Outside of the Kentucky Cup and Lane's End programs at Turfway Park, only one stakes has been graded in recent years at the Florence, Ky., track: the Grade 3 Turfway Fall Championship. So when the Breeders' Cup announced earlier this year that the Fall Championship was being added to the BC Challenge Win and You're In series, the race took on even greater meaning: Victory in the $100,000 Fall Championship translates into an automatic berth in the BC Marathon on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.
"Being part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge clearly gives us a better race," Turfway president Bob Elliston said.
Since it was first run at Latonia in 1919, the Fall Championship has been held at a wide variety of distances, but because of its new connection to the BC Marathon, it seems the 1 1/2-mile distance should stick. And with the next two Marathons scheduled for the new Pro-Ride synthetic track at Santa Anita, the Fall Championship, which will be run around three turns over Polytrack, figures even more important than if it were run on a different type of surface.
It is not surprising then that the field of 10 appears to include several viable BC candidates. Jade's Revenge, winner of the Fort Harrod over the Keeneland Polytrack in April, certainly would advance to Santa Anita as a legitimate contender if he can win Saturday following a layoff of nearly 14 weeks.
Also meriting serious consideration in the Fall Championship: Delightful Kiss, who gets Calvin Borel when he tries to recapture the form that took him to wins in the Ohio and Iowa derbies last year; Telling, who followed a four-race win streak with solid efforts in back-to-back long races over the Arlington Park turf; Dominican, the 2007 Blue Grass Stakes winner who broke a 14-month win drought by capturing an allowance race over the Presque Isle Downs synthetic surface in his most recent start; and Star Plus, a promising Argentine import with two solid North American races behind him.
"Like anything, this is a test," said Ken McPeek, trainer of Star Plus. "I don't know if he'll like the distance or Polytrack, but he's pretty well ready for both."