Get ready for another turf extravaganza at Kentucky Downs on Saturday (Sept. 9) – six $1 million races, two of them “Win and You’re In’’ Breeders’ Cup automatic qualifiers, and an overflow field of 16 entered for the $1.7 million Kentucky Turf Cup (G2).
The Turf Cup at 1 ½ miles is loaded with graded stakes winners, with no less than four Grade 1 victors – Therapist (United Nations) Red Knight (Man o’War), Santin (2022 Arlington Million), and Nautilus (2022 Brasil).
The winner earns a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.
Trainer Mike Maker holds a strong hand. He’ll send out Therapist, an 8-year-old gelding, as the slight 7-2 favorite over stablemate Red Knight at 4-1. They ran first and third, respectively, in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations at Monmouth Park on July 22.
Verstappen, a youthful 4-year-old in the field, is 9-2 for trainer Brendan Walsh coming off a runner-up finish to Channel Maker in the Bowling Green (G2) at Saratoga on July 30.
Santin won the 2021 Arlington Million at Churchill Downs and ran second in the 2022 edition at Colonial Downs in his most recent start on Aug. 12 for Walsh.
The maximum field is 12, with Cellis, Sy Dog, Highest Honors, and Red Runs listed as also-eligibles. Maker also trains Red Run.
Since the track is not your normal oval shape, and the run to the finish is uphill, the winner could be the one with an extra gear up the stretch.
Therapist looks like a solid bet as he comes into the race off two wins at 1 ½ miles. Red Knight, meanwhile, won this race last year, edging Gufo by a nose. Both veterans will come running from off the pace.
Get Smokin, a 15-1 longshot trained by Mark Casse, is likely to start on the lead and hopefully end up there. He was beaten less than a length in each of his last three starts.
“He’s extremely good right now,” Casse said. “He is one of those horses that likes to be on the lead and the farther you go, the easier it is to be on the lead. This is a bit of an experiment, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Post time for the race is 6:05 p.m. ET
The five other $1 million races on the card are:
Turf Sprint (G2) for 3-year-olds & up at 6 furlongs: This is the other “Win and You’re In’’ race to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Cogburn is the 4-1 favorite in a full field of 12 with one also-eligible. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the 4-year-old colt has won three in a row, most recently the Troy (G3) at Saratoga on Aug. 5. One Timer is the 9-2 second choice coming off a win in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint.
Franklin-Simpson (G2) for 3-year-olds at 6 1/2 furlongs: This sprint drew an overflow field of 16, with the favorite Mo Stash the 4-1 favorite for trainer Victoria Oliver. There’s a filly in the 12-horse field, too, Playlist, trained by Wesley Ward.
Ladies Turf Sprint (G2) for fillies & mares, 3 years old & up at 6 1/2 furlongs: Bay Storm is the 9-5 favorite in a field of nine. The 5-year-old mare trained by Jonathan Thomas has a solid record of 16-5-6-3. Florent Geroux has the call from post 6.
Ladies Turf (G3) for fillies & mares, 3 years old & up at 1 mile: Bill Mott-trained White Frost is the 9-5 favorite over 5-2 New Year’s Eve. A 5-year-old mare, White Frost may not win but she’ll get a piece of the prize with a 2023 record of 1-4-1 from six starts.
Ladies Marathon (G3), fillies & mares for 3 years old & up at 1 5/16 miles: Vergara, trained by Graham Motion, is the 2-1 top choice in a field of six. Transient and Personal Best are the 3-1 co-second choices.
Note: Each purse includes $400,000 in Kentucky Thoroughbred Development money.
The field for the $1.7 million Kentucky Turf Cup (G2), from the rail out, with jockey, trainer, odds:
1 Foreign Relations (John Velazquez, Conor Murphy), 12-1
2 Red Knight (Tyler Gaffalione, Mike Maker), 4-1
3 Verstappen (Declan Cannon, Brendan Walsh), 9-2
4 Santin (Florent Geroux, Brendan Walsh), 5-1
5 Get Smokin (Fernando De La Cruz, Mark Casse), 15-1
6 Me and Mr. C (Gerardo Corrales, Mike Maker), 10-1
7 Kitodan (Irad Ortiz, Jr., Eric Foster) 12-1
8 Never Explain (Joel Rosario, Shug McGaughey), 8-1
9 Nautilus (Joe Talamo, Paul Lobo), 30-1
10 Another Mystery (Brian Hernandez, Jr., Chris Block), 30-1
11 Therapist (Javier Castellano, Mike Maker), 7-2
12 Spooky Channel (James Graham, Jason Barkley), 20-1
13 Sy Dog (Jareth Loveberry, Graham Motion), 20-1
14 Cellis (Martin Garcia, George Arnold), 10-1
15 Highest Honors (Irad Ortiz, Jr., Chad Brown (8-1)
16 Red Run (Vincent Cheminaud, Mike Maker), 20-1
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.