The 1 1/2-mile Fall Championship, which highlights Turfway Park's opening weekend, has a little bit of everything, including South America invaders Taconeo and Star Plus, last year’s Ohio Derby (gr. II) winner Delightful Kiss, and former Kentucky Derby (gr. I) starter Dominican, who seems to be rounding back into his 3-year-old form. Also in the mix is Stars and Stripes Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) runner-up Telling, and Smart Strike gelding Storm the Castle, who broke his maiden by an astounding 21 lengths after five failed attempts.
A Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” event for the first time, the Fall Championship winner will automatically qualify for the inaugural running of the $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon Oct. 25.
To be run on the Polytrack, the Fall Championship looks like a wide-open affair on paper. Bushwood Stables’ Jade’s Revenge is likely to be one of the betting choices based on his last two performances. The 5-year-old son of Quiet American rolled to a 3 3/4-length victory in the April 19 Fort Harrod Stakes on the Keeneland Polytrack and most recently was runner-up, just two lengths back in the Gallant Man Handicap June 1 on the Hollywood Park Cushion Track. Both were run at 1 5/8 miles.
After taking seven tries to break his maiden and then starting mostly in optional claiming company, Jade’s Revenge began to excel after trainer Graham Motion began running him on synthetics in the spring of 2007. He won his first two starts on Polytrack, one in the Tejano Run Stakes at Turfway, and the other a nose victory in the Ben Ali (gr. III) at Keeneland.
"We were running him for a price, but since we tried him on synthetics it's been a whole new ball game," Motion said. "He had won on dirt before, but I always thought he was more of a turf horse, so it's really not a surprise that he has been doing better (on synthetics). He went from a claimer to a graded stakes winner in about a year.
"We gave him a break after the California race because I don't think he could have gone all year and been strong at the end of the year. If we're lucky enough to win one of the next two, we would have to think about the Breeders' Cup. He's a real genuine horse; easy to ride. I expect him to be not too far off the pace."
Jesus Castanon will get the mount on Jade’s Revenge, who is out of the Valid Appeal mare Valnesian and will carry top weight of 120 pounds.
Lightly-raced 4-year-old Telling should also be one of the top betting choices. The son of A.P. Indy has never finished off the board in eight career starts, the last three of which came on turf. Trained by Steve Hobby, Telling won four consecutive races to begin the season before moving into stakes competition. He was third by a length in the Rossi Gold Stakes before missing by two lengths July 4 in the 12-furlong Stars and Stripes. Both were on the Arlington Park turf.
Taconeo was the Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year in Venezuela last year, winning nine consecutive races at one point. He then came to Puerto Rico for a start last winter before shipping into the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin. The 4-year-old son of Water Poet finished well back in his American debut at Belmont. He was second, but nearly eight lengths back in his second start over here, the Aug. 17 John’s Call Stakes at Saratoga.
Star Plus was a group I winner in Argentina before coming to the states earlier this year. The 5-year-old horse has been off the board in two starts on American soil.
On July 31, Dominican hit the winner’s circle for the first time since nosing Street Sense in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) last year. The Darrin Miller trainee has been on the board in all four starts this season, but has raced solely in allowance company, most recently winning by a head at Presque Isle Downs.
$100,000 Turfway Fall Championship (gr. III, Race 9, 4:57 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/1 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Jade's Revenge (KY), 120, Jesus Lopez Castanon
2. Delightful Kiss (FL), 118, Calvin H. Borel
3. Star Plus (ARG), 116, Corey J. Lanerie
4. Telling (KY), 116, Eusebio Razo, Jr.
5. Canela (KY), 116, Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.
6. A. P. Xcellent (KY), 116, Larry Melancon
7. Storm the Castle (ON), 116, Chantal Sutherland
8. Taconeo (VEN), 118, Tracy J. Hebert
9. Tres Copas (KY), 112, Jose L. Vega
10. Dominican (KY), 116, Miguel Mena