WinStar Farm’s homebred Hold Me Back, who scored his biggest victory in the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) earlier this year at Turfway Park, returns to the Florence, Ky., racetrack as the one to beat in the $200,000 Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) Sept. 26.
A field of nine was drawn for the 1 1/8-mile Classic, which will be run on Polytrack. Hold Me Back, the 7-5 morning-line choice, is the lone 3-year-old and one of two graded stakes winners in the contest. Post time for the headliner on the 10-race Turfway card, which also includes the Kentucky Cup Distaff (gr. III) and Kentucky Cup Sprint (gr. III), is slated for 6:21 p.m. EDT. The Turfway simulcast card will also include six turf races from Kentucky Downs.
Trained by Bill Mott, Hold Me Back burst onto the Triple Crown scene in March when he scored in the Lane’s End Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths after coming from well off the pace. The Giant's Causeway colt has been lightly-raced since then, finishing runner-up in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, 12th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), fifth in the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) in his turf debut, and most recently, runner-up to Summer Bird in the Aug. 29 Shadwell Travers (gr. I) at Saratoga.
Hold Me Back has worked twice since his solid Travers effort, both times at Belmont. In his latest breeze he went five furlongs in 1:00.06, the second best of 38 works at that distance. With the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) to be run on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride surface once again this year, it is likely that Hold Me Back is using the Kentucky Cup as a prep for that race.
“The (Polytrack) surface was part of the reason for our decision to come (to Turfway),” Mott said. “He's done well there, and the timing was good for us.”
A $400,000 Keeneland September 2007 yearling grad, Hold Me Back has earned more than $700,000 from only eight starts. He was bred in Kentucky by WinStar and Haras Santa Maria de Araras, and is out of the Unbridled's Song mare Restraint.
Julien Leparoux, who was aboard Hold Me Back for the first time in the Travers, will have the mount once again and they will break from post 2.
The other graded stakes winner is Ashbrook Farm’s 4-year-old Wicked Style, the 9-2 second choice. Wicked Style claimed his biggest win as a juvenile in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland in 2007. He went on to finish 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Monmouth Park three weeks later.
The son of Macho Uno has been running mostly in optional claimers this season—on turf, dirt, and synthetics—but most recently finished third in the grade III Washington Park Handicap Sept. 5 on Arlington Park’s Polytrack.
Wicked Style, who has battled injury problems since the Breeders' Cup, has produced a 5-2-1 record from 13 starts and has earnings of $544,504. Robby Albarado, who hasn’t been aboard the chestnut colt since that Breeders’ Cup effort, will ride for Rusty Arnold.
At 6-1 on the morning-line are a couple of contenders from prominent owners, Stronach Stables’ Sligovitz and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Furthest Land.
Sligovitz, by Sligo Bay, has raced mainly at Woodbine in his 17-start career, though his best finish in a graded race came earlier this season in the Pan American Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park when placing third. Hall of Famer Roger Atffield trains the 4-year-old colt.
Furthest Land, by Smart Strike, was claimed by the Ramseys last October for $35,000 and has gone on to win five of nine races for his new owners. The Michael Maker trainee won the Golden Bear Stakes at Indiana Downs in June. Leading rider Garrett Gomez flies in for the ride.
Also coming out of the Washington Park Handicap is the runner-up, Dubious Miss (7-1). The 5-year-old gelding by E Dubai had an allowance win at Turfway back in 2007 and seems to have a liking for synthetics.
“He ran real well in his last race at Arlington," said Dubious Miss' trainer Paul McGee. “I do think he really likes the Polytrack. He also ran good on it at Keeneland (winning an allowance race in April 2008), so we thought we'd try him in this race at Turfway. The Arlington race was a mile and three-sixteenths, so the distance isn’t a problem. And he's versatile—he's won from off of it or on the lead.”
Calvin Borel will be aboard Dubious Miss and they will break from post 9.
$200,000 Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II, Race 13, 6:21 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Polytrack) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Jazz in the Park (KY), 4/C L J K Court, 118, B C Barnett
2. Hold Me Back (KY), 3/C LA* J R Leparoux, 118, W I Mott
3. Sligovitz (ON), 4/C LA* L R Goncalves, 118, R L Attfield
4. Wicked Style (FL), 4/C L R Albarado, 118, G R Arnold, II
5. Your Round (KY), 4/C L M Mena, 118, M Hubley
6. Timeless Fashion (KY), 5/G LA J Lopez, 118, T Drury, Jr.
7. Furthest Land (KY), 4/G LA* G K Gomez, 118, M J Maker
8. Godolphin Gray (KY), 4/G LA A Canchano, 118, R Underwood
9. Dubious Miss (KY), 5/G L C H Borel, 118, P J McGee