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Barn notes: Kentucky Cup

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 12:00 AM
  • Kentucky Cup
Lukas looks to build Kentucky Cup resume
FLORENCE, KY . . . September 14, 2005 . . . It wouldn’t be Kentucky Cup Day without D. Wayne Lukas. The Hall of Fame trainer has saddled a record 14 Kentucky Cup winners and can count an additional win in the 1989 Turfway Breeders’ Cup, when Winning Colors won that race before it became part of Kentucky Cup Day in 1994.

This year, Lukas will likely be represented by a quartet of Kentucky Cup contenders, with Grand Reward targeting the Classic, Going Wild going for the Sprint, Short Circuit heading to the Juvenile, and late supplement Fast Deal on her way to the Juvenile Fillies.

Patrick Biancone also plans to run four horses in the Kentucky Cup series: Ball Four or Salford City (Ire) in the Classic—he thinks one will be on the also-eligible list—Whoopi Cat in the Turfway Breeders' Cup, and Stream Cat in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile.

Biancone is no stranger to Polytrack both in Europe and America. In fact, Biancone used Keeneland's Polytrack training surface to advantage during a rainy October last year to ready his horses for the Breeders' Cup. "All the horses are doing just super," Biancone said. "We are excited to come down there and run over the Polytrack. I applaud Turfway for being the first track in America to run races over Polytrack, and I want to support them."

Kentucky Cup Classic (G2)
Grand Reward made a big mark on the racing scene last April when he rolled to a wire-to-wire victory in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap, besting a field that included subsequent Pimlico Special winner Eddington. Grand Reward has not won since in three tries, but two of those efforts came in sprints and the Lukas camp hopes a return to 1 1/8 miles proves beneficial. “Running Good Reward at a mile and one-eighth is more in line with his race in the Oaklawn Handicap,” said Sebastian “Bas” Nicholl, assistant to Lukas. “He was very impressive that day.”

Nicholl has been stabled at Turfway with the Lukas string since the meet opened and has been very impressed thus far with the new Polytrack surface. “I’m very happy with it,” he said. “At first I thought it was a bit on the slow side, but they ran six and a half furlongs in 1:17 and change on it the other day. When you see better horses run over the surface, I think you’ll see significantly faster times. I think many of the jockeys are still finding their way over it. They’re so concerned about being able to finish that they are going slower than they need to early on.”

Kentucky Cup Juvenile (G3)
Steve Asmussen, who leads the nation’s trainers with 339 victories entering Wednesday’s action, registered his first Kentucky Cup winner last year when Punch Appeal captured the Juvenile Fillies. This year he will be back with a pair of runners, Cab in the Juvenile, with Patrick Valenzuela aboard, and Lunarpal in the Sprint.

“All systems are go,” said Asmussen, who worked both horses over Polytrack at Turfway yesterday.

Cab, who worked four furlongs in a bullet :47 3/5, comes in to the Juvenile off a highly impressive 5 3/4-length win in a maiden race at Saratoga on September 2. “This is a good spot to get a two-turn race for him,” said Asmussen. “It’s a little quick to be running him back off his last race. But he’s a Florida bred and we have the two-turn Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder in mind for him next month, and the timing is perfect going from this race to that one.”

Kentucky Cup Sprint (G3)
Lunarpal is four-for-five lifetime, with three of those victories coming in stakes. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he has not raced since August 2004 when sixth behind Afleet Alex in the Grade II Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. “He’s just had a lot of little stupid stuff go wrong and he was also affected by the quarantine at Churchill earlier this year,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. Lunarpal went four furlongs in :49 4/5 over Polytrack on Tuesday. Mark Guidry has the riding assignment in the Sprint.

Going Wild was on the Triple Crown trail earlier this year, having contested the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness to little avail. Since then, he has been turned back to sprint distances, most recently running seventh in the Grade II Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga. “Those straight three-year-old sprints at Saratoga are pretty tough,” said Sebastian Nicholl, assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Perhaps a move to Turfway will bode well for the son of Golden Missile. Lukas has won four of the 11 runnings of the Kentucky Cup Sprint, most recently in 2002 with Day Trader.

Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies (listed)
Fast Deal has been supplemented to the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, with trainer D. Wayne Lukas calling Gary Stevens to ride. Owned by Overbrook Farms, Fast Deal (Grand Slam – Catty, by Storm Cat) has one win and one second from three starts. She was ninth in her debut, a five-furlong MSW at Churchill Downs in July, and then finished second in a similar event at Saratoga in early August. She broke her maiden with a wire-to-wire MSW win at Saratoga on August 29, going six furlongs in 1:11.69 and drawing off to win by 6 lengths. “We were very impressed with her win at Saratoga,” said Nicholl. “The Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies seems like a logical next step for her.”

Trainer Grant Hofmans has added Mimosa Mist to the list of probables for the Juvenile Fillies. "I like the two turns of the race," Hofmans said. "She is an improving horse, and she black-lettered Tuesday [breezed 4 furlongs in :48.20 at Louisville’s Trackside Training Center, the fastest of five]. We figured we'd take a chance. [Jockey] Bill Troilo knows her well so he will have the mount Saturday."

Also new to the Juvenile Fillies list is Delicate Dynamite, trained by D. Michael Smithwick Jr. The filly won her only start, a mile over firm turf at Ellis Park, by 3 3/4 lengths in steady come-from-behind style. "She was still green in her first start. She's doing great now though," Smithwick said. "She shipped in [to Turfway] last week and is training well on the Polytrack. The race being a mile is what attracted me to the spot; she is a filly who will like two turns. When I was in Southern California me and Patrick [Valenzuela] had some success together so I think he is going to ride her on Saturday.”

We Will Dance is likely for the Juvenile Fillies pending the final shape of the field. Willie Martinez will ride for trainer Larry Demeritte, who is based in Keeneland and will ship up Saturday morning. "She goes over it [Polytrack] everyday and just loves it,” said Demeritte. “She is feeling good right now, and I think she wants to run all day. The filly is bred top and bottom to love the grass, and I know some grass horses have had success at Turfway, so I think we're going to take a shot."

Entries for the Kentucky Cup races will be drawn Thursday, with the races to be run Saturday, September 17. The 14-race card includes four races simulcast from Kentucky Downs. First post is 1:10.

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