Maker-trained Dunph seeks to go to 3 for 3 in Kentucky Jockey Club

Today’s Churchill Downs barn notes, authored by Kevin Kerstein:

(Photo by Coady Photography: Dunph winning Churchill Downs’ Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018) – Three Diamonds Farm and Joseph Besecker’s undefeated 2-year-old colt Dunph will attempt to land his third career victory in next Saturday’s $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) at Churchill Downs – a race that awards 10 points to the winner on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.”

“It would be nice to get him started on the Derby trail,” said Maker, who began training Dunph following his scintillating 8 ½-length victory on Sept. 15 at Penn National. “I ended up getting this horse because my owner (KirkWycoff’s Three Diamonds Farm) was friends with the original owner (Besecker) and bought into him. The original owner was able to keep a percentage of the horse and the deal has really worked out so far. That race at Penn National was very impressive. He’s a nice, developing colt.”

Following Dunph’s debut score at Penn National, the Temple City colt cruised to a 7 ¾-length win in the $300,000 Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes at Churchill Downs on Oct. 28.

The Kentucky Jockey Club is the centerpiece of Stars of Tomorrow II on Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs – a day that features 12 2-year-old races that has launched the careers of many Grade I winners and champions including 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and 2012 Clark Handicap hero Shackleford.

The 1 1/16-mile race awards points to the Top 4 finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale for the 2019 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) on Saturday, May 4.

The probable entrants, according to Assistant Racing Secretary and Stakes Coordinator Dan BorkBlue Steel(trainer Dale Romans); Current (Todd Pletcher); Dunph (Maker); Kentucky Allstar (Maker); King for a Day (ToddPletcher); Manny Wah (Wayne Catalano); Mick’s Star (Tom Amoss); Plus Que Parfait (Brendan Walsh); Roiland(Amoss); Royal Urn (Michelle Nihei); Signalman (Kenny McPeek); and Synthesis (Keith Desormeaux).


SEEKING THE SOUL WORKS HALF-MILE IN :48.80 IN PREPARATION FOR CLARK DEFENSE – CharlesFipke’s 2017 Clark Handicap presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) winner Seeking the Soul completed his final major preparation to defend his title in the 1 1/8-mile race with a half-mile breeze in :48.80 Saturday morning at Churchill Downs.

“We actually planned on working him at 5:30 a.m. (all times Eastern) but there was so much fog we couldn’t see anything,” said trainer Dallas Stewart, who moved Seeking the Soul’s breeze to 9 a.m. “It was a good work. He probably could’ve went faster if we asked him to but he didn’t need to go any faster since he just ran a couple of weeks ago.”

Seeking the Soul began his 2018 campaign with a lackluster fifth-place finish in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup (GI) at Gulfstream Park. Following that race, Stewart gave the 5-year-old a break to heal a minor ankle injury but he resurfaced at Indiana Grand on July 14 with a runner-up finish in the $100,000 Schaffer Memorial. Most recently, the Kentucky-bred finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) at Churchill Downs.

“He’s just getting better as the year goes on,” Stewart said. “Similar to his campaign last year when he won the Clark, he was peaking during this time. I would’ve liked to him to have had a shot to run in the Classic but it is what it is. Hopefully he runs well in the Clark and he can get another shot at the Pegasus in January.”

Jockey John Velazquez, who was aboard Seeking the Soul for his half-length win in the Clark, will have the riding assignment again this year, according to Stewart.

The Clark Handicap, run at 1 1/8 miles, is expected to include Believe in Royalty (Larry Jones); Bravazo (D. Wayne Lukas); Hawaakom (Wes Hawley); Hence (Steve Asmussen); Leofric (Brad Cox); Seeking the Soul (Stewart);Sightforsoreeyes (Anthony Quartarolo); and Storm Advisory (Quartarolo).

Also breezing Saturday morning at Churchill Downs in preparation for the Clark were Loooch Racing’s allowance winners Sightforsoreeyes and Storm Advisory. Pennsylvania-bred Storm Advisory was the first to work at 8 a.m. and recorded a half-mile in :47, the fastest of 33 recorded at the distance. In the next set, former $35,000 claimerSightforsoreeyes worked the second-fastest half-mile of the morning in :47.60.

Entries for the Clark Handicap will be drawn Sunday.


THANKSGIVING WEEKEND STAKES TAKING SHAPE – Six graded stakes races worth purses of $1.4 million highlight closing week of the 21-day Fall Meet at Churchill Downs. Below are the probable entrants to each race, according to Assistant Racing Secretary and Stakes Coordinator Dan Bork:


Friday, Nov. 23 (Black Friday):


The $500,000 Clark Handicap presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) – for 3-year-olds and up run at 1 1/8 miles:Believe in Royalty (Larry Jones); Bravazo (D. Wayne Lukas); Hawaakom (Wes Hawley); Hence (Steve Asmussen);Leofric (Brad Cox); Seeking the Soul (Dallas Stewart); Sightforsoreeyes (Anthony Quartarolo); Storm Advisory(Quartarolo).


The $200,000 Mrs. Revere (GII) – for 3-year-old fillies run at 1 1/16 miles on turf: Angel of Mischief (Norm Casse);Cool Beans (Brad Cox); Dark Artist (Jane Cibelli); Get Explicit (Barbara Minshall); High Tech (Ian Wilkes); Kabella(Danny Peitz); Over Thinking (Vicki Oliver); Stella Di Camelot (Chad Brown).


Saturday, Nov. 24 (Stars of Tomorrow II)


The $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) – for 2-year-olds run at 1 1/16 miles: Blue Steel (Dale Romans); Current(Todd Pletcher); Dunph (Mike Maker); Kentucky Allstar (Maker); King for a Day (Todd Pletcher); Manny Wah (Wayne Catalano); Mick’s Star (Tom Amoss); Plus Que Parfait (Brendan Walsh); Roiland (Amoss); Royal Urn (Michelle Nihei);Signalman (Kenny McPeek); Synthesis (Keith Desormeaux).


The $200,000 Golden Rod (GII) – for 2-year-old fillies run at 1 1/16 miles: Champagne Anyone (Ian Wilkes); Gold Credit (Ignacio Correas); High Regard (Vicki Oliver); Liora (Wayne Catalano); Meadow Dance (Brad Cox); PrincessCauseway (Wilkes); Reflect (Keith Desormeaux); Restless Rider (Kenny McPeek).

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Jennie Rees