LEXINGTON, Ky. (Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019) — The Breeders’ Cup is at California’s Santa Anita Park, but Kentucky’s tracks figure to send a bumper crop of horses to racing’s championship series, with Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs in position to further establish themselves as launching pads to stardom.
The last round of major American prep races for the Nov. 1-2 Breeders’ Cup unfolds this weekend at Keeneland, Belmont Park and Santa Anita. Keeneland will be the main focus with 10 stakes — nine enjoying graded status, five being Grade 1 — spread over the annual three-day Falls Stars Weekend. Nine of those stakes, plus next Wednesday’s JP Morgan Chase Jessamine for 2-year-old fillies on turf, are part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, meaning their winners receive a fees-paid berth in the corresponding Breeders’ Cup race.
The action starts Friday at Keeneland with the $250,000, Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix, a “Win and You’re In” race for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades for 2-year-old fillies, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge series race for the $2 million Juvenile Fillies.
Something Special Racing’s 3-year-old Hog Creek Hustle — a debut winner last year at Ellis Park who this year gave Churchill Downs-based trainer Vickie Foley her first Grade 1 win in Belmont Park’s Woody Stephens — takes on older horses for the first time in the Phoenix. The six-furlong affair includes 2018 winner Promises Fulfilled and 2017 winner Whitmore, who last year was second the Phoenix and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs.
How long has Something Special Racing managing partner Patty Tipton thought about the Breeders’ Cup for Hog Creek Hustle? Since she purchased the colt for $150,000 at Keeneland’s 2017 yearling auction and discovered he wasn’t nominated as a foal to the program, for which the cost would have been $400.
Tipton convinced her partners to put up the $12,000 to make a 2-year-old Breeders’ Cup eligible, but that fee had to be paid by July 15 — more than a month before Hog Creek Hustle ever ran. Had the partners waited, the cost would have gone up multi-fold to nominate to the Breeders’ Cup: $100,000 as a 2-year-old after July 15 or $50,000 as a 3-year-old.
“I knew he was going to do great things; we felt that from the beginning,” Tipton said. “That’s why we paid the $12,000 Breeders’ Cup nomination before he ever put a foot on the track at Ellis Park. I really had to lobby the partners to do it. I kind of had to say, ‘Hey guys, we need to do this. We can’t afford it right now, but we cannot afford not to nominate him. I feel very strongly that this horse is going to be something special, and we’ve got to be ready for it.’”
“Patty was just insistent that he be nominated,” Foley said. “She would not let it lie. She said, ‘It’s got to get done,’ and it got done.”
And the partnership also named itself Something Special Racing after their hopes for their horse, whose name is a shoutout to Tipton’s hardscrabble roots growing up in Hog Creek, Ky., a little strip of land 35 miles east of Lexington on the Hog Creek stream.
Now Hog Creek Hustle is one of five current 3-year-olds who ran at Ellis Park at age 2 and went on to win Grade 1 races.
“Ellis Park should be very proud of that, as we are of Ellis Park,” Foley said.
Hog Creek Hustle ran well in the Fair Grounds’ 3-year-old series over the winter, with a second in the Lecomte and fourth in the Risen Star before any Kentucky Derby dreams were dashed by an eighth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby. A second in the Pat Day Mile to the accomplished Mr. Money put Hog Creek Hustle in hog heaven as a one-turn specialist.
“We’ve learned he’s just better at the one-turn mile or seven-eighths,” Foley said. “I think he’s one of the best come-from-behind sprinters in the country. He has earned the challenge of taking on older horses. As in the human world, the boy became a man.”
Watching Hog Creek Hustle is an adventure. His team had to wait out a stewards’ objection when he came seven-wide and from well back to win the Woody Stephens by a neck. Then came a nose defeat to Mind Control in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens, Foley’s first time running a horse at Saratoga.
“I wanted to fall down on the track,” she said. “He ran fantastic. I think Corey Lanerie thought he’d won the race. He held up his stick, and I don’t think even John Velazquez thought he’d won. But I was watching on a television monitor under the grandstand by myself, and I knew we didn’t get the nod. It was heart-breaking. But he thought he won. We’re proud of him, and he does make it very exciting.
“I have all the confidence in the world with this horse. He is just a true racehorse with a big heart, and he’s going to give it all he has. We have a small stable, a stable of 10, and we’re competing with guys with 100 horses or more. So I’d say we’re doing pretty good.”
Ellis Park maiden winners Fighting Seabee and Peace Achieved headline Sunday’s $250,000, Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland, a Challenge Series race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Fighting Seabee went on to win Saratoga’s Grade 3 With Anticipation while Peace Achieved won Kentucky Downs’ $500,000 Gainesway Farm Juvenile. Also in the field of 14 two-year-olds racing 1 1/16 miles on grass are Prince of Thieves, third in the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint after winning his debut at Ellis Park, and Kentucky Downs maiden winners The Third Secret, Kid Mercury and Art Collector.
Chimney Rock, who lost the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint by a head, is among the favorites for Sunday’s $200,000 Indian Summer for 2-year-olds running 5 1/2 furlongs on grass. The one to catch will be the Wesley Ward-trained filly Kimari, a 15-length winner on dirt last April at Keeneland who then was second by a head in Royal Ascot’s Group 2 Queen Mary before taking Saratoga’s Bolton Landing by four lengths.
Jezebel’s Kitten, who also went from an Ellis Park maiden win to a big victory in Kentucky Downs’ $500,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies, goes in next Wednesday’s $200,000 JP Morgan Chase Jessamine, a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
The top four finishers in the $500,000, Grade 3 Three Chimneys Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs are in Keeneland’s $400,000, Grade 1 First Lady at a mile on grass on Saturday’s standout card: victorious Ms. Bad Behavior, Mitchell Road, Simply Breathless and Storm the Hill, along with Kentucky Downs’ One Dreamer winner Hanalei Moon.
Real Story and First Premio, who finished second and third behind Snapper Sinclair in Kentucky Downs’ $750,000 Tourist Mile, go in Saturday’s $1 million, Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile, where 2018 Shadwell upset winner Next Shares tries to rebound from a traffic-plagued seventh in the Tourist Mile.
Meanwhile at Belmont Park: Zulu Alpha and Arlow, the 1-2 finishers in Kentucky Downs’ $1 million, Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, join 2018 Dueling Grounds Derby and Grade 2 winner Channel Cat in the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, a Grade 1 prep to the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. Arklow finished fourth in last year’s BC Turf at Churchill Downs.
The 3-year-old Street Band (taking Parx Racing’s Grade 1 Cotillion) and the 2-year-old Abscond (Woodbine’s Grade 1 Natalma), who both had their first wins racing at Ellis Park, already have earned fees-paid spots in the $2 million Longines Distaff and $2 million Juvenile Fillies.
Totally Boss earned a free roll in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint by capturing Kentucky Downs’ RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint, a race for which he made the field by winning Ellis Park’s Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint. Trainer Rusty Arnold also is training Totally Boss right into the Breeders’ Cup.
Dennis’ Moment went from a 19 1/4-length Ellis Park win to taking Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes, a “Win and You’re In” for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, for which he could be favored.
Finish lines: Trainer Brad Cox said that Owendale, fresh off winning Sunday’s $400,000, Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park, will be pointed for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. Owendale made his first two career starts at Ellis Park, with a fourth and a third before winning at Churchill Downs. He also won Keeneland’s Grade 3 Stonestreet Lexington and Grade 3 Ohio Derby and was third in the Preakness Stakes.