Making final preparations for the Oct. 27 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Monmouth Park, Jim Tafel’s Street Sense and Rick Porter’s Hard Spun will have a much-anticipated rematch Sept. 29 in the $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) over Turfway Park’s Polytrack – and three other older horses with varying degrees of success over turf and synthetic surfaces will bid at yet-unattained stardom while attempting to run the 3-year-olds down.
Larry Jones trainee Hard Spun is fresh off a 1 1/2-length victory in the Aug. 25 King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, and that seven-furlong sprint should have sharpened him up for the Kentucky Cup Classic’s 1 1/8-miles. The son of Danzig won over Turfway’s Polytrack before, a 3 1/4-length romp in the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) this April.
Read more on the match-up betwen Street Sense and Hard Spun
Hard Spun competed in each of the Triple Crown Classics, finishing second to Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and third behind Curlin and Street Sense in the Preakness (gr. I). With a 6-2-1 record and $1,393,470 in earnings from 11 career starts, the colt is consistent and competitive -- and according to Jones, he’s ready to run.
“He’s doing well,” the trainer said Sept. 26. “We planned to get to the rail anyway, so after drawing post one it looks like we’ve got that taken care of. I don’t know right off-hand how the other horses run, but I know what Street Sense does.”
The Derby winner is the horse to beat after scoring back-to-back victories in the Aug. 25 Travers (gr. I) and Jim Dandy (gr. II) at Saratoga. He has a career record of 6-3-2 and earnings of $4,058,200 from 11 starts. While his two attempts over the Polytrack did not result in victory, the Street Cry colt won his biggest races -- the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and the Derby -- off those preps at Keeneland.
"If I was looking for easy spots, I wouldn't be running aginst Hard Spun," Nafzger said. "The biggest reason he's running in Kentucky is because it's close to home (Churchill Downs). We load him on the van in the morning and bring him home that night. The trip is over in an hour-and-a-half. Any time you're loading or shipping 12, 15 hours, it's a whole different ballgame.
"Larry's horse will give us plenty of good run, I promise you that. He's a top, really solid race horse, and this is what racing is about: good horses racing against good horses. It's a great race and to have it happen at Turfway Park is very nice. Hopefully lots of people will come out to enjoy the day."
Nafzger's Thoughts About Kentucky Cup Classic
Apart from the 3-year-olds, the race shakes down to a contest between older horses – 4-year-old Patrick Biancone trainee Stream Cat, 5-year-old Cat Shaker (trained by Craig Callis), and 7-year-old Muqbil, entered by trainer Duane Knipe. Of the three, only Muqbil comes into the race off a victory, his 2 1/4-length win in the Sept. 3 Labor Day Stakes over the Mountaineer turf. Cat Shaker was second last time out in the Sept. 1 Tri State Handicap on Ellis Park’s turf course, while Stream Cat was fourth in the Aug. 11 Arlington Million (gr. IT).
Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II, 5:42 p.m.), 1 1/8-miles, 3-year-olds and up (Polytrack)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. Hard Spun, Mario Pino, 118
2. Cat Shaker, Charles Woods Jr., 118
3. Street Sense, Calvin Borel, 120
4. Stream Cat, Julien Leparoux, 118
5. Muqbil, Willie Martinez, 118