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Kentucky Downs becomes horse racing focal point

By
Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Zulu Alpha, shown winning last year's Kentucky Turf Cup, returns to Kentucky Downs on Saturday to try for a repeat in the $1 million race. Coady Photography, courtesy of Kentucky Downs
Zulu Alpha, shown winning last year's Kentucky Turf Cup, returns to Kentucky Downs on Saturday to try for a repeat in the $1 million race. Coady Photography, courtesy of Kentucky Downs

Sept. 11 (UPI) -- With the Kentucky Derby, Saratoga and Del Mar all in the rear-view mirror, weekend horse racing action shifts to the Kentucky-Tennessee border, north of the border and -- most significantly -- across the pond.

Kentucky Downs offers millions more dollars this weekend in its classy, rich annual get-together, and Woodbine hosts the 2020 version of Canada's premier race, the Queen's Plate.

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England's final 2020 Classic, the historic St Leger, is this weekend, along with important races in both France and Germany that point toward the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Five weekend races in Ireland are "Win and You're In" affairs for the Breeders' Cup. The weekend's big Group 1 in Australia finds Gatting looking to recreate a 100-1 upset victory from a year ago.

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Let's be "gatting" on with it, starting this week with the international scene.

England

Saturday's St Leger at Doncaster is the last and oldest of the British Classics and always a fascinating late-season test for the 3-year-olds.

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The attendant festival normally is a highlight of the British racing season and Doncaster had hoped to have a substantial crowd on hand with pandemic restrictions gradually being eased.

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But, after allowing a limited attendance Wednesday for the first day of the festival, health officials put up the stop sign and the remainder of the meeting was ordered held behind closed doors.

More's the pity as the St Leger itself promises to be a classic Classic, so to speak.

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Pyledriver, a Harbour Watch colt who finished 11th in the Derby, returned to win the Sky Bet Great Volitgeur Stakes at York impressively and rules as the antepost favorite.

Frankie Dettori takes the mount on Santiago for Aidan O'Brien. The Authorized colt, winner of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, exits a third, behind Stradivarius and Nayef Road, in the Group 1 Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup.

Sheikh Hamdan's Hukum, a lightly raced but well-bred Sea the Stars colt, also has every chance. There are other refugees from the Derby and elsewhere who, as usual among the late-developing 3-year-olds, have plenty of upset prospects.

France

Remember Serpentine? Right -- the Galileo colt who opened up that huge lead in the Investec Derby and then didn't give it up, winning by 5 lengths at 25-1 odds. That Serpentine.

He hasn't raced since that triumph but now returns in Sunday's Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris for 3-year-olds at Longchamp, a race delayed from its usual July date by the pandemic but, nonetheless, a hot trial for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

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If Pyledriver, after finishing 11th in the Derby, is the hot prospect for the St Leger, how can Serpentine not figure in this?

On the same Sunday program, Magic Wand headlines the Group 1 Qatar Prix Vermeille against another talented field, pending final declarations. She will be happy to be out of the shadow of Ghaiyyath and Fancy Blue (see the Ireland section), who won the last two races in which she ran.

The 5-year-old Galileo mare, perhaps best known as a consistent runner-up in Group 1 affairs, could use a victory to show she hasn't lost a step or two and point the way to the next few months of competition.

The third of three features, the Prix Foy, is expected to feature a showdown between last year's Derby winner, Anthony Van Dyck, and crack stayer Stradivarius, both targeting the Arc.

Ireland

Saturday's Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, has attracted Godolphin's top-rated runner Ghaiyyath as part of a field of six.

Trainer Charlie Appleby said the 5-year-old had a satisfactory gallop Wednesday and looks poised to contend for his fourth Group 1 win of the season. He comes off a thumping of Magical in the Juddmonte International at York and also has won the Coral-Eclipse and the Coronation Cup.

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Magical will try Ghaiyyath again at Leopardsown as part of a trio of Aidan O'Brien starters, the others being Japan and Armory. O'Brien said Ryan Moore will ride Japan, who earlier in the season was suggested for an international campaign in the final months of 2020.

Also in the mix is 2019 French Derby winner Sottsass. Leo De Fury will be the longest chance in the short field.

Saturday's Group 1 Coolmore America Justify Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, a "Win and You're In" for the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, has a talented field of 11 featuring Prix du Diane and Nassau Stakes winner Fancy Blue, the pride of Donnacha O'Brien's string.

