Thursday, September 27, 2007 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . September 27, 2007 . . . The attention has been on Street Sense and Hard Spun in the Kentucky Cup Classic (G2) at Turfway Park this Saturday, but they won't get away with a match race.
When the connections of Muqbil claimed the 7-year-old son of Swain for $30,000 two starts ago out of a turf sprint at Mountaineer Park, a start in a prestigious race like the Kentucky Cup Classic was not what anyone had in mind.
"No, that was not in my plans," said Nadean Knipe, wife of trainer Duane Knipe and one of his assistants. "It was the first time he had ever been in for a tag, and we thought he was a nice turf horse who would do well at Tampa Bay Downs this winter. The decision to run in the Kentucky Cup was more the owners'. Street Sense and Hard Spun are the two best 3-year-olds in the country. But things happen, you know? As one of the owners, Paul Cianci, said, 'How often do you get to run against a Derby winner?'"
With the exception of Hard Spun, the Classic field does not appear on paper to have an abundance of early speed. But though Muqbil has raced in first or second position early in four of his five most recent starts, Knipe does not foresee him mixing it up too much during the early stages of the race. "I would certainly hope we’re not going head and head early with Hard Spun," she said. "I would hope he would lay off the pace and make a run at the end."
Muqbil is expected to arrive at Turfway Park by van either Thursday evening or early Friday morning.
Although Street Sense has prepped well on Polytrack he has never won on the surface, a fact that concerns trainer Carl Nafzger not at all. "You can't worry about not liking a track," he said. "If you do, you've already talked yourself out of winning. I worry about executing. You put your horse in the race. You execute. You read what you did wrong or right. When I watch a race, I only look at three things: did I make a mistake? Did the jockey make a mistake? Did the horse make a mistake? Then I adjust to that.
"In my opinion, he's blossomed. He's taken the step every 3-year-old has got to take. When you get to this stage, you have to mature on out. When you leave college, you have to mature into the pros. He's up against the pros now, against older horses, and he's got to step up.
"When you look at racing, it's a long range project. It’s long term; it's not short term."
Kentucky Cup Juvenile (G3)
The 3-1 morning line favorite in the Juvenile is Blackberry Road, trained by David Carroll. The Gone West colt broke his maiden three starts back and followed with a fourth place finish in the Grade III Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs. In his most recent start, the Arlington Washington Futurity, he finished seventh.
"He was coming off a two-month layoff and I was too easy on him going into that race," said Carroll. "He was too fresh. He acted up in the post parade as well. He’s a very rambunctious horse, so that was a key. At the break he got bumped pretty good, so with all those factors, he really didn't run his race.
"Now we've trained him a little harder with longer gallops. He acts like he wants to run all day. He likes to run at horses. I'm hoping (jockey) Calvin (Borel) can get him to relax and make a run at the others."
In a teleconference earlier this week, trainer Todd Pletcher commented on his Juvenile entry, Chitoz, who obliterated a 10-horse field at Monmouth in his second and most recent career start.
"We ran him once and he ran OK. The race (at Monmouth) came off the turf and he won by 10 or 10 1/2 lengths [10 1/4]. He looked good doing it, so we started looking for options. We decided the race at Turfway made sense because it was Polytrack and it seems a lot of horses with a little bit of turf in their pedigree tend to handle that well. We're not necessarily thinking Breeders' Cup Juvenile. We're just looking for a spot to run what we think is an improving 2-year-old, and we’ll see what happens."
Kentucky Cup Distaff (G3)
In the Distaff, trainer Michael Tomlinson will saddle Kettleoneup, 9-2 third choice on the morning line. Most recently fourth in the Molly Pitcher Handicap (G2) at Monmouth, the 4-year-old filly has hit the board in 11 of her 14 career starts.
"She’s coming into the race good," said Tomlinson. "We’ve drawn a line through her last race at Monmouth. She didn't have her regular rider, she may have needed the race, and with the pace scenario they practically handed it to (trainer Jerry) Hollendorfer (with Hystericalady) on a silver platter.
"She's a filly that comes from off the pace, so the large field concerns me with the possibility of traffic problems. However, she's a classy filly and definitely has a bit of the Storm Cat in her. She has a bit of an attitude. She's not hard to handle; she just knows what she wants."
Also set for the Distaff is Pleasant Hill, who won the Gardenia (G3) at Ellis Park in her last start. "She's coming into the race great. I just wish she had a better post," said Foley, of the draw that gave her post 11. "In the Gardenia she broke a step tardy but quickly got into the race and set all the fractions. They came at her again at the eighth pole but she opened back up. It was a big race for her. She's a good, smart filly that will do about anything you want. She doesn't need to make the lead. I think the Gardenia was actually one of the first times she raced on the lead like that."
Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies (listed)
Unlike her competition, Latest Scoop will bring a winning two-turn race at Turfway to the table when she breaks from the rail in the Juvenile Fillies. Trainer George "Rusty" Arnold hopes that gives his filly, a 6-1 morning line proposition, an edge on Saturday.
"I'm hoping so," said Arnold of the maiden win over stakes-placed French Kiss. "That's why we ran her at Turfway on opening weekend. We really like this filly a lot. She bled a bit in her first start (at Arlington August 3) and still ran third at a mile, so it was a good performance. She has two miles under her belt now, and she has trained very well since her last start."
Though Arnold is high on his filly, he is less enthusiastic about her post. "I don't ever like the rail," Arnold said. "Your hand is forced a little bit. Fortunately she is pretty handy and has a high cruising speed."
Arnold is eager to see how Latest Scoop performs on Saturday and places no limits on her upside. "To be honest, I'm hoping her next start will be October 27th," he said, referring to the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Monmouth Park. "Even if she wins on Saturday, she'll have no graded earnings, so she'll have to be impressive for that to happen. I had thought about running my filly next week in the Alcibiades at Keeneland since it's graded, but that would give her only three weeks to October 27, and I like the four weeks better."
First post Saturday at Turfway is 1:10 pm. The stakes series begins with the sixth race, the Juvenile Fillies.