Playing 5 Stakes at Kentucky Downs

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 five:

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. transition.

#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 stretch-running style.

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?


Want to test your handicapping skills against fellow Unlocking Winners readers? Check out the Unlocking Winners contests page—there's a new challenge every week! (Please note: older contest entries can be found here.)

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.

Recent Posts

More Blogs