FRANKLIN, Ky. (Sept. 1, 2016) In 21 career starts, Queen Bee Racing LLC's Toowindytohaulrox has yet to race outside of California. All that will change on Saturday afternoon when the West Coast invader steps outside of his home base to compete in a capacity field of 12 in the $350,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint.
The 5-year-old son of Harlan's Holiday made his last start in Del Mar's Wickerr Stakes, winning the one-mile turf event by a neck over Forever Juanito. He will be shortening up to 6 1/2 furlongs for Saturday's race, a distance at which he boasts a 7-2-2-3 record.
"Anywhere from 6 1/2 (furlongs) to a mile seems to be his sweet spot," said trainer Phil D'Amato. "With the deeper turf course and the uphill, it should play like a race that's seven-eighths, so we'll see what happens."
Toowindytohaulrox's only other start this year came in the Siren Lure at Santa Anita on June 5, where he was beaten a neck behind stablemate Hunt. That was his first start in nearly six months after a 21-1 victory over Santa Anita's downhill turf course in the Daytona (Grade 3) on Dec. 26.
"He definitely needed the race," D'Amato said of his penultimate effort. "The horse that beat him was in his prime. He hooked a good horse and then got his tightening in the mile stakes last time at Del Mar. I was surprised at his odds in the Daytona. (The race before) he finished a good third to (stablemate) Midnight Storm, who is one of the top milers in the country right now."
The ultimate goal is a start in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (Grade 1) on Nov. 5 at Santa Anita.
"He loves that turf course," D'Amato said. "He broke his maiden down the hill at Santa Anita as well, so obviously it's something that he's familiar with."
Regular rider Tiago Pereira will ship to Kentucky Downs to ride Toowindytohaulrox.
Tomlinson on Barbados: 'We just have to get back to form'
Suzanne Stables' Barbados has been battling some foot issues throughout his campaign this year. But trainer Mike Tomlinson believes those issues are behind him for the $350,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint.
"He's a horse that has the ability, but we just have to get him back to form," Tomlinson said at Churchill Downs. "Hopefully he's got most of his issues behind him, they were all foot related."
Such issues began just prior to his start in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint (GI) at Keeneland, when Barbados blew an abscess the Monday of Breeders' Cup week. He went on the finish 12th, beaten 10 lengths behind Runhappy.
"It was a big abscess out of the back foot heel bone and then the next morning he got a quarter crack," Tomlinson said. "We ended up having to cut the quarter crack out and fit a bar shoe to treat the foot, get it toughened up and get the soreness out. He was sound, but he did not like that bar shoe at all. He just never tried. We've had to keep the bar shoe on him for quite awhile after the Breeders' Cup. Now his back feet are good and his front feet have glue-on (shoes)."
Barbados was among the better 3-year-old sprinters last year. He kicked off his 4-year-old season on a good note with a length victory in the Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 20, but has not found such success since then. His four other starts this year were all off-the-board efforts, the most recent of which was a seventh-place finish in the Don Bernhardt Memorial at Ellis Park, where he was beaten 12 lengths behind Gorgeous Bird.
"He ripped a front shoe off and tore the wall off his foot, and we ended up having to put glue-on his front since he ripped that shoe off," Tomlinson said. "He had a legitimate reason in that race for not running well, so we'll just have to see if he can return to form. We'll be keeping our fingers crossed and just hope for the best."
Tomlinson is using Saturday's race as a springboard for the $100,000 Ack Ack (G3) at Churchill Downs on Oct. 1, a race that could be the comeback spot for Runhappy, voted champion sprinter.
"That's all right," Tomlinson said. " We've run closer to Runhappy than any horse has. You can look it up in the form. He only beat us a little more than a length in the Phoenix (G3) at Keeneland," Tomlinson said.
Jockey James Graham will pilot Barbados in Saturday's race, which attracted a field of 12.
Doyle seeks to go to 4 for 6 on Christy's Ready in Ladies Turf
Christy's Ready has three wins in 15 starts, and Sophie Doyle accounts for all three in the five times she's been aboard. Elisabeth Alexander's 4-year-old filly and jockey will be reunited in Saturday's $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf, which attracted a field of nine fillies and mares.
Christie's Ready has run well in her last six starts but hasn't won since Doyle guided her to victory at 33-1 odds in a second-level allowance race last fall at Churchill Downs, when she was trained by Charlie LoPresti.
Doyle was up for the filly's first start, when she was bothered out of the gate and well-beaten but still closed to be fifth in a field of 11. They teamed for a Turfway maiden victory next time out, but Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez took over the mount at Keeneland, followed by Jose Lezcano at Churchill. Both were double-digit losses in admittedly tough races. But back with Doyle at Indiana Grand, Christie's Ready impressively won an allowance race, then was a decent third at Ellis.
Helen Pitts-Blasi assumed the training of Christie's Ready from Tom Proctor's Mid-Atlantic stable after the filly's last race, a good second at Monmouth Park.
