Kentucky Cup Classic
Saturday, Sept. 27, Turfway Park
The Low-Down: With Belmont Park's Jockey Club Gold Cup, Oak Tree's Goodwood Stakes and the Hawthorne Gold Cup all carrying larger purses on Saturday, the Grade 2 $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic has a "what's left" feel to it. Part of that is due to the race's steep history, luring such superstars as Silver Charm, Thunder Gulch, Congaree and Roses in May, not to mention last year's epic rematch between Hard Spun and Street Sense. But the six-horse lineup is not without some credentials, combining to earn more than $3 million lifetime. And, of course, the real caveat in this race's corner is the all-weather Polytrack surface. Any success here will give a horse's connections Breeders' Cup Classic dreams. Remember, this year's biggee will be held for the first time over an all-weather track, the Pro Ride surface at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.
Our Eyes: East Coast raider HONEST MAN tries to give trainer Larry Jones back-to-back successes in Turfway's premier autumn race. Last year, Jones pulled the trick with Hard Spun, who was far more accomplished than his successor even though just a 3-year-old. HONEST MAN, 4, will be making his Polytrack debut in the Classic, though he has trained smartly over the all-weather surface at Maryland's Fair Hill Training Center. He showed he could handle a class rise by knocking off GRASSHOPPER in the Iselin, running 1 1/8 miles in a sharp 1:49. Tracks with a little give in them have not proven his best surface, so it will be intriguing to see how he handles the bounce of the Polytrack.
From a pace standpoint, HONEST MAN should sit an easy second behind lone speed CANELA, a $25,000 claim this spring for miracle worker/trainer Mike Maker. The former D. Wayne Lukas assistant has made a name for himself because of reclamation projects like CANELA, who owns a pair of victories and a Grade 3 placing among his efforts since coming to the new barn. If you think it sounds preposterous for a horse who has run as low as $7,500 claiming to win this race, dial back to the spring of '06 when Maker's ex-claimer With A City stunned Turfway's Grade 2 Lane's End Stakes en route to the Triple Crown. Cross-entered in the Hawthorne Gold Cup as well, Maker likes CANELA's chances better here, where he could get brave on the engine.
The two horses most interested in someone joining CANELA early on and ensuring a good pace are ZANJERO and STREAM CAT.
ZANJERO broke his maiden in his Polytrack debut at Keeneland in the fall of his 2-year-old year, and returned to Lexington to narrowly miss last spring's Grade 1 Blue Grass when third. He edged Street Sense that day and fell a lip short of Dominican in their dueling upset bids. While he has not raced on an all-weather surface since, there's no doubt in my mind he'll be just fine over the track Saturday. It's the distance that concerns. ZANJERO does his best running at 1 1/16 miles, especially in races with a fast pace. When too close to a slow pace, or at 1 1/8 miles, he has the repeated pattern of hanging late.
STREAM CAT looms large as the horse to beat under Polytrack's most effective rider, Julien Leparoux. He won the 2005 Kentucky Cup Juvenile over this track, making a turf-to-dirt move from Saratoga's With Anticipation Stakes. Now at age 5, he comes in off a dull effort in a completely paceless Grade 1 Arlington Million.
Career turfer YATES BLACK CAT and stakes-debuting EXTREME SUPREME round out the field from the respected barns of Dale Romans and John Ward. The former appears well up against the pace scenario, while EXTREME SUPREME could benefit from a pressing trip and get first run on the bigger guns.
The Bottom Line: Third in this race last year, STREAM CAT will be happy to look around the starting gate and not see Hard Spun and Street Sense. Take him on top over the pace players, HONEST MAN and CANELA.
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