Another big Saturday in racing and this time around, the attention shifts to Kentucky Downs.
Once one of the best-kept secrets in betting, Kentucky Downs has now gone 'big time,' catching the attention of top owners, trainers, jockeys and horseplayers from around the world. Saturday's card attracted gigantic fields across each of its ten races. Plus, big names like Julien Leparoux, Florent Geroux, Drayden Van Dyke, Mike Maker, Shug McGaughey, Mark Casse, Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott and Wesley Ward are among the entrants.
Something to keep an eye on at Kentucky Downs this fall. With the Breeders' Cup in Louisville in November, the races at Kentucky Downs take on a little extra importance for handicappers. Local horses who may have otherwise bypassed the 'Cup' - due to it including a flight to California - might just stick around and take a shot. The good horses would have gone either way, but the fringe contenders will likely target the BC if they can run out of their barn. And those are the type of horses that can trigger a massive Breeders' Cup payout.
Last week I went 3-for-4 in the Woodward Day Late Pick 4 at Saratoga. Turns out, they don't pay for that! Go figure. In hindsight, I went too deep to catch Raging Bull ($6.50) in the Saranac, equally too deep to get to Yoshida ($14.40) in the Woodward and appropriately deep to get to Lady Montdore ($10.40) in the Glens Falls. Problem is, there aren't any scenarios where I'd have landed on Sippican Harbor ($34.00) in the Spinaway. Props to those who did - the Late Pick 4 paid $1,482.
Here's Saturday's Late Pick 4 analysis. The Kentucky Downs Late Pick 4 features 14% takeout.
Race 7 (5:26PM ET) - Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Stakes (G3)
Storyline: The 14% Takeout All-Stakes Late Pick 4 kicks off with the Ladies Turf Stakes and I'm curious to see if Dubara can run as well this week as she did last Saturday when she nearly won the One Dreamer Stakes. I loved her that day and still like her, but I can't help but wonder if she had her chance that time. For what it's worth, nobody here appears to be as good as On Leave, who won that race.
- I'm Betty G (7/2) - Maker/Gaffalione - She's won three straight at Belmont, Canterbury and Ellis and brings plenty of confidence to this race. She's going to go to the front early - that's pretty much a given - and her chances are dependent on how much pressure she faces.
- Storm the Hill (4/1) - D'Amato/Leparoux - California shipper won the G3 Wilshire Stakes at Santa Anita on June 24 and was a decent 5th in the G2 Yellow Ribbon last out at Del Mar. She's in the best form of her life since moving to D'Amato's barn and is a threat if she runs back to her Wilshire.
- In the Lee (5/1) - McGaughey/Ortiz - She's never run a clunker in eight career starts and she nearly upset the Perfect Sting Stakes at Belmont on June 30 at odds of nearly 6/1. I really like her recent form and think she could be tough in here, especially with reigning Eclipse Award winning jockey Jose Ortiz in the irons.
- Dubara (GB) (15/1) - Walsh/Beschizza - She got a crash course over the KY Downs turf last Saturday and ran pretty well in the One Dreamer. Would have preferred to see her close a bit more stoutly but I like Walsh's optimism in wheeling her right back.
How I'm Betting: I'll use my top three - I'm Betty G, Storm the Hill and In the Lee aggressively - and try to get one of them home. If the winner isn't in that group, I don't know where she's going to come from.
Pick 4 Horses I'm Using: I'm Betty G, Storm the Hill, In the Lee
Race 8 (5:57PM ET) - Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint Stakes (G3)
Storyline: Lull is a perfect 2-for-2 at Kentucky Downs, having won here each of the last two seasons. Can she make it three in a row for trainer Christophe Clement? She's a true 'horse for the course' and a lot of money - mine included - will be riding on her in multi-race bets.
- Lull (2/1) - Clement/Hernandez Jr. - She's earned $906K in her career, is a two-time G3 winner and, as mentioned above, is a perfect 2-for-2 at Kentucky Downs. This race goes through her. Earlier this year she won the G3 Honey Fox at Gulfstream and ran a very nice third in the G1 Just a Game at Belmont.
- Ruby Notion (3/1) - Miller/Geroux - I'm betting that her last race was an aberration. She won Saratoga's Caress Stakes by 2-lengths over a soft turf course - her first win in over a year. She's always been at her best in short turf sprints so Saturday's 6 1/2-furlong distance may not suit her.
- Con Te Partiro (6/1) - Ward/Jimenez - She won at Royal Ascot last summer as a 20/1 outsider but is winless since. This appears to be her distance, though, and seeing her get a piece of the prize wouldn't be a shock. She's been running in races this year that are probably slightly too long for her.
