Friday, September 12, 2008 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . September 12, 2008 . . . Off Duty will try to repeat in the $75,000 Marfa Stakes Saturday at Turfway, when 11 older horses line up for the 23rd renewal of the 6 1/2 furlong sprint.
Off Duty was third last month, beaten less than two lengths, in the Grade II Play the King Stakes on the turf at Woodbine. He has faced stakes or graded stakes company in each of his last 10 starts stretching back to April 2007, finishing out of the money just three times. He has two wins and a third over all-weather surfaces and three wins in five tries at the Marfa distance. Off Duty won this race last year racing on the lead but more typically comes from off the pace. He breaks from post seven on Saturday, with regular rider Larry Melancon in to ride for trainer Lynn Whiting.
Likely to gun for the lead is Semaphore Man, who has finished in the money in 17 of his 21 career starts, including seven wins. In his last 12 starts he also has competed only at the stakes or graded stakes level and finished third or better all but twice, when he was fourth. He has never raced on an all-weather surface but is training very well on the Polytrack at Arlington Park. He last won the Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park in April but has been off since. He will break from the rail under Dylan Williams, riding for trainer Kelly Von Hemel.
Also entered for the Marfa are Cayenne Gold (jockey Michael James); Ball Four (Orlando Mojica); Junior College (Brian Hernandez Jr.); Xela (Perry Ouzts); Native Ruler (Otto Thorwarth); Rock Gold (Tracy Hebert); Reigning Court (Mary Doser); Nakayama Arashi (Matthew Straight); and Cash McCool (Lyndie Wade).
Saturday's card combines 10 live races from Turfway and seven races simulcast from Kentucky Downs, including the latters three Kentucky Cup Turf Festival races and the Belle Meade Plantation Stakes hurdle. The Marfa will be the 14th race on the expanded card. First post is 1:10 p.m.
Saturday is also the second and final day of the Kickoff Cookoff, Turfway's annual barbecue festival featuring competitive ribs teams that travel the country. Saturday includes barbecue judging by former NFL players, prize giveaways, and music from Corey Moore, After Midnight, and the Sonny Moorman Group. The festival runs 11 a.m. to midnight, with food service ending at 11 p.m.
Admission to both the barbecue festival and the races is free.