Contentious field of 11 set for Kentucky Turf Cup War Dancer (inside) registered his second graded stakes score when defeating Suntracer in the May 24 Louisville H.
Kentucky Downs features another stakes-packed program Saturday, highlighted by the Grade 3, $600,000 Kentucky Turf Cup. The 1 1/2-mile affair has attracted a well-matched field of 11, including Grade 2 hero War Dancer; Tricky Hat and Holiday Star, the one-two finishers in the John’s Call at Saratoga; and 2013 runner-up Olympic Thunder.
The turf-only Franklin, Kentucky track will also offer the $200,000 More Than Ready Mile, $200,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf and $200,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint. The Turf Cup received a $200,000 purse increase this year and War Dancer is a likely favorite following his fourth-place effort in the August 17 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga. The four-year-old War Front colt finished 2 1/4 lengths behind Main Sequence, who has strung together Grade 1 victories in his last two starts, and War Dancer has run well in all four turf stakes attempts this season, recording a second in the Elkhorn at Keeneland; a victory in the Louisville H. at Churchill Downs; and a close third in the Arlington H. prior to the Sword Dancer.
Alan Garcia retains the mount on War Dancer, one of two runners in the field for trainer Kenny McPeek along with Olympic Thunder. The latter will need to turn his form around, producing unplaced efforts in his last two outings, but Olympic Thunder showed an affinity for the European-style course last year, missing by a neck to the winning Temeraine. The six-year-old adds blinkers and jockey Chris Landeros on Saturday. Tricky Hat, a Chilean-bred son of Hat Trick, will enter on the upswing for Shug McGaughey, rallying to post a nose win in the 1 5/8-mile John’s Call on August 6. The five-year-old gelding notched his first stakes victory last fall when capturing the Laurel Turf Cup at 12 furlongs and the distance-loving dark bay will keep Rosie Napravnik in the saddle.
Holiday Star just missed in the John’s Call, surrendering the lead in the final strides to his oncoming rival, and the Graham Motion-trained gelding is a threat to notch his first stakes victory in this spot. Unplaced in his first two stakes attempts at shorter distances last year, the four-year-old has found his niche in extended turf events, recording a third in the 1 1/2-mile Cape Henlopen two starts back. Edgar Prado rides the Pennsylvania-bred son of Harlan’s Holiday. Mike Maker will send out three uncoupled runners including Saffron Hall, who registered a career-best 103 BRIS Speed rating posting a wire-to-wire allowance/optional claiming victory at 1 1/2 miles over Saratoga’s turf last out.
Todd Pletcher is responsible for Pyrite Mountain, who picks up the services of Julien Leparoux following a pair of runner-up finishes at Saratoga. Multiple stakes victor Suntracer and Grade 3 runner-up O’Prado Ole are also entered. A pair of multiple stakes winners this season, Guys Reward and Regally Ready, head a field of nine in the More Than Ready Mile. Guys Reward has captured a pair Grade 3 victories for Dale Romans, including the Oceanport two starts back, and the seven-year-old exits a respectable fourth in the August 24 Cliff Hanger at Monmouth Park, finishing behind Winning Cause and Big Blue Kitten. Corey Lanerie takes over the reins.
Regally Ready was last seen posting a 12-length thrashing in the off-the-turf West Virginia Speakers Cup and won the Opening Verse on the turf at Churchill Downs three starts back. An earner of more than $1.4 million and winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, the seven-year-old gelding has developed into a nice miler for Steve Asmussen and will keep Napravnik up.
Multiple Grade 3 queen I’m Already Sexy tops an overflow field of 16 in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf. Only 12 will be allowed to start in the one-mile event and I’m Already Sexy should appreciate the class relief following her sixth in the Grade 1 Beverly D. The Wayne Catalano charge captured the Modesty H. two starts back and Florent Geroux will be back aboard the four-year-old daughter of Ready’s Image. Her main foes include multiple Grade 3 vixen Miz Ida, winner of the 2012 edition; Honey Hues, conqueror of the Mint Julep and Ellis Park Turf this summer; and recent stakes winner Sister Ginger.
Another overflow of 15, including three also-eligibles, was entered for the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint at six furlongs. Sky Treasure, a close second in the Royal North two back and an allowance winner most recently at Woodbine, is the one to beat for trainer Mark Casse. The four-year-old Sky Mesa filly will pick up the services of Garcia.