Dave Litfin - Litfin At Large

Dave Litfin - Litfin At Large

Litfin: Summer Twilight at Kentucky Downs

A look at weekend turf action from the top-rated HANA track.

Everyone is going through Saratoga Race Course withdrawal, but thankfully there is the wonderful spectacle of Kentucky Downs to ease the transition from summer to fall.

Proving the adage "money makes the mare go," 133 horses entered Saturday's 10 races at the countryside track. They are swelled with total purses of $2.315 million, and climaxed by an all-stakes pick four on the $400,000 More Than Ready Mile, the $150,000 One Dreamer, the $600,000 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup (gr. IIIT), and the $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint.

All races at Kentucky Downs are run on an undulating, European-style turf course with a kidney-shaped layout. Horses (and riders) that have previously displayed an affinity for the unique conditions rate a careful look.

Kentucky Downs boasts a number of improvements this season, notably a revamped graphics package and a new high-definition signal with clearer camera angles. It is the top-rated track according to the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA), because player-friendly things like full fields, exactas with a take of 18.25 percent and pick fives at 14 percent check off a lot of boxes.

You can access a load of free editorial and statistical information about Kentucky Downs at their site: www.horseplayersassociation.org.

More Than Ready Mile (Race 7, 4:36 Central Time)
With the news coming the morning of Sept. 8 that Wesley Ward plans to scratch Hootenanny  and Chiltern Street, we're down to a sextet.

The logical choice, Watchyourownbobber (#3) was claimed for $50,000 by Mike Maker from a maiden win late in his juvenile season, and has since banked over $300,000. The well-traveled colt by Hard Spun  has won in four states, along with a runner-up finish in the Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup earlier this year.

The key to his chances is tied to how much pace pressure is applied by Songsational (#7), a lightly raced 5-year-old who has improved since switched to turf by Bill Mott, and who stretches out after chasing in the 5 1/2-furlong Troy Stakes at the Spa.

Interestingly enough, their respective jockeys, Julien Leparoux and Florent Geroux, are sit-chilly types. Leparoux, scheduled to return from a broken wrist Thursday, has ridden Watchyourownbobber only once, when they were second at 12-1 in last year's Jefferson Cup (gr. IIIT); Geroux rides Songsational for the first time.

Thatcher Street (#5) was a close third behind Watchyourownbobber in mid-July before getting the rest of the summer off. He returned from a similar break to run second on this quirky course last September, and could sit a nice trip from off the pace.

I have question marks regarding current form on Power Ped (#2) and Dimension (#8) after their disappointing efforts in August. Both have run well at Kentucky Downs, however, and either or both may benefit from a legit pace.

A—3, 5
B—2, 7, 8

One Dreamer (Race 8, 5:09 CT)
Complete St., Folded Wings, and America Mon Amie are in tough, but separating the remaining fillies and mares in this restricted stake is an exercise in splitting hairs for the most part. 

Unless, that is, Entrechat (#2) rebounds from an off race and returns to the form she showed in early summer. She can be reluctant to settle through the early going at times, and should benefit from the switch back to Flavien Prat, who has guided her to all three career victories.

If you've been chasing her through five losses this year, don't sign the divorce papers on Annulment (#3) just yet. She was a close third in last year's One Dreamer, won by Rusty Slipper in course-record time, and switches back to Robbie Albarado, who swept the Ladies Turf and Turf Sprint last Saturday.

No Fault of Mine (#6) drops out of the Beverly D (gr. IT) and is reunited with Geroux, who is 1-for-1 with the Blame  filly.

Fleet Bertie (#1), Inside Out (#5), Lots o' Lex (#7), and Cabana (#8) are on back-up tickets.

A—2, 3, 6
B—1, 5, 7

Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup (Race 9, 5:39 CT)
The lesson here is to pay close attention when Mike Maker claims turf horses. 

Maker haltered Da Big Hoss  (#7) for $50,000 in June of 2015 and he has won six stakes with the 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid , including this event a year ago.

Da Big Hoss will be a solid favorite to repeat, and his stiffest challenge may come from stablemate Greengrassofyoming (#9), who won the Stars N Stripes (gr. IIIT) two weeks after being claimed by Maker for $62,500, and then rallied to wind up a close fourth in the Arlington Million (gr. IT).

As a bust-out, consider Behesht  (#5), a European import getting back to his preferred 1 1/2 miles third time out in the United States.

Power Foot (#6) can be in the hunt third time back from a layoff for Neil Drysdale.

C—5, 6

Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint (Race 10, 6:09 CT)
Since coming from an impossible position to get fifth behind Lady Shipman in May, the stretch-running Rumble Doll (#1) has been up against a series of unfavorable situations according to the pace and bias figures produced by Racing Flow (www.racingflow.com).

Trouble is, this edition of the Ladies Sprint isn't overflowing with early speed, either, which makes projecting the pace a difficult call.

We're keying on Rumble Doll and the steady-going Mississippi Delta (#3), but casting a wide net and also including Rapid Rhythm (#2), Miss Double d'Oro (#4), Late Spring (#7), and Seeking Treasure (#8).

A—1, 3
B—4, 7
C—2, 8