There is nothing like a couple of days of all-turf racing, to pick your head up and get you back into a handicapping state of mind.
Kentucky Downs has full fields of grass racing, over what is the most “European style" course in the country. The one mile and 3/8’s course used to be called Dueling Grounds, and it is in Franklin, Kentucky. There will be turf racing on Saturdays and Mondays, for the next two weeks, for a total of 4 racing days. The races are run as part of the Turfway Park card and alternate, starting after the 2nd race. Saturday starts off with the Kentucky Cup Turf Festival, which includes 3 stakes races, the Gr .III Kentucky Cup Turf at a mile and ½, the Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf, at 1 mile, and the Kentucky Cup Turf Dash at 6 furlongs
Cloudy’s Knight will return this year to defend his title in the Turf Cup, provided he came out of yesterday's work, in good shape. He won this race last year after a long layoff from a tendon injury. After his win in the Cup, and under the remarkable care of Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard, Cloudy’s Knight went on to win 4 more stakes and was beaten a nose in the Breeder’s Cup Marathon! He is back, this year, at age 10!. Will history repeat?
Because the course is undulating, I always look for horses who have performed well over the course. There is an uphill /downhill component, a big, sweeping turn and a somewhat tighter turn. Let’s just say, there’s a little bit of everything. Horses need to be fit, ready and pretty tractable. When a horse does well here, I always take that into consideration, when handicapping on other courses. If a horse is coming from Fair Hill, I take a look at that angle, too. You want a jock that has some familiarity with the course, too. Last year, Orlando Mojica, Miguel Mena, Leandro Goncalves, Larry Melancon, Victor Lebron and Tony Farina all had multiple wins there. I see a different group here this year, and I look for Brice Blanc , Freddie Lenclud and Alex Solis to adapt well . The meet’s leading trainer last year, was Todd Pletcher, with William Bradley and Bill Mott, also having multiple wins. Graham Motion, George Arnold, Ken McPeek , Helen Pitts and of course Jonathan Sheppard , will all have a strong presence this year. I can hardly wait for the PP’s !!!
If you have any insights or tips on the racing at Kentucky Downs, let it be heard!!