Christie's Ready will be a price horse in the mile Ladies Turf. But Doyle, who has been back riding a month since suffering a badly fractured collarbone, has a reputation for riding hard and getting a piece of the purse with long shots. While she'd love to have a reputation for getting into the winner's circle with short-priced horses as well, she's philosophical about paying her dues.
"Many of the other jockeys riding in Kentucky have been at it for many years more than I have done," said the British-born Doyle. "They've managed to get to this stage where they can ride the favorites in stakes races and get on shorter-priced horses. (Riding long shots well) is not a bad reputation to have at all. Right now I'm working as hard as I can and trying on every horse I get on, trying to put them in the right spot and ride a smart race, and trying to get the best out of them I can -- and hopefully keep inching closer to that winner's circle."
Cox sends out Cash Control in Ladies, Almasty in Sprint
Louisville product Brad Cox will work to add on to the best year of his training career when he sends Richard and Bert Klein's Cash Control to the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf and Rupp Racing and John Wentworth's Almasty to the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint.
Cash Control, a 5-year-old daughter of 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, has never finished off the board in five starts on the turf this year. Her lone start on the main track came in her first start of the year in the Pippin Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 17, where she was fourth beaten 2 1/2 lengths. She switched surfaces for her following start in Fair Grounds' Daisy Devine Stakes, which resulted in a triumph over fellow Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf starter Mizz Money. These two fillies hooked up twice more this year with Mizz Money turning the tables on Cash Control, defeating her by a nose in the New Orleans Ladies overnight stakes. Later that summer, Cash Control came back on top when she won the Old Forester Mint Julep (G3) at Churchill Downs. Her most recent start was a close second in the Indiana General Assembly Distaff at Indiana Grand Race Course on July 16 behind Lovely Loyree, but Saturday's race could be Cash Control's stiffest test this year.
"It's a competitive race, but she's doing very well," Cox said, adding of two-time Yellow Ribbon (G2) She's Not Here, "The filly to our inside obviously likes Del Mar, but who knows if they like Kentucky Downs until they run it, right? I don't know if ours likes Kentucky Downs, but she's doing well so we'll see what happens. She's ultra-consistent and shows up every time so we're excited about her."
In the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint, Cox will saddle Almasty, whom he claimed for $30,000 lin March of 2015 at the Fair Grounds. He hopes that the son of Scat Daddy will improve off of his last start, a fifth-place effort in the Oceanport (G3) at Monmouth Park on July 31.
"We shipped him down to Monmouth for a stakes, and the jocks struggled a little bit with the ground that day," Cox said. "He's really doing well. We're excited about him. The cut back in distance should help him a bit."
Should both horses run well, they could go in graded stakes at Keeneland. Cox called the $400,000 First Lady (G1) on Oct. 8 the most logical spot for Cash Control, while noting "we'll take it one step at a time." He said that Almasty would be "possible" for the $150,000 Woodford (G3) on the same day, but will also point stakes winner Green Mask to that race.
"Not that I wouldn't run them against each other, but I think that Green Mask is more suited for the five-and-a-half, whereas Almasty is more of a six-and-a-half or seven-eighths," Cox said.
Cash Control's regular rider Shaun Bridgmohan will return to the saddle for Saturday's race, while veteran jockey Jon Court will be on Almasty.
Casse's Saratoga debut winner Ancient Warfare in Juvenile
Trainer Mark Casse has found quite a bit of success with his 2-year-olds this year and looks to continue that prosperity when he sends out recent turf maiden victors Royal Asscher in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies and Ancient Warfare in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile. Both races carry a purse of $350,000.
Ancient Warfare, a homebred son of Quality Road, defeated a field of nine in his debut July 30 at Saratoga. Casse's assistant David Carroll, who is overseeing the trainer's Churchill Downs this summer after being at Keeneland, spoke highly of the horse's training during the spring.
"We had him in the spring at Keeneland and he always showed some talent," Carroll said. "We shipped him up to Saratoga from there and he was very impressive on the turf. He was very professional, saved ground, split horses and won going away. You couldn't ask for more than that; he got a good experience from the race. I think they're all lightly-raced horses, for the most apart, so we're looking forward to another great race from him."
Royal Asscher, a homebred daughter of Tale of Ekati, could scratch in favor of an first-level allowance race at Kentucky Downs. She broke her maiden last time out at Indiana Grand by a half-length, a big turnaround from her well-beaten third on the Ellis Park main track in her career debut.
"We aren't 100 percent committed to the race, but we'll take a look because an (allowance race) would be a big purse also," Carroll said, referring to the $140,000 pot. "She was at Keeneland all spring, then we brought her up here and ran her at Indiana. Not sure what she beat that day, but she had one start prior to that, then we put her on the turf. Again, not sure what she beat but she had heat and a lot of desire to split horses and she's improved since then."
Jose Lezcano, the pilot aboard Ancient Warfare's maiden victory, returns to the saddle in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile. Chris Landeros has the mount if Royal Asscher runs.
Casse has won 23 two-year-old races this year in North America, third behind only Steve Asmussen's 27 and Todd Pletcher's 26 heading into Thursday's racing, according to Equibase statistics.