Father Aiden has Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Peaceful, So Wonderful and Love Locket. Albigna could round into form.

Cadillac, a Lope de Vega colt trained by Jessica Harrington, holds the high hand going into Saturday's KPMG Champion Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

Cadillac won at first asking in June and comes off a second in a Group 2 at the Curragh. Aidan O'Brian has only one of the 10 confirmed starters but Joseph Patrick O'Brien has two and Donnacha another so the family is well represented.

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Sunday's Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, had a big and competitive field pending final declarations with Make a Challenge, A'Ali, Glass Slippers and Lope y Fernandez all well-fancied.

Sunday's Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, also had a big, tentative field topped by Pretty Gorgeous, a two-time winner running alternately for John Oxley and Annmarie O'Brien.

Germany

With Ghaiyyath confirmed for the Irish Champions Stakes, Godolphin has reallocated Barney Roy to Sunday's Group 1 Longines Grosser Preis von Baden.

And why not? This will be the third straight start in Germany for the 6-year-old. He won two starts ago in the Group 1 Grosser Dallmayr-Preis - Bayerisches Zuchtrennen July 26 at Munich and finished a close fourth, beaten just more than 1 length, Aug. 15 in the Group 1 Preis von Europa at Cologne when tackling soft going.

Another good showing and he'll be ordering wurst, kraut and a stein for his post-race meal. Top rivals include Quest the Moon, second by a neck to Barney Roy in the Munich race, and the Mark Johnston-trained Communique.

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Australia

Gatting produced the upset of the season a year ago in winning the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington by 3/4 length over Mystic Journey -- at odds of just more than 100-1.

Things haven't gone so well since as the 7-year-old Hard Spun gelding has managed only a couple of Group 2 wins in the interim. He finished last of 13 after a poor start in the Group 1 Memsie at Caulfield after a short break but many of the others in this field are just now coming off holiday so who knows?

Even though the Memsie is but 1,400 meters, it often serves as a starting point for top horses headed for even the Melbourne Cup -- including Makybe Diva herself, who won the 2005 edition. The Makybe Diva stretches contenders out to 1 mile.

Meanwhile, back in North America

The 161st edition of the Queen's Plate on Saturday at Woodbine features a showdown between Plate Trial winner Clayton and Woodbine Oaks winner Curlin's Voyage. A dozen others certainly also have a chance in the oldest continuously run race in North America.

Clayton, a Bodemeister colt, has made four previous starts, winning three including the Trial.

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"He's been special from the get-go," trainer Sid Attard said of Clayton. "He was an impressive maiden winner, so once that happened, the bell starts ringing in your head, and you're saying, 'Hey, maybe I've got a good 3-year-old here.'"

As Clayton added distance through his next three outings, Attard said, he has done "everything you want him to. Hopefully, he just needs to get a little bit better one more time and maybe he can put everything together."

Curlin's Voyage would be the fourth filly to win the Queen's Plate in the span of seven years. Trainer Josie Carroll said the Curlin filly's main asset is consistency.

"She finds a way to get it done," said the trainer, who also has Belichick and Mighty Heart in the field. "She always shows up and she's a very, very special filly. She's very uncomplicated and does everything you ask of her."

Halo Again enters the Queen's Plate after finishing a close second in the Trial. The others have a little more to prove in the 1 1/4-miles test over the Woodbine all-weather course.

The Queen's Plate is the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. The series moves to Fort Erie for the Prince of Wales Stakes at 1 3/16 miles on the dirt Sept. 29, then back to Woodbine Oct. 24 for the Breeders Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on the grass.

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The series is restricted to Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

In other action:

Turf

We noted last week that the glut of high-level turf races packed into this year's late-summer schedule has resulted in a shortage of horses.

Maybe the shortage was caused in part by connections waiting for Saturday's $1 million Grade III Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs because that 1 1/2-miles event on the unique, European-style track has an overflow field -- 12 plus four also-eligibles.

The Kentucky Cup Turf also has a couple standouts in Zulu Alpha and Arklow, who return from a 1-2 finish in last year's edition.

The former, a 7-year-old Street Cry gelding from Mike Maker's barn, has aged as well as any good bourbon and won the Grade II Elkhorn at Keeneland in his last start.

Arklow, a 6-year-old, entire son of Arch, is trained by Brad Cox. He won this race two years back. Experience over this course is a big plus.