- Brielle's Appeal (5/1) - Stall/Bridgmohan - Speedy daughter of English Channel has never raced beyond 5 1/2-furlongs but will be the one to catch. She went way too fast early in the Caress (against Ruby Notion) and should move forward from that one.
How I'm Betting: Key Lull over in Exactas and Trifectas over Brielle's Appeal, Con Te Partiro, Ruby Notion and Originator. You may not get rich in this race, but you can cash some tickets.
Pick 4 Horses I'm Using: Lull
Race 9 (6:29PM ET) - Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint Stakes (G3)
Storyline: Eight-year-old Undrafted is one of the coolest horses in North America, having won 8-of-36 career starts with a bankroll of more than $1.4 million. He's won at Royal Ascot, Churchill, Keeneland and everywhere in between. He's 0-for-4 at Kentucky Downs but he's been off the board just once here. Note that he and Conquest Panthera scratched from Thursday's Old Friends Stakes and should run here. Master Merion stayed in the Old Friends and will scratch here.
- Conquest Panthera (5/1) - Casse/Geroux - He ran into nicer horses (Inspector Lynley, Projected) in the Lure Stakes at Saratoga on August 11. He's a G2 winner at Woodbine and the biggest concern is he's just 2 for his last 15 and hasn't won for nearly 13 months.
- White Flag (6/1) - Clement/Rosario - He has the look of a really nice horse and one whose form should transfer nicely to Kentucky Downs. He's only run one clunker on the turf and I like that his best races have come going longer than the traditional turf sprint distance of 5 or 5 1/2-furlongs. His best races came going 6-furlong or 7, so he should handle this trip well.
- Jazzy Times (15/1) - Hawley/Kennedy - He beat a nice field in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint at Ellis on August 5 and has been a new horse since Wesley Hawley moved him to turf two starts ago. He has a solid running style for a race like this and should get a jump on the closers. He's too sharp to ignore completely.
- Undrafted (4/1) - Ward/Garcia - His credentials tower over this field but it's time to wonder if he's still got it. He hasn't won a stakes race since April 2016 (0-for-9 in stakes races since) and it's a good time to try and beat him.
How I'm Betting: Let's look to beat Undrafted with Conquest Panthera and White Flag. I'm also skeptical of Blind Ambition on a firm course. His best race this year came on wet turf.
Pick 4 Horses I'm Using: White Flag, Conquest Panthera, Vici, Jazzy Times, Done Deal
Race 10 (6:59PM ET) - Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup (G3)
Storyline: Mike Maker appears intent on winning this race for the fourth year in a row, having entered five horses (four are in the main body of the field, one is on the AE list). He won back to back editions with Da Big Hoss in 2015 and 2016 and then scored last year with Oscar Nominated. With its $750,000 purse, this is one of the richest races in North America for turf marathoners. You should expect to see the top one or two finishers go on to the Breeders' Cup Turf where they're sure to be a longshot.
- Oscar Nominated (7/2) - Maker/Ortiz - Last year, he parlayed mediocre results in the United Nations (7th) and Arlington Million (8th) to Kentucky Turf Cup glory. Can he do the same this year, as he most recently was 6th in the United Nations. He loves the going at Kentucky Downs and could be tough to beat.
- Manitoulin (6/1) - Toner/Graham - Hard to figure this horse out. He endured a terrible trip and ran 4th in the G1 Manhattan in June at Belmont, finishing in a blanket photo with Spring Quality, Sadler's Joy, Hi Happy, et al. Last year he won the G2 Hollywood Turf Cup. Problem is, he was a no-show 8th (at low odds) in his only local start.
- Bigger Picture (9/2) - Maker/Gaffalione - Maker appears to be loaded for this one as he also sends out Bigger Picture, who won the 2017 G1 United Nations at 10/1. He shows tumultuous form, but his A-Game would win this. Tyler Gaffalione won two races on Opening Day last Saturday.
- Soglio (12/1) - Maker/Saez - Maker seems intent on winning this race and the third of his horses - Soglio - isn't a horse to overlook. He finished a close-up third in the G3 Stars N Stripes Stakes at Arlington in July and has really turned a corner in recent starts. If he likes the Kentucky Downs configuration, look out.
How I'm Betting: I slightly favor Oscar Nominated, so I'm going to use him on top. A host of horses can run 2nd or 3rd, so you may be better off just making a Win bet or wheeling him over the ALL button.
Pick 4 Horses I'm Using: Oscar Nominated, Bigger Picture, Soglio, Big Bend