Nautilus trains at Keeneland last fall for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (Coady Photography)
By Jennie Rees for Kentucky Downs
FRANKLIN, Ky.— Two years ago, jockey Joe Talamo teamed with trainer Paulo Lobo and the Argentine-bred Imperador to win the 1 1/2-mile FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup.
The team returns Saturday with another South American horse, this time Nautilus, a Grade 1 winner in his native Brazil. The 5-year-old horse is owned by Stud Valentin and the trainer’s PH Lobo Inc.
“Not only in Kentucky, but I rode for Paulo quite a bit in California when he was back there,” Talamo said by phone Tuesday. “He’s one of those guys who definitely has horses at their peak for these big races. I know he freshened up quite a few for this meet. Take Purple Dream, that I won an allowance race on the other day. He was primed and ready.
“I know those horses I ride for him Saturday will be as well. I know when he leads them over, they’re ready to roll.”
The Grade 2 Kentucky Turf Cup got a purse hike this year, being bumped from $1 million to $1.7 million. Of that, $400,000 is restricted to registered Kentucky-bred horses. But a horse such as Nautilus still races for a base purse of $1.3 million, with about $800,000 going to the winner. In fact, it’s the richest turf race in America outside the Breeders’ Cup and last week’s $2 million Mint Millions at Kentucky Downs.
“That will buy a lot of baby clothes,” joked Talamo.
Nautilus won the 1 1/2-mile, Grade 1 Grande Premio Brasil at Brazil’s Hipodromo Gavea in June of 2022 to earn a free berth in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland. He was never in the hunt after checking hard early, finishing 13th in his first start in four months.
But now Lobo has had time to work with Nautilus. The 5-year-old son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer has raced three times this year. Off a five-month layoff, Nautilus returned to win a mile off-the-turf allowance race at Ellis Park by a nose. It was Talamo’s first time aboard the horse.
In Brazil, Nautilus routinely ran 1 1/2 and 1 1/4 miles over heavy turf and in the mud. If Nautilus should win the Kentucky Turf Cup, he’d receive another fees-paid spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita as part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge series.
“I know he has back class on turf in Brazil,” Talamo said. “That’s obviously a tough and wide-open race, but he’s definitely in with a shot. I don’t think the distance will be a problem at all.”
Talamo also rides Quaria Comet in the $1 million AGS Ladies Sprint (G2) and Querobin Dourada in the $1 million Castle Hill Gaming Ladies Turf (G3) for Lobo and owner Brownwood Farm. Both fillies won at Kentucky Downs last year, Querobin Dourada in an allowance race and Quaria Comet in her maiden victory.
“I tell you; I love both of them,” Talamo said. “I think they both have really good shots. They both ran really good prep races at Ellis last time. Even though they lost, moving forward those were two really good preps for them. They seem to be improving at the right time.”
Querobin Dourada was second at 87-1 in Keeneland’s Giants Causeway turf sprint in April, followed by an Ellis Park allowance victory and a fourth — by a total of 1 1/4 lengths — in the $200,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf won by New Year’s Eve.
“Turning for home, I really thought I had a shot to win it,” Talamo said. “They kind of out-quickened her that last part. The one thing I really like about her for this race is she won at Kentucky Downs in really good fashion last year. The way she did that was very impressive. Once I got her out, she just lengthened her stride. I hope she can have that kind of trip and finish like she did.”
Quaria Comet has not been worse than third in five starts this year over grass and synthetic surfaces, including finishing second by a neck to Bay Storm in the $200,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Sprint.
“That was just a very unlucky beat last time,” Talamo said. “She had a beautiful trip, but the winner was fortunate enough that a horse in front kind of came off the rail and they were able to get through. The other horse just had a better trip. I think that’s why we lost. But in defeat, she ran a really good race at Ellis, and I think it will set her up well for this race Saturday.”