Today we focus on the unique course that is Kentucky Downs. This is the USA’s only turf only course and, in reality, it is more like the kind of course one would find in the UK or Ireland as it is quite a large circuit with some undulations.
It only holds one short meeting each year but the racing is high quality and the prize money is quite exceptional with every race today worth at least $130,000.
We start with the More Than Ready Mile for 3 year olds and above, worth $400,000. A field of eight has been declared to face the starter but this will be reduced to six as Wesley Ward will be withdrawing his two, Hootenanny and Chiltern Street. This will leave favouritism with Watchyourownbobber in the very capable hands of Julien Leparoux.
Watchyourownbobber has been making hay since being claimed by the admirable Mike Maker but he has not won a graded stakes race as yet and he may be vulnerable particularly if he gets into a speed duel with Songsational.
Dimension may be the one to upset the applecart. He will enjoy coming off the likely fast pace, is a winner at grade 2 level and has an unblemished one from one record at this unique track.
The last race on the card is the Ladies Sprint Stakes over 6 ½ furlongs and worth $350,000. Mississippi Delta is the 5/2 Morning Line favourite and that choice looks justified. She has been up against some of the best sprinters on the distaff side and her recent third to the top classs Lady Shipman reads very well as there is nothing of her ability in today’s race.
Late Spring is an interesting opponent and may well have earned an each way selection but she does not seem to run this track very well.
And so we move on to the feature race of the meeting, the Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes, a grade 3 over a mile and a half and worth a very pleasant $600,000.
The Morning Line favourite is the Mike Maker trained Da Big Hoss at 7/5. Da Big Hoss may not be the type of horse that delivers the occasional superequine performance that makes you chole on your beer but he is ultra-consistent and that makes him popular with punters. This consistency is admirably demonstrated by his Beyers where he has earned a figure of 100 for each of his last three races.
As with most of the Maker barn, he was acquired out of a claimer (Churchill Downs in 2015) and he has not looked back since with 6 stakes wins (including last year’s renewal of this race) and earnings in excess of $1m.
The absence any clear pace angle is slightly concerning so expect to see him up close to the pace. A good run may earn him a trip to Australia for the Caulfield Cup and possibly even a titlt at the 2 mile Melbourne Cup itself.
Finally, we must give a quick mention to Hastings Park, which has put on a really strong card today with plenty of valuable stakes races. This is apparently the most valuable card ever in this part of Canada.
The feature on the card is the grade 3 British Columbia Derby over a mile and an eighth and worth $150,000. The Morning Line favourite, Opportunistic (9/5), looks to have a great chance. He is a classy horse at this level, is in great form and loves it round here, having won the trial despite having to give weight to all his opponents.