Grand Reward Heads Kentucky Cup Classic

A field of 10 horses has been drawn for Saturday's Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park. Won last year by Roses in May, this year's event features grade II winner Grand Reward as the 122-pound highweight--and a new Polytrack surface.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas--owner of a record 14 Kentucky Cup wins since its inception in 1994--trains the royally bred son of Storm Cat out of the Rahy mare Serena's Song for owners/breeders Robert and Beverly Lewis.

Though winless in his last three attempts, the speedy Grand Reward got up by a neck earlier this year to take the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) over Second of June and Pimlico Special (gr. I) winner Eddington. Two of the 4-year-old colt's losses came at sprint distances and Saturday he'll move back to the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Oaklawn Handicap.

If this is any omen, a full brother to Grand Reward sold on day one of the Keeneland September yearling sale this week. Bloodstock agent John Ferguson went to $3.5 million for the multiple grade I-winning Serena's Song offspring from the consignment of Craig and Holly Bandoroff's Denali Stud, agent for the Lewises.

A sharp work (5f, 1:01.20) at Churchill on Sunday shows this one may be ready to get back to stakes-winning form. Grand Reward has run on 12 different tracks in Europe and North America and the well-traveled colt shouldn't figure to be too upset by the synthetic surface.

He and rider John McKee, aboard for the Oaklawn win, will break from post eight.

The talented tandem of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Rafael Bejarano will team up with Aaron and Marie Jones' Shaniko, a son of A. P. Indy. Bred in Kentucky by William Carl, the 4-year-old has won two of his last three, his most recent an 11-length allowance romp at Saratoga.

A $550,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling, the dark bay or brown Shaniko has won four times, including a victory at Saturday's 1 1/8-mile distance. Out of the Pleasant Tap mare Sapphire n' Silk, Shaniko certainly has the blood to compete with this group.

Shaniko's brisk five-furlong move (:59.65) at Belmont Sunday was the fastest of 32 recorded at the distance. Shaniko has shown plenty of speed in his wins and should get a nice trip from post two.

Shaniko gets four pounds from Grand Reward with an impost of 118.

The Cole Norman-trained Absent Friend, winner of the Essex Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn in February, was third in the Iowa Derby (Saint Liam was second) in 2003 and has found the show spot in three graded stakes contests this year.

The 5-year-old gray or roan gelding by Runaway Groom races for H and H Ranch, and was bred in Kentucky by Palides Investments.

He has earned $265,132 in 22 starts and gets Patrick Valenzuela for a trip nine spots from the rail.

M B Sea, winner of the 2003 Fayette Stakes (gr. III)and this year's West Virginia Governor's Stakes winner will run from the outside 10th position for owner Michael Bruder.

The Dale Romans trainee was bred by Frank Stronach's Adena Springs. Though he only sold for $20,000 as a 2000 Keeneland September yearling, the 6-year-old son of Alphabet Soup has earned $534,618.

Mark Guidry gets the call.

Silver Axe, Billy Allen, One Nice Cat, Cat Shaker, and the Patrick Biancone-trained pair of Ball Four, and Salford City, make up the rest of the field.

Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II), Saturday, Sept. 17, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles, $350,000.,

PP--Horse, Weight, Jockey, Trainer

1--Silver Axe, 118, Craig Perret, Tom Amoss
2--Shaniko, 118, Rafael Bejarano, Todd Pletcher
3--Billy Allen (IRE), 118, Larry Melancon, Fabrice Chappet
4--One Nice Cat, Jesus Castanon, Joseph Devereux
5--Cat Shaker, 114, Calvin Borel, Craig Callis
6--Ball Four, 118, Julien Leparoux, Patrick Biancone
7--Salford City (IRE), 118, Gary Stevens, Patrick Biancone
8--Grand Reward, 122, John McKee, D. Wayne Lukas
9--Absent Friend, 120, Patrick Valenzuela, Cole Norman
10--M B Sea, 118 Mark Guidry, Dale Romans