Tuesday, September 22, 2009 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . September 22, 2009 . . . Trainers on Tuesday continued their plans for the Kentucky Cup Classic, Distaff, and Sprint, the three stakes races that form the centerpiece of the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions this Saturday at Turfway Park.
Kentucky Cup Classic (G2)
Trainer Reta Underwood is pointing Godolphin Gray toward the Classic off a win in the Cliff Gilliams Memorial Handicap at Ellis Park earlier this month. "I feel confident in him,” she said. "He and [jockey] Aldo [Canchano] have an understanding, and he had three seconds to [horses ridden by] Calvin Borel this spring at Churchill. He's stepping up a notch in class in this race, but he now understands he doesn't have to put it all out there in the first six furlongs.
"It helped that the race at Ellis was shortened to a mile after coming off the turf because that was his first time to go long since he ran at Turfway last winter, but I've known he likes to go long. He's learned to rate and he has tactical speed at the end. He's become a very mature horse."
Godolphin Gray worked Tuesday at Highpoint Training Center in LaGrange, breezing four furlongs in :49.40, best of seven at the distance and what Underwood called "a romp in the park for him." He will ship to Turfway on Saturday.
Kentucky Cup Distaff (G3)
Canada's champion older mare Bear Now looks to repeat her win in last year's Distaff, but trainer Al Stall Jr. said the race will be her farewell performance. "This will be her last race, and then she'll get ready for the breeding season," he said. "She's scheduled to go to, I think, Unbridled's Song. There's no plan down the road for her to race; she doesn't need to go back out to California [for the Breeders' Cup]. We're hoping she'll go out a winner. She was bought with the intent to breed her, but she's a sound mare and [owner Louise Courtelis of Town and Country Farm] decided to run her a bit. She was Grade I-placed in the Madison at Keeneland, but she's a 5-year-old, she may have lost a step—-it's time.
"She's been off since June, but that's by design, to freshen her up. She’s been training very well at Keeneland all summer long. She's a very forward, very progressive type in training."
Bear Now will ship to Turfway on Saturday.
Whirlie Bertie will come in to the Distaff off a win in the Grade III Gardenia at Ellis Park in mid-August, and while trainer Steve Margolis expects a competitive field, he said Whirlie Bertie is training well and is ready. "I talked with [owners] Richard and Bert [Klein] because we turned her around pretty quick in the Gardenia, so we gave her a little time to freshen up and this race definitely looks like a good option for her. She's lightly raced—this will be just her fourth start this year. She's never been tried on an all-weather surface, but she's training well and Larry [Melancon, aboard for the Gardenia] is getting back on her."
Whirlie Bertie worked six furlongs in 1:12.60 at Churchill Downs last Thursday, the best of four at the distance. "It was a very good work," Margolis said. "I'm happy with the work and her training."
Noting that the 4-year-old Stormin Fever filly "can get a little excited in the paddock," Margolis plans to ship Whirlie Bertie to Turfway on Thursday to give her time for schooling in the paddock and training over the track.
Kentucky Cup Sprint (G3)
Big Push comes into the Kentucky Cup Sprint off a neck victory in the Gilded Time Stakes early this month at Monmouth. "He'll have to step up his game in this race," said trainer Steve Klesaris, "but he's a tough competitor and he's already shown ability on the synthetics. He had the nice win on the turf at Monmouth. The Charles Town race [third in the West Virginia Sprint Derby] was a troubled trip. He's doing well."
Big Push has four wins from 12 starts, including wins over the all-weather surfaces at Keeneland and Presque Isle.
The Kentucky Cup Sprint will be Klesaris’s third start with Big Push, who previously was trained by Richard Scherer. "Richard did a great job with him and he came to me in good order. It was just a geographic change, to get him to the East Coast."
Big Push breezed three furlongs Tuesday in :35.80, best of four at the distance, on the all-weather surface at Fair Hill. He will ship to Turfway on Thursday.
Saturday's card includes 16 races, 10 live at Turfway and 6 commingled by simulcast from Kentucky Downs, the country's only European-style turf course. First post is 1:10pm
General admission is free on Kentucky Cup Day. Reserved seating is available from $5 to $100, with the top venue the VIP Paddock Pavilion between the paddock and the rail.