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Barn notes: Kentucky Cup

Friday, September 16, 2005 12:00 AM
  • Kentucky Cup
Kentucky Cup favorites get acquainted with Polytrack
FLORENCE, KY . . . September 16, 2005 . . . Shaniko, Vicarage, and Bohemian Lady, all morning-line favorites in their Kentucky Cup races Saturday, arrived at Turfway Thursday night, and all three took a turn over the Polytrack surface Friday morning.

Shaniko, the 5-2 morning line favorite in the Kentucky Cup Classic (G2), had never been on Polytrack before his get-acquainted session this morning. “He galloped a mile and a bit,” said Michelle Nihei, who is assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher and was aboard all three. “He and Bohemian Lady took half a turn to get used to it, but then they traveled very well over it. Bohemian Lady had been on it at Keeneland, so I think she was just looking around. Vicarage has been on it at Keeneland too and handled it very well immediately.”

Vicarage is the 2-1 favorite in the Kentucky Cup Sprint (G3), while Bohemian Lady is the one to beat in the Turfway Breeders’ Cup (G3) at 3-1. Jockey Rafael Bejarano has the call for all three Pletcher entries.

Also shipping in last night was Estate Collection, the Sprint’s 5-2 second choice. Absent Friend, trained by Cole Norman and headed for the Classic, arrived Wednesday. Patrick Biancone’s entries—Stream Cat in the Juvenile (G3), Ball Four and Salford City (IRE) in the Classic, and Whoopi Cat in the Turfway Breeders’ Cup—are expected to arrive at Turfway tonight.

Eight-year-old Classic contender Silver Axe has changed direction since last March, when trainer Tom Amoss claimed him for $35,000 for owner Maggi Moss. "This is a horse we thought was worth the value," Amoss said. "We didn't do anything different with him. We feel we've been fortunate to have him."

Silver Axe has won four of six races since Amoss claimed him and hit the board in all six, including a close second in the Grade II Cornhusker Breeders' Cup. His last two races, handicaps at Prairie Meadows, ended in the winner’s circle.

Even without a headliner in the Classic, Amoss is giving his competition plenty of respect. "I don't see this field as weak. I give Shaniko a lot of respect here. He'll probably be the favorite, but we never run trying to just fill space. We hope we can compete in here. We would like the race to set up for his big closing run. Hopefully there'll be enough speed in it."

Trainer Eddie Kenneally brings in Thomas McCann's improving two-year old Catcominatcha for the Juvenile. The son of Tale of the Cat is coming off a second-place finish in the Ellis Park Juvenile, where he finished 2 1/2 lengths ahead of third-place finisher and fellow Juvenile contender Deputy G.

"I was very pleased with his effort," said Kenneally. "He ran a big race and he's improved a lot. This race was the logical next choice. I don't think the distance should be a problem and I wanted to keep him in this kind of competition. He's out of a Red Ransom mare, so he's got it on the bottom as well, but you never know how they're going to handle the distance until you try."

Kenneally speaks highly of Turfway's newly installed Polytrack. "It's a win-win situation," he said. "The track is very fair, there's a non speed bias. I've run three runners up there and won twice. The most important thing is it's safe for the horses."

Trainer Mike Maker has a pair of sharp two-year-olds in Saturday’s Kentucky Cup action, saddling Devilofarush in the Juvenile and Golden Kiss in the Juvenile Fillies. Both enter the Kentucky Cup off victories. But that’s where their similarities end.

For Golden Kiss, a daughter of Golden Missile, the road to Turfway Park has been relatively smooth. Last time out she broke her maiden in her third career start in a one-mile, off-the-turf event at Ellis Park. Prior to that she was a good third going a mile on the grass at Colonial Downs.

Asked if the two-turn experience gives her an edge in the Juvenile Fillies, Maker said, “I think it does. Her pedigree suggests two turns. The competition in her last race was a little weak, but she is a late maturing filly who’s not going to do more than she has to.”

Maker has added incentive with Golden Kiss as well. “I own a piece of her,” he said, “so it would sure be nice to get her a stakes placing.”

Devilofarush certainly has an experience edge on his Juvenile rivals. The son of Wild Rush already has six career starts in an eventful career that has taken him into, out of, and back into the Maker barn. “We bought him out of the Ocala sale,” said Maker, “and then we lost him at Churchill for $30,000 in his second start. I didn’t really expect to lose him because he hadn’t done much in his first race and we hadn’t paid much for him. Then he showed up a month later in the entries at Hollywood, and we were able to claim him back, winning a five-way shake. That’s one good thing about spending a lifetime on the racetrack—you wind up with connections all over the place.”

Devilofarush broke his maiden last time out against winners, going 5 1/2 furlongs on grass at Ellis Park. It was the first time he showed an ability to relax well off the lead. “He rated very kindly at Ellis,” said Maker. “I know he was only going 5 1/2 that day, but we’d like him to keep that style for Saturday’s race.”

Tom Amoss hopes Claremont can have the success of her sire in this year’s Kentucky Cup. Claremont, who will make her third career start in the Juvenile Fillies, is by Point Given, 2000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile winner and 2001 Horse of the Year. Amoss says there are similarities between the two. "She's giant, just like him," he said. "She's a very big filly."

Claremont is coming off a runner-up finish in the Fisher Debutante at Ellis Park on August 20. "She was simply outrun on that day," Amoss said. "I'm hoping the two turns on Saturday will make a difference. We're just seeing where she fits in for right now."

Trainer Bill Mott’s only taste of Kentucky Cup success came in 1997 when Feasibility Study captured the Turfway Breeders’ Cup. Mott will shoot for another win in the Turfway Breeders’ Cup with Miss Fortunate.

Miss Fortunate, a five-year-old Deputy Minister mare with career earnings of $371,595, made her last start off a five-month layoff in the Gardenia Handicap (G3) at Ellis Park on August 20. She finished fourth, beaten 6 1/2 lengths by Dream of Summer, but the performance gained some luster when the Gardenia’s third-place finisher, Halory Leigh, ran a solid third in the Grade I Ruffian Handicap at Belmont Park.

“She was on the shelf over the spring,” said Mott of Miss Fortunate. “We brought her back at Ellis where she was a good fourth, and she should improve a bit off that effort.”

Caribbean Cruiser, who had been expected to start in the Sprint, was supposed to leave Aqueduct for Turfway on Wednesday but turned up with a foot bruise and did not enter, said trainer Gary Contessa.

The Kentucky Cup Day of Champions is scheduled for Saturday, September 17. The 14-race card includes four races simulcast from Kentucky Downs. First post is 1:10.

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