Two-year-olds will be in the spotlight Labor Day weekend when River Downs presents its two top events: the $200,000 Miller Genuine Draft Cradle Stakes Sept. 3, and the $100,000 Bassinet Stakes Sept. 1. Along with $75,000 Governor's Buckeye Cup Sept. 2, the races make up the track's Cradle Stakes Weekend Festival.
The Cradle, at 1 1/16 miles, is expected to lure a field of at least 10 2-year-olds, some of which will make their first start around two turns. The race could lure a strong contingent from neighboring Kentucky, including Claiborne Farms' Aisle, trained by Frank Brothers; Starlight Stables' Harlan's Holiday, trained by Ken McPeek; Michael Tabor's Pass Rush, trained by Patrick Byrne; Dearborn Stable's Uncle Puck, trained by Elliot Walden; and L.T.B. Inc.'s World Champion, trained by Bernie Flint.
Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes winner Request for Parole is expected for the Cradle. Owned by Bea and Robert Roberts, and trained by Steve Margolis, Request for Parole won the $100,000 event Aug. 18 off a maiden victory at Ellis Park. The Judge T C colt would make his first start around two turns in the Cradle.
Sandi Kleeman's Arctic Sand, trained by Phil Marino, won the $20,000 allowance prep for the Cradle on Aug. 11, and is expected to be supplemented for $3,000. The colt is two-for-two at the Ohio track, including a win at one mile and 70 yards.
The six-furlong Bassinet, won last year by eventual 2-year-old filly champion Caressing, had about eight expected runners as of Aug. 27. Among them are Lakeside Cup and Playing 'n Gold, who dead-heated for the win in the $100,000 Ellis Park Debutante Stakes Aug. 18.
Keen Scent, owned and trained by John Bourke, won the $20,000 allowance prep for the Bassinet Aug. 12. Keen Scent made her career debut in the prep, and defeated winners in the process.
River Downs used to schedule the Bassinet Stakes in late August, but moved it to Labor Day weekend to generate more interest. "This is the second year both races will be held (the same weekend)," said Jo Lynn Johnston, the track's director of marketing. "We're trying to create a festival atmosphere to create some new fans."