By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
A rich afternoon of
high-class racing is taking place on Saturday at Kentucky Downs.
Five rich stakes are on the
agenda, and rather than focus on just one, we're taking a quick look at all
Race 8: Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf S. (G3)
#1 Dalika (2-1)
is the morning line favorite after springing a gate-to-wire upset victory in
the Beverly D. S. (G1) at Churchill Downs last month. But the Churchill turf
course was playing very fast and seemed kind to speed horses, so I'm tempted to
oppose Dalika with #8 Princess Grace (3-1).
Princess Grace tracked the
pace in the Beverly D. and actually rallied to lead in midstretch before Dalika
battled back to win by half a length. This was a solid try from Princess Grace
(especially if the turf course wasn't doing her any favors) and a nice
follow-up to her three-length score in the Dr. James Penny Memorial (G3) at
Parx two starts back.
Princess Grace defeated Dalika
by half a length in the 2021 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf, and I'm optimistic she
can regain her superiority while returning to Kentucky Downs on Saturday.
Race 9: FanDuel Turf Sprint S. (G2)
The seemingly delicate #10 Totally Boss (12-1) won this race
three years ago with a sharp pace-tracking performance, but he's only run seven
times since in a career dotted with lengthy layoffs.
The good news is, Totally
Boss is showing signs of returning to form. His first start of 2022 came in a 5
1/2-furlong allowance optional claimer at Churchill Downs, in which he
unleashed a powerful rally down the homestretch to score by 1 3/4 lengths. He
also produced a sharp late charge in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint S. at Ellis
Park last month, gaining 2 1/2 lengths in the final furlong to finish fourth by
three-quarters of a length.
Stretching out over six furlongs
at Kentucky Downs should be a perfect fit for Totally Boss. If a fast pace
unfolds, I can see the seven-year-old gelding rallying to an upset triumph over
five-time stakes winner #12 Arrest Me
Red (9-5), who looms as the favorite off a runner-up effort in the Jaipur
S. (G1) at Belmont Park last time out.
Race 10: Kentucky Turf Cup (G2)
#4 Arklow (7-2)
has won this race twice and finished second twice for good measure, so the
eight-year-old veteran warrants respect in his fifth Kentucky Turf Cup
appearance. #8 Gufo (7-5) is more of
a question mark in his first Kentucky Downs foray, but he enters off a victory
in the Sword Dancer S. (G1) at Saratoga and boasts three Grade 1 wins on his resume.
Arklow and Gufo are logical contenders,
but I'm tempted to think outside the box and play #9 Who's the Star (20-1). Conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Mark
Casse, Who's the Star is 2-for-2 since switching from dirt to turf, winning a
$50,000 allowance optional claimer racing 1 1/4 miles at Woodbine before coming
back to nab the Niagara S. over the same course and distance.
Both of those victories were
achieved with powerful stretch rallies. Who's the Star scored his allowance win
by rallying from dead last into extremely slow fractions of :27.78. :53.28, and
1:18.10; rough estimates suggest Who's the Star ran his final half-mile in less
than 45 seconds. He was even more impressive in the Niagara (for which
fractional times went unrecorded), gaining 4 1/4 lengths in the final furlong
alone to prevail by half a length.
I don't think we've seen the
full measure of Who's the Star's ability yet. Sire Tonalist won the Belmont S.
(G1) over 1 1/2 miles, so stretching out another quarter-mile in distance for
the Kentucky Turf Cup may trigger an even stronger performance from Who's the
Star. He has upside for an upset at 20-1.
Race 11: Mint Ladies Sprint S. (G3)
#10 Campanelle (9-5)
is the filly to beat after finishing third by less than one length in the
Platinum Jubilee S. (G1) at Royal Ascot, but she's never run at Kentucky Downs
and has been defeated twice previously when making the Europe-to-U.S.
#6 Tobys Heart (15-1)
is an intriguing alternative. She hasn't been in the best form lately, but she
was a decisive 2 3/4-length winner of the Music City S. over this course and 6
1/2-furlong distance last year. Tobys Heart occasionally fires a strong shot
against tough competition and may bounce back to her best at Kentucky Downs,
where 6 1/2-furlong sprints tend to play favorably toward Tobys Heart's
Race 12: Franklin-Simpson S. (G2)
We'll finally support a
favorite in the final race of the day. #6
Big Invasion (8-5) has won six straight races by a minimum of two lengths,
including the Quick Call S. (G3) and Mahony S. at Saratoga. The latter race saw
Big Invasion sweep from seven lengths off the pace to dominate by three
lengths, so Big Invasion—like Tobys Heart—has the running style shine sprinting
6 1/2 furlongs at Kentucky Downs. Throw in hot jockey Joel Rosario, and Big
Invasion looks ready to conquer.
Now it's your turn! Who do
you like in the Saturday stakes at Kentucky Downs?
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.