Jolting Joe, with Tyler Gaffalione up, won a $100,000 New York stallion stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 6. Coglianese Photography
— Louisville-based Skychai Racing is hoping to knock it out of the park when they send out Jolting Joe in Thursday’s $750,000 Gun Runner Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs.
The stable has been hot, winning Saratoga’s Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Stakes with Somelikeithotbrown, a half-brother to Jolting Joe. Both horses are out of Skychai’s well-bred but winless gray Tapit mare Marilyn Monroan, whose clever name led to her sons’ names, with Somelikeithotbrown sired by 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown and named for a play on Marilyn Monroe’s famous movie Some Like It Hot. Jolting Joe is named for Yankees slugger Joe DiMaggio, who of course was at one time married to Marilyn Monroe.
Skychai does more than come up with good names. They come up with good horses, including winning Kentucky Downs’ Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup with Da Big Hoss in 2015 and 2016. Last Saturday the partnership won Churchill Downs’ biggest 3-year-old turf race with Fancy Liquor (out of the 21-time winner Brandys Secret) in the Grade 2 American Turf. Like Somelikeithotbrown and Fancy Liquor, Jolting Joe is trained by Mike Maker, Kentucky Downs’ all-time win leader.
Though born in Kentucky, Jolting Joe is eligible to run only for the Dueling Ground Derby’s $375,000 base purse. That’s because he’s by the New York stallion Mission Impazible and therefore isn’t eligible for the additional $375,000 offered in Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund purse supplements. KTDF money goes to horses who are both born in Kentucky and sired by a Kentucky stallion.
“I messed that up,” said Skychai co-founder Dr. Harvey Diamond. “But you know what? Half the purse at Kentucky Downs is better than most of the purses elsewhere.”
Diamond said that he didn’t want to breed Marilyn Monroan back to a New York stallion, at the time not knowing what Somelikeithotbrown, then a yearling, was going to accomplish. He said breeding her back to a stallion in New York was a requirement to make Jolting Joe a registered New York-bred.
However, Jolting Joe can run in New York stallion stakes, and he did just that in his last start to break his maiden in such a stakes at Saratoga. Before that, Jolting Joe had four seconds in his first four starts. The first one, in fact, came a year ago at Kentucky Downs in a race won by Art Collector, winner of Keeneland’s Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass and the $200,000 Ellis Park Derby and a leading contender for the Preakness Stakes. In a race at Gulfstream Park West, Jolting Joe was second to King Guillermo, the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby winner and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby runner-up.
Jolting Joe is 15-1 in the morning line for the 1 5/16-miles Dueling Ground Derby.
“When you look at him compared to the rest of the field, you have to say he’s probably faced the toughest competition of anybody,” Diamond said. “I don’t think he’ll stay 15-1. But if he stays that price, he’s certainly going to be a good bet.
“I do not bet, I have not, I will not bet on our horses. I’ll let my partners take care of that. I’ll be more than happy to win this race. I don’t need 15-1 when we’re shooting for $375,000. He’s Jolting Joe. He’s going to run his race. He’s run against some nice horses. He knows what it is to test some class.”
The 3-1 favorite is Bama Breeze, the Rusty Arnold trainee who was sixth by a total of 2 1/2 lengths in the Saratoga Derby in his last start.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Peace Achieved, the 9-2 second choice, favored in the capacity field of 12, with the maximum four additional horses trying to draw in off the also-eligible list. The Mark Casse-trained Peace Achieved got very good last fall with the addition of blinkers, impressively earning his first victory at Ellis Park, followed by a strong victory in Kentucky Downs’ mile stakes for 2-year-olds. In his only start this year after finishing off the board in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, Peace Achieved was fourth over yielding turf in Indiana Grand’s $150,000 Caesars Stakes a month ago.
Trainer Christophe Clement seeks his second stakes victory of the young meet with Donegal Racing’s Shamrocket in the Dueling Grounds Derby. Clement won Monday’s $500,000 The Mint Juvenile Fillies with the impressive Plum Ali for the trainer’s third win in that stakes.
Making his first start at 3 will be Fighting Seabee, who won last year’s Grade 3 With Anticipation at Saratoga.
The Dueling Grounds Derby field, in post position with jockey/trainer and morning-line odds: Dynadrive (Corey Lanerie/Kelly Breen 20-1), Shamrocket (Joel Rosario, Christophe Clement, 6-1), Jolting Joe (Tyler Gaffalione, Mike Maker 15-1), Big Dreaming (Chris Landeros/Wayne Catalano 15-1), Fighting Seabee (Brian Hernandez/Kenny McPeek 12-1), Peace Achieved (Florent Geroux, Mark Casse 9-2), Kid Mercury (James Graham, Graham Motion 12-1), Natural Power (Ricardo Santana/Mark Casse 10-1), Kinenos (Jose Ortiz/Brad Cox 8-1), Angelus Warrior (Irad Ortiz/Mike Maker 12-1), Bama Breeze (Julien Leparoux, Rusty Arnold 3-1), Summer Assault (Joe Rocco/Michele Boyce 15-1). Also eligible: Moon Over Miami (Javier Castellano/Bill Mott 5-1), Buy Me Candy (Jose Ortiz/Ignacio Correas 30-1), Salow (Miguel Mena, Terry Brennan 8-1), Sunsation (Shaun Bridgmohan/Kelsey Danner 15-1).