The firm turf course was a little more forward on Thursday. Four of the five sprint races were won by forward horses. There were two gate-to wire winners in the longer races, along with two victorious stalkers and one closer.
Joe Sharp and Adam Beschizza teamed up for a double and Julien Leparoux also rode two winners.
It’s been a frustrating first two days for Mike Maker, who is winless from 19 starts with seven seconds and four thirds. He made 44 starts at Kentucky Downs last year, winning nine. It looks like he’ll blow that number of runners away this season, and there will surely be a few wins mixed in there.
The early Pick 5 sequence featured four favorites and a 7-2 shot, but the late Pick 5 had winners of 7-2, 43-1, 4-1, 8-1 and 13-1 and there were no perfect tickets. Unfortunately, instead of a carryover, Kentucky Downs paid out the entire pool to those who had four of five.
The Saturday forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 88 degrees. Expect the turf to play to profile – forward in sprints and off the pace in routes.
With the top pick listed first, “A” horses are in order or preference. Remember, the takeout on Pick 4 and Pick 5 wagers at Kentucky Downs is only 14%, so take advantage!
1ST RACE – Pick 5 starts here
Off three consecutive runner-up performance, the last two sprinting against tough New York competition on turf, the speedy Brittas Bay (#10) (3-1) looms as the horse to beat. Gold Star Mama (#13) (5-2) is entered back on short rest off a gut-wrenching loss dashing over the Ellis green. Georgia Clay (#2) (10-1) looms as the sleeper. A $250,000 yearling purchase, she finally debuts as a late season three-year-old. The works are sneaky good, she’s bred to win early on turf, and the presence of Shaun Bridgmohan leads me to believe she has early speed. This is the first leg of the Pick 5, so you do have the benefit of watching the toteboard for clues and checking out the combatants in the paddock and on the track before stepping up to the plate.
A – 10, 13, 2
B – 9, 3, 16, 7, 8, 12
C – 15, 1, 6
2ND RACE – Pick 4 starts here
Should he draw in, Kid Lemuel (#16) (3-1) gets in what doesn’t appear to be the strongest race for the level. He’s on the improve and should get first run on the deep closers. Another horse pointed in the right direction is Split the Wickets (#3) (9-2). He’s won two of his last three and has a nightmarish trip in the race he lost. A winner over 12 furlongs of dirt earlier in the year, Ucanthankmelater (#6) (6-1) is a consistent and versatile runner who is proven over marathon distances.
A – 16, 3, 6
B – 7, 1, 11, 9, 14
C – 4, 10, 13
Off slowly in her career debut, Biriba (#5) (6-1) charged hard to just miss over seven furlongs of dirt at Ellis Park. Ken McPeek has fantastic stats with second-time starters and this one should appreciate the added ground to work with. Swanage (#4) (7-2) has improved with every start for Mike Maker. She has dangerous speed in a race that lacks front-running types and could put it all together here. Melissani (#8) (10-1) finished with energy over a yielding Laurel Park turf course on debut and trainer Mike Stidham also boasts fine numbers second out of the box.
A – 5, 4, 8
B – 1, 14, 10, 15, 16
C – 9, 7, 6
Lemniscate (#8) (9-2) has had some ups and downs in his young career, but based on his past performances and pedigree, sprinting on turf might be what he was born to do. Proven at the trip, I Can Do Anything (#10) (7-2) enters this assignment as sharp as a tack. He possesses natural speed, but also the finishing punch to seal the deal.
A – 8, 10
B – 7, 1, 2, 6
C – 11
This is perhaps the most puzzling race of the day. Midnight Oasis (#2) (6-1) ran a credible race on debut during the championship meet at Gulfstream. He returns fresh off a forward series of works with first-time Lasix and Jose Ortiz in tow. Third in each of his first two starts, the second of which came sprinting on grass at Ellis Park, Special Reserve (#8) (5-1) adds blinkers and looks rested and ready for this one. Tell Your Daddy (#14) (4-1) ran on monster race on grass two back, and I’m not going to hold that recent dirt route against him. Declined (#13) (3-1) should be in the thick of this battle from go to whoa, and if others don’t improve, he could take advantage. After flashing speed in turf routes, cutting back in distance might be the key for the Embellisher (#16) (9-2).
A – 2, 8, 14, 13, 16
B – 9, 5
C – 7, 4, 3
6TH RACE – Pick 5 starts here
The betting public might not take consecutive wins by Cambria (#4) (12-1) at Presque Isle Downs as seriously as they should. Chimney Rock (#9) (7-2) put it all together with second-time blinkers last out at Saratoga. It looks like he found his niche sprinting on turf. Woodbine invaders Alcools (#10) (6-1) and Scocciatore (#11) (6-1) were both purchased privately off recent maiden breakers. They invade with purpose for a formidable ownership group. This is the first leg of the Pick 5, so you do have the benefit of watching the toteboard for clues and checking out the combatants in the paddock and on the track before stepping up to the plate.
A – 4, 9, 10, 11
B – 8, 1
C – 12, 4, 7, 6
7TH RACE – Pick 4 starts here
Imprimis (#3) (4-1) scored one of the most visually impressive wins of the year in the Shakertown (G2) at Keeneland back in April. He didn’t disgrace himself at Royal Ascot under much different conditions and appears on edge to fire fresh in this one. It look Leinster (#8) (3-1) forever to break his maiden, but he’s since rattled off three wins in a row and has emerged as one of the top turf sprinters in the country.
A – 3, 8
B – 9, 10
C – 1
Simply Breathless (#2) (5-1) possesses a scintillating turn of foot over a mile of turf and her California rival Storm the Hill (#5) (3-1) looms as the main threat. Price shot Kallio (#3) (10-1) is on the improve and she may not have reached her ceiling just yet, and you also have to respect the consistency of Viva Vegas (#4) (8-1) and Mitchell Road (#7) (5-2).
A – 2, 5
B – 3, 4, 7
Oleksandra (#3) (3-1) has won four of her last six at a variety of venues and she finishes off her races with authority. In her last seven races as the favorite, often odds on, Morticia (#7) (4-1) has only come through twice. She’s as good as any here, but is certainly tough to lean on.
A – 3, 7
B – 10
C – 1, 12, 4, 6
Arklow (#10) (5-2) edged Bigger Picture (#5) (8-1) in this race last year despite not having the greatest of trips and he appears to be a better horse now than he was then. Zulu Alpha (#9) (9-2) is better than ever and he should get first run on the deep closers. Fan favorite. My Boy Jack (#2) (12-1) has run even better than it looks on turf in his last two starts and he looms as a multi-race sleeper here.
A – 10
B – 9, 5, 2
C – 11
PHOTO: Kentucky Downs (c) Coady Photography/Kentucky Downs