Trainer Chris Block has registered a solid success rate during the short meet at Kentucky Downs, where his family's Team Block has run eight horses to three wins, three seconds, and a third in stakes competition over the years.
On Sept. 14 Block sends Suntracer in the $400,000 Kentucky Turf Cup (gr. IIIT), a race he won last season with the hard-knocking Ioya Bigtime. Suntracer, a homebred 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy , comes off a runner-up finish by half a length in the 1 11/16-mile American St. Leger Stakes Aug. 17 at Arlington Park.
Suntracer is a multiple stakes winner who still seeks his first graded victory and his first overall tally of the season. He is one of nine entered for the 1 1/2-mile turf event, which is carded as race 9 of 10 on Kentucky Turf Cup Day. Four other stakes precede the feature: the $150,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies, the $150,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile, the $150,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Dash, and the $150,000 Franklin-Simpson Mile.
The most recent win for Block's trainee came Oct. 27 at Hawthorne Race Course when he took the Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap going 1 1/8 miles on grass. He is also the winner of last year's Illinois Owners Stakes at Arlington, and took the 2011 edition of the Woodchopper Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for his first blacktype score. Eddie Castro rides from the outside post.
Also exiting the American St. Leger is Shadwell Stable's Najjaar, a 4-year-old Jazil colt trained by Danny Peitz. The bay made a strong bid at the quarter pole but was outfinished and wound up 1 1/4 lengths back in third. He has run competitively in distance turf stakes this year but also looks to return to the winner's circle for the first time since last season.
Najjaar was fourth in the July 13 Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) going 1 1/4 miles. Before that he finished third by just half a length in the May 25 Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/2 miles at Churchill Downs after drifting out in the stretch. James Graham gets the mount from post 4.
Niall Racing's Temeraine will take a drop back in class after ambitiously tackling the Aug. 17 Arlington Million (gr. IT) for trainer Tom Proctor. The 4-year-old Arch gelding did not disgrace himself, finishing fifth of 13 in the 1 1/4-mile event after a slow start and belated close from the back of the pack.
Temeraine was second by half a length to Rahystrada in the Arlington Handicap before that. Two starts prior, he was the 1 1/4-length winner of a March 27 optional claimer going 1 1/16 miles at Tampa Bay Downs. Gary Stevens will ride from the 8 hole.
Darley Stable's Side Road, a Kiaran McLaughlin-trained 4-year-old son of Street Cry, invades from New York and should be highly regarded in the wagering after a runner-up finish by 1 3/4 lengths to Hyper in the John's Call Stakes going 1 5/8 miles at Saratoga Race Course. Hyper returned Sept. 7 with an impressive victory in the Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park.
Only a seventh-place finish on yielding turf in the June 8 Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont mars his light recent record. He was second in the Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIT) at Keeneland earlier this season and narrowly won a Gulfstream Park allowance going a mile and seven sixteenths before that despite the rider losing the whip.
Also of interest is Brazilian import Olympic Thunder, who makes his third start in the U.S. for trainer Ken McPeek. Haras Regina's 5-year-old Durban Thunder runner was a multiple group I winner in his native country, but continues to seek his niche in the U.S. with a fourth in the July 13 Kitten's Joy Stakes and a fifth last time out in an Aug. 15 optional claimer going 1 3/16 miles at Saratoga. The Kitten's Joy was his first start in more than a year; prior to his two U.S. outings he ran third in a Brazilian stakes event June 30, 2012.
Merriefield Farm's 6-year-old gelding Royal Bench is the only runner in the field to enter off a recent stakes win. The Irish-bred son of Whipper closed determinedly Aug. 21 to take the 1 1/2-mile Cape Henlopen Stakes at Delaware Park for his first win in the U.S. Trainer Tom Voss will give Rosie Napravnik a leg up to depart from post 5.
Royal Bench is the winner of the 2010 Qatar Prix Daniel Wildenstein (Fr-II) and was runner-up that year in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile (HK-I). Still in pursuit of his first U.S. graded stakes win, he has earnings of $1,042,065.
$400,000 Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, approximate post 5:35 p.m. EDT), 3YOs & Up, 1 1/2 miles (turf)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Olympic Thunder (BRZ), A. Garcia, 121, K G McPeek
2. Whatthecatdrugin (KY), J.K. Court, 121, T Q McCauley
3. Amen Kitten (IL), E.T. Baird, 118, W A Ward
4. Najjaar (KY), J. Graham, 121, D C Peitz
5. Royal Bench (IRE), R. Napravnik, 121, T H Voss
6. Potomac River (KY), J.P. Vargas, 121, S Baez
7. Side Road (KY), C.J. Lanerie, 121, K P McLaughlin
8. Termeraine (KY), G.L. Stevens, 121, T F Proctor
9. Suntracer (IL), E. Castro, 121, C M Block