FRANKLIN, Ky. – Mike Maker and one of his stable stars, Oscar Nominated, both will bring noteworthy streaks Saturday to the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup.
Maker, the leading trainer in Kentucky Downs history, has saddled the winner of the track’s annual showcase event the last three years, while Oscar Nominated is unbeaten over the undulating, irregularly shaped turf course.
“We’re working on keeping the streaks alive,” said Maker.
Oscar Nominated stands perhaps the best chance at victory as one of five older horses Maker has entered in the $750,000 Kentucky Turf Cup, which culminates a sensational 10-race program that starts at 1:25 p.m. Central. He and Bigger Picture will be among the favorites in the 1 1/2-mile race, while other Maker starters Bronson and Soglio will be longer shots in a full field of 12. The Maker-trained Markitoff is among the four also-eligibles for the race.
Oscar Nominated, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, won the Turf Cup last year, following back-to-back (2015-16) wins by Da Big Hoss for Maker in the race. In his only prior Kentucky Downs start, Oscar Nominated won the 2016 Dueling Grounds Derby.
“Obviously, he likes that surface,” said Maker.
Bigger Picture, a Grade 1 winner owned by Three Diamonds Farm, finished eighth in the Aug. 25 Sword Dancer at Saratoga after getting hit in the eye, Maker said.
“He’s running back a little quicker than we’d like, but he’s got a lot of back class to fall back on,” he said.
Besides the Maker contingent, other major players in the 27th Turf Cup include Manitoulin, in from New York for Jimmy Toner; Multiplier, in from California for Peter Miller; Nessy, winner of the San Juan Capistrano in April for Ian Wilkes; Arklow, a graded winner for Brad Cox; and Big Bend, winner of the 2017 Dueling Grounds Derby for Tom Proctor.
Markitoff will run in the Northern Dancer next Saturday at Woodbine, Maker said. Another also-eligible, Bandua, most likely will run here Sunday.
The Turf Cup purse includes $350,000 in bonuses from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund. Every horse in the lineup except the Brazilian-bred Some in Tieme is a Kentucky-bred.
The Turf Cup (post, 5:59) ends a pick five and a pick four made up entirely of stakes. Those preceding stakes are the KD Juvenile Turf Sprint (race 6), KD Ladies Turf (race 7), KD Ladies Sprint (race 8), and KD Turf Sprint (race 9).
Kentucky Downs officials are hoping Saturday will break the single-day track record for handle of $8,487,323, set on the 2017 Kentucky Turf Cup card.
With the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon heading in this direction as of Thursday, the outlook for Saturday called for a 60 percent chance of rain, with an increase to 90 percent for Sunday.
Several New York jockeys are scheduled to be in for the Saturday or Sunday cards, including Joel Rosario, who swept three straight graded stakes last Saturday at Saratoga – the Saranac, Spinaway, and Woodward.
Among the others are Jose Ortiz – who actually is riding the last four days of this meet – and Luis Saez, Joe Bravo, Junior Alvarado, and Kendrick Carmouche. Because of their varying schedules, no charter flight was arranged, so all will be flying commercial in and out of Nashville, Tenn., where the airport is less than an hour’s drive from Kentucky Downs.
Also named here this weekend are Drayden Van Dyke and Flavien Prat, one-two at the recently ended Del Mar meet, as well as Jose Valdivia Jr. and Tyler Gaffalione, the respective leading riders at Arlington Park and Gulfstream Park.
Among the locally based jockeys conspicuously absent this weekend is Corey Lanerie, who opted to serve a three-day suspension stemming from a Sunday riding infraction at Ellis Park. Lanerie will return to action when Churchill Downs starts its 11-day September meet next Friday (Sept. 14).
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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