FRANKLIN, Ky. – Seventy-two hours after Sunday racing at Kentucky Downs was postponed because of torrential rain, the 10-race card will be run as scheduled under much drier conditions Wednesday.
Track officials canceled early Sunday, knowing they could move the program to Wednesday with no changes to the original entries. Scratches submitted for Sunday were rescinded, with a new scratch time for Wednesday reset to Tuesday morning.
All things considered, the scheduling alteration seems fortunate, if not a bit inconvenient, for some horsemen and fans. Kentucky Downs somehow dodged a bullet Saturday, when heavy rain led to flooding conditions in Louisville, Lexington, and other areas to the north. A stakes-rich card, including meet showcase the Kentucky Turf Cup, went off as planned Saturday.
The move to Wednesday was not a major ordeal for trainer Chris Block, who arrived here Sunday from Chicago and planned to pass the interim time mostly at the Keeneland sale in Lexington.
“Hopefully the course dries out by Wednesday,” said Block, who will send out Captivating Moon as the lukewarm morning-line favorite for the Wednesday co-feature, the $400,000 Dueling Grounds Derby.
Captivating Moon is one of 10 3-year-olds in the fifth running of the Dueling Grounds Derby (race 9), which directly follows its sister race, the $300,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks (race 8). Both will be run at the once-around distance of 1 5/16 miles at this turf-only track.
Bred and owned by the Lothenbach Stables, Captivating Moon will be making his 12th career start, and has knocked heads with some real standouts in his division, including Gidu, Analyze It, and Maraud. The late-running colt was a creditable fifth in his last race, the Grade 1 Secretariat, over his home course at Arlington Park.
Block pointed out that Captivating Moon handled soft turf well when he dead-heated for second in the grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.
“He’s pretty honest and turf-course indifferent,” Block said. “He ran over a bog on Derby Day, and he seemed to get through it okay. He is one-dimensional, but going this distance, that might be just fine. He just gallops along, and then it takes him a few strides to get going when he tries to quicken. If he’s able to keep on trucking, he might just be able to run ‘em down.”
Florent Geroux, who enjoyed a big Saturday in winning two stakes, including the Kentucky Turf Cup on Arklow, will have the mount on Captivating Moon. They break from post 7.
Bandua, one of the chief threats to Captivating Moon, will start right alongside in post 6. A two-time winner from his four starts in Ireland, all for owner Calumet Farm, Bandua made his North American debut in the Aug. 11 Secretariat, outrunning his nearly 40-1 odds in finishing third behind Carrick and Analyze It.
Other major players in the Dueling Grounds Derby include Channel Cat, a solid fourth two starts back in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby for Todd Pletcher; Reride, most recently fourth to his Steve Asmussen stablemate Tenfold in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga; and the uncoupled Mike Maker duo of Jailhouse Kitten and Cullum Road.
As competitive as the derby appears, the Oaks and its field of 12 3-year-old fillies probably is more so.
Pamina and Princess Warrior, the respective 2-3 finishers in the Grade 3 Pucker Up on the Aug. 11 Arlington Million undercard, figure among the top contenders in the fourth running of the Oaks. The Michael Dickinson-trained Pamina, with Geroux riding from post 3, has earned a higher Beyer Speed Figure with each start and has never been worse than second in five career races.
Other considerations in a deep cast include Heavenly Love, who won a maiden race in eye-catching fashion here last September before winning the Grade 1 Alcibiades on the dirt at Keeneland; Osare, a half-sister to 2016 3-year-old champion Arrogate who will have Jose Ortiz riding for Jonathan Thomas of Catholic Boy fame; Smart Shot, a troubled ninth in the Pucker Up following back-to-back victories for Calumet and trainer Rusty Arnold; and the Maker trio of Malibu Saint, Rahway, and Sippin Kitten.
The Dueling Grounds Oaks and Dueling Grounds Derby anchor a Wednesday card that starts at 1:25 p.m. Central. Four qualifying events (races 3-6) toward the Dec. 1 Claiming Crown, each with a $100,000 purse, also are part of a busy program.
Purses for the derby and Oaks are heavily supplemented by bonus incentives from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund. Between both races, all but one starter – Zero Gravity, a longshot Florida-bred in the derby – are Kentucky-breds.
The Wednesday forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 81.
After Wednesday, only the closing-day Thursday card will remain at this five-day meet, with the $400,000 Ramsey Farm and $300,000 Franklin-Simpson serving as co-features. Churchill Downs opens its 11-day September meet Friday.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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