Saturday serves as the highlight of the five-day Kentucky Downs meet. The dynamite 10-race card at the turf-only venue includes five lucrative stakes worth a combined $2.7 million and the $750,000 Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) is the headliner.
Sixteen horses, including four also-eligibles, have been entered for the 1 1/2-mile affair and Oscar Nominated will make a title defense after rallying to score by a head last year. Campaigned by Ken & Sarah Ramsey and trained by Mike Maker, the five-year-old recorded his fifth career stakes tally when capturing the W.L. McKnight (G3) at Gulfstream Park earlier this season and is two-for-two on the unorthodox, European-styled course in Franklin, Kentucky. Jose Ortiz rides.
Maker has five entries including Grade 1 hero Bigger Picture, who finished close when third in the United Nations (G1) and fourth in the Bowling Green (G2) this summer but must rebound from a disappointing eighth in the recent Sword Dancer (G1). Tyler Gaffalione has the call. Other contenders include California shipper Multiplier, who rates as a top contender for Peter Miller following a third in the Del Mar Handicap (G2); Grade 2 winner Arklow, who tuned up with a victory in the August 5 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup at Ellis Park; and Grade 2 scorer Manitoulin, who invades from New York for Jimmy Toner.
The $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint kicks off the stakes action with 11 two-year-olds competing over 6 1/2 furlongs. Wesley Ward has a pair of dangerous entrants in Mae Never No, an off-the-turf stakes heroine at Monmouth Park; and impressive Belmont turf maiden-winning filly Moonlight Romance, who was unplaced at Royal Ascot last out.
Woodbine debut victor Faraway Kitten, a son of Kitten’s Joy, could be a major player for Ramsey/Maker in his stakes bow. Chattel can’t be dismissed following a 22-1 upset in the grassy Skidmore at Saratoga.
I’m Betty G will look to extend her win streak to four in the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3). A front-running daughter of Into Mischief, the Maker pupil will meet nine challengers in the one-mile event.
Grade 3 winner Storm the Hill ships in from California for Phil d’Amato. Pas de Soucis exits a pair of respectable thirds versus stakes foes in New York and Shug McGaughey has last-out Perfect Sting runner-up In the Lee in the mix.
Lull earned her first stakes win in the 2016 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies and improved to two-for-two over the course when capturing last year’s $450,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint (G3). The four-year-old War Front filly will seek a second straight triumph in the 6 1/2-furlong race against nine rivals and Brian Hernandez Jr. will be up for Christophe Clement.
Eight-year-old veteran gelding Undrafted, a multiple graded winner and earner of more than $1.4 million in mostly turf sprints for Ward, is a familiar name in the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3). Grade 2 victor Conquest Panthera merits respect following a close third in the August 11 Lure at Saratoga and Master Merion won last year’s Franklin-Simpson over the course.