Ioya Bigtime, staked to a loping lead by Jeffrey Sanchez, refused to buckle under relentless pressure from favored Rahystrada to win the $200,000 Kentucky Turf Cup (gr. IIIT) on the grass course at Kentucky Downs Sept. 15.
Shipped in from Arlington Park, Team Block's 5-year-old Illinois homebred prevailed in a long stretch drive by a half-length for trainer Chris Block while completing the 1 1/2-mile event in a slow 2:30.06 over firm going. The tough 8-year-old gelding Rahystrada, looking to repeat his 3 3/4-length victory in the Kentucky Turf Cup last year, had to settle for second, with Kindergarden Kid third, a head behind the runner-up.
Ioya Bigtime came into the race in top form. The Dynaformer horse out of the Lord At War mare Ioya Two, won Arlington's 1 1/2-mile Stars and Stripes (gr. IIIT) by 1 1/2 lengths July 14 and was coming off a runner-up finish in the inaugural American St. Leger at 1 11/16 miles Aug. 18 at the Chicago track.
David Block, on hand representing the Team Block ownership group, attributed much of the horse's success to Sanchez.
"Other jockeys couldn't handle him," Block said about the heavy-headed 5-year-old, "but Sanchez got him to relax. This guy turned him (Ioya Bigtime) around."
The field for the Kentucky Turf Cup was reduced to five by three scratches, with the 13-time winner Rahystrada made the 7-5 pick over 2-1 shot Ioya Bigtime.
Sanchez guided Ioya Bigtime to the front along the inside as Rahystrada and Corey Lanerie settled into second, both horses were galloping easily. Kindergarden Kid, third on the inside for Victor Lebron, and Lake Drop on the near side through the stretch the first time, were also forwardly placed with Tahoe Lake dropping back to last. Ioya Bigtime negotiated the tight first turn well and continued to enjoy a 1 1/2-length advantage over Rahystrada, content in second. The opening half mile went in :50 flat with the mile clocked in 1:40.50.
Rounding the big sweeping final turn, Rahystrada drew slightly closer to the leader as Tahoe Lake launched a bid from last on the far outside. In the lane, Rahystrada increased the pressure on the outside of the pacemaker while drifting out a bit, but he could not get on even terms with Ioya Bigtime. The winner would not be denied in a courageous effort under left-handed urging from Sanchez.
Rahystrada was all out to hold the place in front of a resurgent Kindergarden Kid, with Brazilian-bred Tahoe Lake fourth. David Cohen, the rider aboard the Tahoe Lake, lodged an objection against Lanerie and Rahystrada for interference in the stretch but it was disallowed by stewards. Lake Drop finished last.
Ioya Bigtime, carrying co-top weight of 125 pounds, paid $6.40, $3.20, and $2.40 while topping a $13.80 exacta. Rahystrada, also shouldering 125, returned $2.80 and $2.10 in his first start since finishing in a deadheat for third in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) last month. Kindergarden Kid was $2.60 to show.
The victory, worth $124,000 to the winning connections, increased Ioya Bigtime's earnings to $447,225. The winning bay horse has compiled a 6-2-3 mark in 17 lifetime starts.
Scratched were Canaveral, Cozy Kitten, and Rezif.
Kentucky Downs reported dramatic increases in business. On-track handle increased 116.1% from a year ago, to $173,885. Total handle also soared, increasing 146.6% from last year's, to $1,875,221.