Son of Air Force Blue Breaks Maiden in Juvenile Mile
FRANKLIN, Ky.— Irish-based trainer Joseph O’Brien earned his first victory at Kentucky Downs as Reckoning Force outfought Deer District by a neck in the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile.
O’Brien sent a string of four horses to Saratoga this summer, with three traveling on to the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs. Only two got in the entries, with Stay Lost finishing third in a Sept. 8 maiden race. While O’Brien’s horses had run well — with two seconds and a third at Saratoga — this was the first victory of the trip. And it came with a maiden taking on winners in a stakes.
“We’re delighted,” said Gary O’Connor, O’Brien’s assistant trainer. “Hopefully that will entice him to come back next year. I think that was our eighth or ninth runner, so finally we got a winner going home.”
Reckoning Force was 0 for 3 going in but he’d been very competitive and was well-seasoned. He was a good third in Ireland before coming to America, with a fourth and third at Saratoga.
“Talk about Lady Luck,” said Fergus Galvin, who with Marc Detampel bought into the Kentucky-bred Reckoning Force after his first start. “He was scheduled to run in a maiden race on Sept. 10 and when the stakes (on Sept. 3) got canceled the entries re-opened, we were able to see the runners from the stakes, what the opposition was like. We thought he’d run two pretty good races at Saratoga. Joseph had enough confidence to go into the stakes. He and his crew have done a great job with him in Saratoga and getting him ready at Kentucky Downs.”
Reckoning Force, with 2021 Kentucky Downs meet-leading jockey Joel Rosario up, came from near the back of the pack in the eight-horse field, collaring pacesetting Mayfield Strong in upper stretch. A neck separated four horses with an eighth mile to go, with Reckoning Force wearing down Really Good and holding off Deer District while finishing the mile in 1:34.63. He paid $10.58 to win.
Really Good finished another 3 1/2 lengths back in third, 2 1/4 lengths in front of Mayfield Strong. Laver, King Ice, Castleknock and Mikey Bananas rounded out the order of finish. Bourbon Therapy and Steele Money were scratched.
“I had a perfect trip,” Rosario said. “He said to get him out a little bit and, hopefully, he was going to get a good spot and he did. I was in a good spot the whole time and not too far from the leader and he kept coming with a strong finish. He seemed really professional. I took him out and he decided to go and he kept moving forward.”
Said O’Connor: “I was happy enough the whole way around here. He was handy in behind the leaders. I thought he should pick up. He was in great position to win from where he was turning in (into the stretch). Joel gave him a great ride.
“We’re heading back home. Reckoning Force is going into training with Brendan Walsh and should be with him tomorrow morning or the next day. We’re heading back to Ireland tomorrow morning.”
Reckoning Force, a son of the War Front stallion Air Force Blue, picked up $300,700 to bring his earnings to $322,012. He was originally purchased for $30,000 at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s October yearling sale.
Galvin watched the race while at Keeneland’s famed September Yearling Sale.
“It was a big thrill, watching here from Keeneland,” he said. “We were selling yearlings all day and found a few minutes to go watch it. It was very exciting. We bought into him, Marc and myself, after he ran in his maiden race in Ireland. Joseph obviously had the plan to come over to Saratoga and run him there and we had the plan to come to Kentucky Downs after Saratoga. It was fantastic. Huge thrill.”
Galvin, who has been involved with several Kentucky Downs stakes-winners, is a huge fan of the track.
“Between Marc and myself, we’ve had horses with Joseph for two years now,” he said. “I can always give him (O’Brien) a little reminder (about Kentucky Downs’ record purses) every so often — especially when they’re a Kentucky-bred — but he was definitely on board to go there. I believe he’ll have a bigger interest maybe next year.”
Noting the transfer to Walsh, Galvin said a logical next race would be Keeneland’s $350,000 Castle & Key Bourbon Stakes (G2), with an eye on the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
“He’s a cool horse,” Galvin said. “He’s got a great temperament. Justin Casse picked him out as a yearling for his syndicate, Magnolia Racing. He brought some Kentucky-breds over to Joseph. They’ve had 2-3 winners in Ireland already, and this was another one. Just lucky to be a part of it.”
Kentucky Downs Press Release
Main photo: Reckoning Force a force to be reckoned with in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile (Coady Photography)