"I'm marking the days off on the calendar to race day," Maker said of Zulu Alpha's progress. "I've got to say he's coming into the race this year even better than last, because he's had such a great year."

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This already in the books: Moon Over Miami started from the outside of 12 after drawing in from the also-eligible list in Thursday's $750,000 Gun Runner Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs.

He advanced entering the stretch and continued steadily down the long lane to get by Big Dreaming and win by 1/2 length. It was 3 3/4 lengths more back to Shamrocket in third. Moon Over Miami, a Malibu Moon colt, ran 1 5/16 miles on firm turf in 2:06.76 with Javier Castellano up for trainer Bill Mott.

The colt won for the third time from nine starts. In his last outing he was fourth in the Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga.

"I think the key was a lot of patience," Castellano said. "Ride with a lot of confidence and patience and it's going to pay off. And that's exactly what I did with the horse. I rode with a lot of patience."

Cambier Park is the 6-5 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grade II Canadian at Woodbine.

The 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly, trained by Chad Brown, returns from an 11-month layoff after winning the Grade I Del Mar Oaks and the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland last year. She is 5-for-8 overall and has been working steadily at Saratoga for the comeback effort.

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She faces nine rivals with the Irish-bred Frankel filly Elizabeth Way the most promising. The Roger Attfield trainee won the Grade II Nassau over the course in June and most recently was third in the Grade II Dance Smartly.

Filly & Mare Turf

This just in: Micheline rallied stoutly down the stretch in Thursday's $500,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs and collared the favorite, Harvey's Lil Goil, in the final yards, winning by a neck.

Hard Money was along for third. Micheline, a Godolphin homebred filly by Bernardini, ran 1 5/16 miles on firm turf in 2:06.41. Joel Rosario rode for trainer Michael Stidham. She was fourth in her last start, the Grade II Lake George at Saratoga.

"That horse kind of got away from me," Rosario said of front-running rival Harvey's Lil Goil. "I thought I was never going to catch her. But she kept trying. I was riding, and she kept trying. Finally the last part of it, I got close to the horse and she got up and ran really well."

Regal Glory, another of trainer Chad Brown's stellar turf brigade, is the morning-line favorite among eight for Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Three Chimneys Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs.

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The 4-year-old Animal Kingdom filly was last seen finishing fourth in the Grade I Just a Gleam at Saratoga and hasn't won since posting back-to-back scores at the Spa last summer. Too shaky? Just about any of the other seven could do it if Regal Glory doesn't.

Sunday's $500,000 Ramsey Farm Stakes at 1 5/16 furlongs on the Kentucky Downs grass drew eight with Mrs. Sippy the even-money favorite on the morning line.

The 5-year-old Blame mare, who started her career in England with David Simcock, has a win and two seconds since returning to the United States. She missed beating Sistercharlie in last year's Grade I Flower Bowl by only 3/4 length and then lost all chance in the Breeders' Cup when she hopped at the start.

She returned Aug. 8 at Saratoga, finishing second, a neck shy of Sister Nat, in the Grade III Waya. Theodora B. exits a victory in the Grade II Dance Smartly at Woodbine. English Affair won the prep for this at Ellis Park on soft turf.

Turf Sprint

Saturday's $700,000 Grade III Runhappy Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint and the full field is well matched and plenty talented to deserve a shot at that prize.

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There is no real favorite for the Turf Sprint but the morning line points to Bound for Nowhere, another of Wesley Ward's trans-Atlantic warriors; Kanthaka, second in the Grade I Jaipur at Belmont Park his last time out; Totally Boss, last seen finishing second in the Grade II Shakertown at Keeneland; Stubbins, second the Grade III Franklin Simpson at Kentucky Downs last year; and Front Run the Fed, a Chad Brown charge with nice credentials who steps up in class.

If American Anthem fires in his first try on grass, he could be right there, too. And don't overlook the Illinois-bred, Richiesinthehouse. This is a really nice race.

Got Stormy is the pundits' pick in a big field for Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Spendthrift Farm Ladies Sprint at Kentucky Downs.

The 5-year-old Get Stormy mare exits a second-place finish in the Grade I Fourstardave at Saratoga and has hit the board in 18 of 25 lifetime starts, most against top competition.

This is a diverse field, though, with a fair amount of speed. Also noteworthy is Kimari, last seen finishing second in the Grade I Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot -- a culture universe apart from Kentucky Downs.

