December 3, 2023

Speed carries Get Smokin to Turf Cup upset on stakes-laden card at Kentucky Downs

Get Smokin leads all the way in the Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs (Photo by Coady Photography)

Kentucky Downs featured six lucrative turf stakes on Saturday’s blockbuster program, and speed ruled in the centerpiece event, the $1,675,429 Kentucky Turf Cup (G2), as Get Smokin dominated on the front end. Fernando De La Cruz hustled the six-year-old gelding to a clear lead from the starting gate, and the 19-1 outsider was unchallenged throughout in a 1 3/4-length romp.

Trained by Mark Casse, Get Smokin guaranteed himself a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 4 for taking the “Win & You’re In” race. He completed 1 1/2 miles in 2:28.66 on the firm ground, and the chestnut Kentucky-bred son of Get Stormy is campaigned by Ironhorse Racing Stable, BlackRidge Stables, T-N-T Equine Holdings, and Saratoga Seven Racing Partners.

Spooky Channel, overlooked at 17-1, charged up the inside to claim second by a head over 4.29-1 second choice Santin, who was a nose better than 3.91-1 favorite Red Knight in fourth. Verstappen came next in fifth, and Kitodan, Me and Mr. C, Therapist, Never Explain, Foreign Relations, Another Mystery, and Nautilus followed.

An allowance winner at Gulfstream in his 2023 opener, Get Smokin started to come on this summer, recording runner-up finishes in the Arlington (G3) at Churchill Downs and Wise Dan (G2) at Churchill Downs. He led until late in the Kentucky Downs Kentucky Turf Cup Preview S. at Ellis Park on Aug. 6, winding up a length back in fourth, and proved better than ever on the front end Saturday.

The Kentucky Turf Cup marked his third graded and fourth overall stakes win, and Get Smokin’s career record now reads 27-6-7-2.

Calumet Farm’s homebred Gear Jockey sprung a 23-1 upset in the $998,667 Turf Sprint (G2), prevailing by a head in a wild finish as the top five were separated by a length. The six-year-old horse raced up close from the start with Jose Lezcano, and the Rusty Arnold trainee completed six furlongs in 1:10.59.

Gear Jockey earned an expenses-paid berth to the Turf Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series race.

Winless from eight starts since capturing the 2021 Turf Sprint (G3) at Kentucky Downs, including five consecutive unplaced outings, Gear Jockey displayed improved speed after breaking alertly, tracking pacesetter Bad Beat Brian in second. He offered a bid to take a short lead in deep stretch and gamely persevered over a host of challengers.

One Timer, the 3-2 favorite, came charging on the far outside but just missed, winding up a neck better than Bad Beat Brian, who kept fighting to the wire. It was another neck to late-running Olympic Runner in fourth, and Cogburn had every chance from just off the pace before winding up a close fifth.

Gear Jockey became Thoroughbred racing’s newest millionaire, pushing his career earnings past $1 million from a 24-5-2-6 record. The Kentucky-bred son of Animal Kingdom likes Kentucky Downs, establishing a new course record (1:07.90) and his lone previous stakes win in the 2021 Turf Sprint, and he’s logged five stakes placings.

In the $900,000 Ladies Turf Sprint (G2), Bridlewood Farm’s Bay Storm sprinted to the fore after the break and held Wanaka safe by a head to earn her second consecutive narrow stakes victory. Florent Geroux and Jonathon Thomas teamed up for their second stakes win of the afternoon, and the five-year-old was off as the 2.87-1 second choice in the 6 1/2-furlong event.

Bay Storm was exiting a neck decision in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Preview on Aug. 5, her first stakes win in 12 months, and the five-time stakes heroine notched her first graded triumph. She edged 2.75-1 favorite Wanaka, who rallied boldly from last in the seven-horse field before coming up a little short, and it was another head back to Tony Ann, who held third after being prominent throughout.

A Kentucky-bred daughter of Kantharos, Bay Storm earned a measure of revenge after missing by a nose in last year’s Ladies Turf Sprint (G3) over the course. She was timed in 1:17.06 and improved her career ledger to 17-6-6-3.

Regal Realm made all the running in the $1 million Ladies Turf (G3), never facing a serious challenge posting a 1 1/4-length decision on the front end. Geroux had the call for Thomas on the four-year-old daughter of Animal Kingdom, and Regal Realm picked up her second stakes win for owner/breeder George Strawbridge Jr.’s Augustin Stable.

Scheduled for a mile on turf, the Ladies Turf did not feature internal fractions or a final time due to the starting gate being placed in the wrong spot. Regal Realm scored a minor upset as 6-1 fourth choice among seven runners. The chestnut was exiting a pair of encouraging performances in her first two stakes attempts, winning the Lady Canterbury in late June and finishing third in the De la Rose at Saratoga on Aug. 2.

Sparkle Blue won a three-horse photo for second, winding up a neck better than White Frost, who in turn edged Haughty by a head. New Year’s Eve trailed throughout as the 2-1 favorite.

After recording a couple of seconds but no wins from his first five starts this season, multiple juvenile stakes victor Private Creed broke through with a convincing 2 1/4-length tally in the $968,000 Franklin-Simpson (G3) for three-year-olds. Steve Asmussen trains the bay son of Jimmy Creed for Mike McCarty, and Joel Rosario was up on the 6-1 fourth choice.

Private Creed raced just off the pace from the inside before surging to a clear lead in the stretch. The Kentucky-bred went on to complete 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.03, and Playlist parlayed his forward trip into a runner-up finish. Sweet Cherry Pie, who showed the way early under pressure, held for third as the 3.75-1 favorite.

Private Creed won three of his first four starts, including a pair of stakes, before a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1). The Kentucky-bred sophomore was exiting a runner-up finish in the Mahony S. at Saratoga on Aug. 13, and Private Creed improved his career line to 11-4-2-0.

The $900,000 Ladies Marathon (G3) kicked off the stakes action, and Gary Broad’s Vergara proved best by about a length in the 1 5/16-mile event, notching her first graded and third overall stakes victory. Rosario was up for Graham Motion on the four-year-old filly, and the Kentucky-bred daughter of Noble Mission finished in 2:10.96.

Off as the 2.26-1 favorite among six turf distaffers, Vergara tracked in second before advancing to take a clear lead in upper stretch. She comfortably held late-running Transient safe, and Sinfiltre raced evenly in third throughout.

Winner of last year’s Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs, Vergara rebounded from a fifth in the Glens Falls (G2) at Saratoga on Aug. 3. She finished third in the Eatontown (G3) at Monmouth before that, her best result from three previous starts this year, and her overall record now reads 13-4-2-3.