The Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep-race

 

This Saturday at Kentucky Downs features a 10-race card with five stakes races worth $3.2 million in purses, and is the perhaps best race day of the annual Kentucky Downs five-day boutique race meet. On a day of great races, the best race on the card, and certainly the race with the most Breeders’ Cup implications, very well might be Race 7 – the $700,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3). The six-furlong race stakes for three-year-olds and up is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race. As you’d expect, it’s a race with a full wide-open field, and there are few toss-outs in the field of 10 that is prime for a good payoff in the exotics if you can come up with the right horses.

TURF SPRINT ANALYSIS

The Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint distance of six furlongs could be the key to handicapping the race. There are so many top-notch turf sprinters in the race, but some of them seem to prefer shorter turf sprint distances. Find the horses who figure to benefit most from the distance of this race at six furlongs instead of 5 1/2 furlongs, and you might come up with the right horses in the exactas and trifectas.

Both Totally Boss (#10) (6-1) and Leinster (#8) (3-1) exit impressive 5 1/2-furlong wins and are both better than ever and on a roll, and importantly, both seem like they’ll be capable at six furlongs. Two others in this field, Wet Your Whistle (#1) (8-1) and White Flag (#6) (8-1) are proven winners at six furlongs, and both of them are fast enough and good enough to win this if they bring their “A game.”

TURF SPRINT WAGERS

$2 Exacta Box 1, 6, 8, 10 = $24
$1 Trifecta Box 1, 6, 8, 10 = $24

Here’s a brief look at this year’s Kentucky Downs Runhappy Turf Sprint field:

WET YOUR WHISTLE (#1) (8-1) is a Grade 1 winner this year at six furlongs on the turf in Woodbine’s Highlander Stakes, which capped off a four-race winning streak that also included a turf sprint stakes win at Monmouth Park. Comes out of a loss to Leinster and other heavyweights Like Pure Sensation in the Troy Stakes (G3) at Saratoga last time, but that defeat will help his price in this spot and he’s capable of turning the tables at this contest’s six-furlong distance.

CAUTIOUS GIANT (#2) (15-1) is an 11-time winner on the dirt who is 0-for-4 in his career in turf sprints. Exits a 3l claiming race last time out, and seems overmatched and in too deep versus this field. Main appeal are the top connections, perennial leading trainer Mike Maker and 2018 Kentucky Downs and 2019 Saratoga leading jockey Jose Ortiz.

IMPRIMIS (#3) (4-1) makes first start back in the States since shipping to England for a competitive sixth-place finish at Royal Ascot in a key race that has yielded multiple last-out winners. Has racked up an imposing 7-for-10 record in the win column in turf sprints, but all of those victories, as well as the Royal Ascot try, were in shorter races at five or 5 1/2 furlongs. His lone attempt at six furlongs to date did not pan out (finished 6th), and horses sometimes need a race to regain top form upon their returns from overseas.

SMART REMARK (#4) (20-1) exits a series of losses dating back to last October in a dirt race at Keeneland. Owns some competitive turf sprint results, including a runner-up finish behind the monster World of Trouble in the Turf Sprint (G3) at Churchill Downs this spring. That effort looks like his ceiling, however, and there are too many big losses on his ledger, including losses to horses in this race, to be able to consider him a logical contender.

UNDRAFTED (#5) (10-1) enters this race off a series of three straight fourth-place finishes in races at Churchill Downs and last time in the Green Flash at Del Mar, where he finished behind Stormy Liberal. Also lost to Smart Remark and Totally Boss in those recent races. He’s winless in five lifetime outings at Kentucky Downs, but if you want to make a case for him it’s notable that he lost this same race by less than a length when fourth last season.

WHITE FLAG (#6) (8-1) exits a third-place finish in the Highlander at Woodbine in his last start, where he lost to Wet Your Whistle, but it nevertheless was a good effort in his first start back from a five-month layoff versus an opponent in midseason form. Runs well at this six-furlong distance, which is a strength of his as opposed to a weakness for some of these rivals. Finished second in this race last year, just missing by a head, and since then won the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship at six furlongs last fall. Makes sense vs. these on his best days, and should improve here in his second start off the long layoff for turf sprint ace trainer Christophe Clement.

JAZZY TIMES (#7) (15-1) finished second in the Ellis Park prep for this race in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint, but will need to turn the tables on Totally Boss, who beat him that day, as well as other tough new challengers in this field. Seems to love Ellis Park, but has never been able to repeat his big Ellis Park turf sprint efforts on any other course.

LEINSTER (#8) (3-1) is the hottest turf sprinter in the land following his giant win over Disco Partner and Pure Sensation in the Troy (G3) last out at Saratoga, where he ran an eye-popping 1:00.23 at 5 1/2 furlongs. This horse’s turnaround is amazing, transforming from a career maiden into a graded winner in the span of three big wins since converting to a turf sprinter for high-percentage trainer Rusty Arnold. Can he win at six furlongs and can he repeat that kind of amazing effort from the Troy? Or will that race take something out of him?

STORMY LIBERAL (#9) (9-2) is a globetrotter who has raced at the top echelons of the turf sprint division last year and this year, and is the reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint champion. Unfortunately he has not appeared to be the same since that Breeders’ Cup tour de force, losing two subsequent Santa Anita races, including an allowance, losing in Dubai, and then losing again when not even favored in his stateside return last out in the Green Flash (G3) at Del Mar. He’s 0-for-5 in his career at six furlongs on turf. Always a win candidate, but is worth betting against as one of the favorites.

TOTALLY BOSS (#10) (6-1) exits a track record win at Ellis Park where he ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:00.1. His form this season has been magnificent, with three wins in four turf sprints, including that stakes victory in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint, and the lone loss was by a nose when nipped by Om at Churchill Downs. Forms a formidable uncoupled 1-2 punch for trainer Rusty Arnold along with Leinster, and he’s on a roll and certainly capable of stepping up enough to beat this caliber of competition.

PHOTO: Kentucky Downs (c) Coady Photography/Kentucky Downs