FRANKLIN, Ky.— Joe Sharp came by his affinity for Kentucky Downs very early on in his training career. He made his first start with his own stable in 2014 at Kentucky Downs, winning a $15,000 claiming race with Holiday Drama, a horse he also owned.
The winning jockey was Sharp’s wife, Rosie Napravnik. They didn’t win with Sharp’s second mount, but Cajun Wedding was second by only a neck in another $15,000 claiming race.
Sharp has made Kentucky Downs a priority ever since, winning at least one race every year, including four in 2019 that put him in a tie for the training title with Ian Wilkes and Wesley Ward.
“It’s one of those meets that you can’t be scared of,” Sharp said. “You try things there. Horses you think might be somewhat ordinary, but they get over that track well, those are the ones that can really make for an exciting meet. We’ll lead anything over there that’s respectable and try them. Because we’ve had horses that might be a cut below. But they get down there and just thrive over that surface.”
Sharp is hoping that Spanish Kingdom proves to be one such horse in Thursday’s $400,000 FanDuel Tapit Stakes for horses that haven’t won a stakes this year. A second-level allowance winner last year, the 5-year-old gelding was off for 10 months and now is seeking his first victory in 2022 in his first attempt. But Spanish Kingdom already is a winner in one regard: With Atone defecting to run in Saturday’s $1 million WinStar Mint Million, the horse draws into the Tapit off the also-eligible list.
“It’s a spot that looks a little ambitious, but that being said, I think he also fits,” Sharp said Wednesday morning at Kentucky Downs. “Other than a couple of the top horses, I think he’s right there with the rest of them. He’s training really forwardly. I’ve always wanted to give him a chance down here.
“He’s a horse that’s kind of had a frustrating season this year as far as canceling turf races where we are stabled, hitting the ‘AE’ list in a race this spring we were targeting at Keeneland. A horse that should have run more times this year than he ended up running, only through being a bit unlucky in the entry box and through circumstance. But he’s been a healthy horse training forwardly all year.”
Now Sharp just has to get Fancy Martini off the also-eligible list for Sunday’s $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks at 1 5/16 miles. He does have the $500,000 Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey Music City on Sept. 11 as an option, albeit at 6 1/2 furlongs.
By Jennie Rees – Kentucky Downs Press Release
Photo: Joe Sharp (Coady Photography)