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Kentucky Cup Notes: the Classic before the Classic

Friday, September 28, 2007 12:00 AM
  • Kentucky Cup
FLORENCE, KY . . . September 28, 2007 . . . During an NTRA teleconference earlier this week, trainer Carl Nafzger described the role of the Kentucky Cup Classic (G2) in Street Sense's quest for a Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) victory next month at Monmouth Park.

"If we're going to be ready for the (Breeders' Cup) Classic, (the Kentucky Cup Classic) is a perfect race," said Nafzger. "I want to see him finish off this race strong. The Breeders' Cup is a tough race, and if you're going to win the Breeders' Cup you'd better play good teams and be ready for it. (In the Breeders' Cup) they’re all going to be eye-balling, fighting, and it’s going to be dog-eat-dog. (It will be) a race with speed, tactical speed, and closers. It's going to be a monster race."

Kentucky Cup Classic (G2) contender Hard Spun was back on the Turfway Polytrack this morning in his own preparations, going a mile over Polytrack with all 180 pounds of trainer Larry Jones aboard. Jones also galloped his fillies, Sweetdownthelane (Distaff) and De Star Xpress (Juvenile Fillies).

Undercard contenders ready for the day
It hasn't always been smooth sailing for Kentucky Cup Juvenile (G3) contender Texas Fever thus far in his young career, but trainer Michael Stidham feels strongly that he has an improving horse on his hands.

"His three races unfolded almost in sequence," Stidham said. "His first start he clipped heels out of the gate, almost went down, and was basically eliminated. He was placed up in that race from fourth to third. Then it was another two months before there was a race for him at Arlington going a mile and he got tired, probably because he didn't get enough out of his debut. In his last start [a 5 3/4-length maiden win at Arlington August 25], he ran like we always thought he would. And he's had three super works since."

For the Juvenile, Stidham reached out for the riding services of Julien Leparoux, who has never ridden for Stidham. "I was just trying to get the best rider I could," said Stidham. "I called his agent, and it turned out he was available."

Only one horse in the Juvenile, T.J.'s Posse, has more than one victory on his resume, but Stidham does not see Saturday's contest as an easy affair. "You’re always hoping for the easiest possible spot," he said. “But in races with young horses, there are always some good ones that emerge, and we're hoping that's going to be us on Saturday."

Texas Fever exercised at Keeneland this morning. He will arrive at Turfway later today and school in the paddock during the races this evening.

Kentucky Cup Day has been a successful stop for trainer Robert Holthus. He owns five wins in the series since its first running in 1994, most recently the 2005 Juvenile Fillies with Beau Dare. In 2004 he took the Sprint and the Juvenile, with Level Playingfield and Greater Good, respectively. This year his Juvenile entry is Pulaski Runner, who last out was second at Ellis Park in the James C. Ellis Juvenile at seven furlongs.

"His last race he closed real good," said Holthus. "It didn't seem that race got a good rating, but he closed some ground. He acts like he'll get a distance. He should be five or six lengths off the pace. We'll see how he competes at this level and go from there."

Trainer David Vance brings two to the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions, Citizen John in the Juvenile and Kadira in the Juvenile Fillies. "I think he'll be a better turf horse," said Vance of Citizen John, "but we decided to give this race a shot. I added blinkers and he went well in his last work with them. He's definitely a two turn horse, and he closes nicely, so I think he'll be running past some in the stretch."

Kadira fought and won a tight stretch battle in the six-furlong Bassinet Stakes at River Downs in her most recent race, holding on by a nose over Dreabons Legacy. Said Vance, "She's run a couple of nice races. She hasn't run on Polytrack, but you can’t choose the track you run on. You have to show up for the race and see how it goes. We need to try her around two turns—looks like a couple of others (in the race) are doing that same thing. The horse on the rail (Latest Scoop) may have an advantage running over the Polytrack and getting the distance. If it all works out, we'll get away from the gate in good order and go from there." Kadira breaks from post 5.

Cajun Beat won the Kentucky Cup Sprint (G3) in 2003 for trainer Steve Margolis and followed with a blazing win in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Margolis's entry for the Sprint this year is Shore, who last won a mid-level allowance at Monmouth. "He's been training really well," said Margolis. "It's a tough spot but we decided to take a shot. He's been a real nice little horse. I bought him cheap as a yearling and he's more than paid his keep. We’ll see how things go on Saturday. There are a lot of options for him."

Trainer James Baker's entry for the Sprint is Elite Squadron, who raced on or near the lead throughout his most recent effort, a win in the Tom Ridge Labor Day Stakes at Presque Isle Downs. He showed the same early speed in his two other wins, a maiden and allowance at Churchill Downs.

"He's doing fine. He's only had that one bad race (ninth in the Grade II Amsterdam at Saratoga). He just didn't seem to handle that track. He broke a little tardy and managed to get up to third, but (jockey) Calvin (Borel) said he was just paddling after that. We decided to get him out of Saratoga and try something different. This race on Saturday has been our plan for a while. We figured the race at Presque Isle Downs would be a good prep because it has a synthetic surface as well, and the horse we beat (Cherokee Country) is the favorite in a stakes at Philadelphia Park. If we run our race, I think we'll be tough."

Dreabons Legacy and Pure Clan scratched from the Juvenile Fillies, the latter from the also-eligible list. With those changes, the morning line for Kadira shifted from 4-1 to 7-2. Sky Mom is now 5-2, down from 3-1, and Latest Scoop is down to 4-1 from 6-1.

Leo's Pegasus scratched from the Distaff, resulting in morning line odds changes for Kettleoneup (now 4-1 from 9-2) and Pleasant Hill (now down to 6-1 from 10-1). Mama I'm Home drew in from the also-eligible list at 30-1. Maggie Slew did not draw in and was scratched.

Singing the National Anthem for the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions will be Robert Hatcher, a Cincinnati native who finished among the top eight finalists on the television show America's Got Talent. He has sung the anthem before an NFL Monday Night game and recently signed with Apollo Theater's Circus of Soul.

General admission and parking are free on Kentucky Cup Day. Some reserved seating remains in the Clubhouse and grandstand, but the Homestretch restaurant, the fifth floor dining room, and the VIP Paddock Pavilion are sold out.

Turfway's gates open Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET, with the first race set to go off at 1:10 p.m. The five stakes that make up the Kentucky Cup series begin with the sixth race, the Juvenile Fillies. The Classic is carded as the 10th of the day's 12 races.

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