Tuesday, September 23, 2008 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . September 23, 2008 . . . One day before entries will be drawn for the five stakes races that make up the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions, the fields continue to come together.
KENTUCKY CUP CLASSIC (G2)
Steve Asmussen, the nation's leading trainer, expects to enter multiple graded stakes winner Zanjero in the Classic. After a difficult trip in the 2007 Kentucky Derby that left him 12th, Zanjero won the West Virginia Derby (G3) and the Indiana Derby (G2). He was second in the Texas Mile (G3) in April, his first start after a nearly six-month layoff, second again in the Lone Star Park Handicap, also Grade III, and fourth in the Cornhusker Handicap (G2) before winning his most recent race, the West Virginia Governor’s Handicap on August 2.
"We were looking for a good race for him," said Asmussen. "He's a nice horse and this looked like a good spot to run him. He travels well and has run well in a lot of different circumstances."
Zanjero breezed four furlongs in :51.67 at Saratoga Monday and is expected at Turfway on Saturday.
Asmussen expects also to start Juliet's Spirit in the Juvenile Fillies and Retap in the Juvenile. All could be Breeders' Cup-bound if they do well Saturday. "That’s why we're coming to Turfway," Asmussen said.
New to Classic probables is Canela. Trained by Mike Maker, Canela was third in the Grade III Stars and Stripes on the Arlington turf three starts back and fourth in the Turfway Park Fall Championship (G3) last out. A ninth-place finish in the Claiming Crown Jewel between those starts seems to bear out what Maker has learned about the ridgling son of El Corredor.
"He's one of those horses that if they leave him alone on the lead he gets brave and runs on, and it looks like there's not too much pace in the race," said Maker.
Maker also expects to enter Complicity in the Juvenile Fillies.
KENTUCKY CUP JUVENILE (G3)
Retap, Asmussen's probable entry for the Juvenile, broke his maiden at first asking and followed with seconds in back-to-back stakes, beaten two lengths or less each time. "He has only sprinted, so this will be his first test around two turns," said Asmussen. Retap will work Wednesday at Churchill Downs and ship to Turfway on raceday.
Trainer Kelly Breen has high hopes for his colt West Side Bernie, who broke his maiden last month at first asking despite a difficult trip.
"A lot of things happened in that race when he could have chucked it in but he didn't. He was bumped real bad after he left the gate and then stumbled two or three strides. He took dirt in his face. He had no problem swinging out, and he wasn't rank. When he finally got clear he came on and won. The horse that finished second won his next out, so it looks like that was a pretty good field. That race was a mile and 70 yards, but the longer the distance, the better."
Breen also expects to enter Bold Union in the Juvenile Fillies.
KENTUCKY CUP JUVENILE FILLES (listed)
Steve Asmussen's expected entry for the Juvenile Fillies, Juliet's Spirit is undefeated in three starts, all at Woodbine. She came from off the pace to win her first start by a neck and jumped right to two stakes wins, one on the lead and one stalking. "This is where we stretch her out to two turns," said Asmussen.
Juliet's Spirit breezed four furlongs in :50 flat Tuesday at Woodbine and arrives at Turfway on Thursday.
Bold Union dominated her first two starts, breaking her maiden by 10 3/4 and winning the Astoria Stakes at Belmont by 9 3/4. She stepped up to the Adirondack (G2) at Saratoga in her next start, also her most recent, finishing fourth. Stewart Elliott was aboard for all three starts.
"We tried to rate her last time and she didn't run her race. I'll put blinkers on her Saturday," said Breen. "She doesn't have to be in front; the blinkers are just to help her focus. Stew is coming in to ride her, and he knows her, so he'll judge how she needs to run as the race sets up. We're not worrying about a graded race at this point. We just want to get her back on track."
Bold Union breezed four furlongs Sunday at Turfway in :47.40, second-fastest of four at the distance.
Breen has three goals for Bold Union and West Side Bernie. "One, we're trying Polytrack, and two, we're trying two turns. Three, we're keeping our fingers crossed, and if they do well and we're eligible, we'll line up getting to California [for the Breeders' Cup]. If you get a chance to be at the big dance, then that's where you want to be."
Mike Maker has chosen the Juvenile Fillies for Complicity, a nose winner at Ellis Park in her first and only start despite breaking in the air. "She had a troubled trip and still closed well to get up for the win," said Maker. "This will be her first time around two turns, but it looks like she can handle anything."
Complicity breezed five furlongs in 1:02.20 at Trackside on Saturday, tied with several as 7th of 14.
KENTUCKY CUP SPRINT (G3)
In addition to Honest Man in the Classic and Maren's Meadow in the Distaff, trainer Larry Jones plans to send Beyond Ready to the Sprint. A More Than Ready gelding, Beyond Ready has three wins and four seconds from 10 starts this year after going zero-for-three as a two-year-old. "He took a while to break his maiden but once he figured it out he's done pretty well. He ran well on the turf and he has breeding that's done pretty darn good on synthetics," said Jones.
Jones's horses are expected in Tuesday evening, and as is his habit Jones himself will be aboard when they go to the Turfway track Thursday morning. "It gives me the opportunity and freedom to call an audible once we're out there. I think it's an advantage."
Also expected for the Sprint is Gentleman James, trained by Myra Mora. Gentleman James was second in the Unbridled and in the Grade II Carryback, both at six furlongs, before next finishing ninth in the seven-furlong Kings Bishop (G1) last month. "The extra furlong in the Kings Bishop got him," said Mora. "I've tried to send him farther on a couple of occasions, but he gives so much that it looks like we're going to have to stay at six furlongs for now. He breaks so strong that he always seems to end up shooting out there [on the lead]."
Gentleman James broke his maiden at Turfway and trained at Keeneland last summer. The colt worked four furlongs in :46 flat Sunday at Turfway, walked Monday, and will jog the rest of the week.
In addition to the Classic, Juvenile, Juvenile Fillies, and Sprint, the Kentucky Cup series also includes the Distaff. Turfway will present 12 races Saturday, with first post at 1:10 p.m. Additionally, at 12:30 p.m. graduates of the North American Racing Academy and academy director Chris McCarron will ride in an exhibition race. Gates open at 10:00 a.m.
General admission and parking are free on Kentucky Cup Day. Reserved seating is available from $5 to $100, including the VIP Paddock Pavilion.