one in that race.”
The front-running Creative Credit won the 5 1/2-furlong $100,000 Laguna Distaff Turf Sprint under Tommy Pompell for her first victory at farther than five-eighths of a mile. Kentucky Downs is definitely on owner-breeder Richard Finucane’s radar.
But looking for the shortest race possible, Finucane didn’t discount running his 5-year-old mare against males in the $1 million, Grade 2 FanDuel Turf Sprint at six furlongs on the showcase Sept. 10 card. That race is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, with its winner getting a free roll in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland.
“There’s a nice little stakes at Kentucky Downs, but it’s going 6 1/2,” Finucane said of the Ladies Sprint, adding of the distance, “Raises the same issue. But there is another one going three-quarters of a mile against the boys. So we’ll think about it.”
Ron Dowdy, owner-breeder of Twin Spires Turf Sprint runner-up Charcoal, said the FanDuel Turf Sprint “is where we want to go. He ran there last year (finishing a troubled fourth in an overnight race). That’s to his advantage, I believe.”
Elsewhere: trainer Brendan Walsh said New Year’s Eve, third in Sunday’s Saratoga Oaks (G3), could run back in the $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks on Sept. 4. He said via text that Family Way, who won last year’s Ladies Marathon, is likely to return to Kentucky Downs after first running in Saturday’s Grade 1 Beverly D. at Churchill Downs.
Kentucky Downs Press Release
Photo: Trainer Brian Lynch in his Churchill Downs barn earlier this year. Courtesy Trainer Magazine, Laura Palazzolo