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She's cross-entered in the $400,000 Music City for 3-year-olds on Sunday. On the also-eligible list is Lady Lawer, a Chad Brown trainee whose 3-for-5 record in England wasn't good enough for trainer John Gosden and jockey Frankie Dettori.

As noted, Kimari will be one of the ones in Sunday's $400,000 Music City for 3-year-old fillies at Kentucky Downs if she doesn't take on elders in Saturday's race. You'd think fellow 3-year-olds might be an easier task but that's not necessarily the case.

This full field includes Grade II Rachel Alexandra winner Finite, who broke her maiden a year ago on the Kentucky Downs turf; Grade II Appalachian Stakes winner Enola Gay; Grade III Florida Oaks winner Outburst; and two-time Tampa Bay Downs stakes winner Lucrezia.

Also in here are Bredenbury, She's My Type, She's So Special, Lighthouse, Miss J McKay and Hear My Prayer -- all turf stakes winners at tracks as diverse as Belmont Park, Saratoga, Santa Anita, Laurel Park and Gulfstream Park.

Sprint / Dirt Mile

Anothertwistafate, making his first start since finishing 10th in the Preakness Stakes 16 months ago, waited early in Thursday night's $100,000 Grade III Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs, came four-wide into the stretch and kicked away to win by 4 1/2 lengths as the favorite.

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Five Star General was best of the rest, another 2 3/4 lengths in front of The Press. Anothertwistafate, a 4-year-old Scat Daddy colt, reported in 1:34.10 over a fast track. Juan Gutierrez had the mount.

Anothertwistafate was second in both the Grade III Sunland Park Derby and the Grade III Lexington at Keeneland before his Preakness start.

Trainer Blaine Wright told the Seattle Times this week the colt "didn't pull up real good" at the end of the second jewel of the Triple Crown and had some "horse issues" in the intervening months.

The race is a remnant of the old Longacres Park, which was taken over by its neighbor, Boeing, closed in 1992 and was demolished two years later. Emerald Downs opened in 1996.

Juvenile Turf

Saturday's $500,000 Fifth Third Insurance Juvenile Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs looks to go through trainer Wesley Ward's duo of Fauci and Outadore. Fauci, a Malibu Moon colt, won on his second try during the Keeneland meeting and exits a second-place showing in the Skidmore at Saratoga.

Outadore, by Outwork, won his only previous start, a Saratoga maiden affair, by 2 3/4 lengths. Another to watch, though, is the Steve Asmusssen-trained County Final, an Oxbow colt.

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He won his first start on the Churchill Downs turf, returned to finish second in the Grade III Bashford Manor on the Churchill Downs dirt, then won the off-the-turf Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park by 4 1/4 lengths. A field of 10 is set.

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Sunday's $400,000 Untapable Stakes at Kentucky Downs has a field of 11, most of them recent maiden winners. But not all maiden wins are equal and the 8 1/2-lengths score Red Ghost posted in her only previous start stands out not only because of the margin and the 73 Beyer Speed Figure, but also because it came at Saratoga.

The only caveat: That race was an off-the-turf affair. Still, the chestnut Ghostzapperfilly, trained by the estimable Wesley Ward, has been working quite adequately on the greensward. And, of course, with lightly raced youngsters, there's unlimited upside potential for the others.

Also:

Canterbury Park

Minnesota-breds were on display Wednesday. Unfortunately, the rain gods did not approve and the track was sloppy, the turf races off the turf. Each was worth $110,000.

Ready to Runaway, the prohibitive favorite, won the Bella Note Minnesota Distaff Sprint by 4 1/2 lengths over pinup girl. Fireman Oscar came from last to first in the Crocrock Minnesota Sprint, prevailing by 3 lengths over the favorite, Cinco Star.

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Drop of Golden Sun (we wish!) took the Blair's Cove Minnesota Turf, leading all the way to a 2-lengths score. Clickbait kicked away in the stretch to win the Princess Elaine Minnesota Distaff Turf by 7 1/2 lengths with Hotasapistol second.

Sneeky Diversion battled to the lead in the Northern Lights Futurity for colts and geldings, then edged away to win by 1 1/2 lengths from Fitzpatrick. In the Northern Lights Debutante for 2-year-old fillies, Star of the North dominated, winning by 4 1/2 lengths.

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