FRANKLIN, Ky. (Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021) — Louisville’s Harvey Diamond and his partners in Skychai Racing will finally run their stable star Somelikeithotbrown at Kentucky Downs, with the multiple graded-stakes winner among the favorites for Monday’s $1 million, Grade 3 WinStar Mint Million.
Last year’s winner, Juddmonte Farm’s Flavius, also is among the 11 older horses entered Tuesday for the Labor Day featured attraction, previously known as the Tourist Mile. The Chad Brown-trained Flavius won Saratoga’s restricted Lure Stakes in his last start.
With the mile stakes enjoying Grade 3 status for the first time in 2021, the purse was increased from $750,000 and the name changed to reflect that amount and as a shout to The Mint Gaming Hall at Kentucky Downs.
Diamond, Skychai co-managing partner Jim Shircliff and frequent partner David Koenig of Sand Dollar Stable all love Kentucky Downs. Not only do they like to have a good time in a festive outdoor atmosphere at the races, but they won the $1 million Calumet Turf Cup in 2015 and 2016 with Da Big Hoss.
However, Somelikeithotbrown previously has raced in the summer at Saratoga, where he’s eligible for New York-bred races and his owners earn additional incentives as the horse’s breeder. The Big Apple has been very good to Somelikeithotbrown, including winning Saratoga’s Grade 2 Bernard Baruch and Belmont’s $150,000 Mohawk for New York-breds last year, along with an eight-length maiden victory and a pair of seconds in Grade 3 stakes as a 2-year-old in 2018.
The Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund is channeling millions of dollars into purse supplements at the six-date FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs for horses born in the commonwealth and by a stallion standing in the state. But the stakes’ base purses — for which all horses can compete — alone would rank among some of the most lucrative in the country.
So while Somelikeithotbrown isn’t eligible to compete for the $450,000 KTDF component of the Mint Million, “$550,000 isn’t exactly chopped liver,” Diamond said. “It just seemed like the proper spot for him.”
Somelikeithotbrown last ran when a close second to Set Piece in Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Wise Dan on June 26.
“I thought he tried really hard all the way to the wire,” said Diamond, a retired occupational physician. “That race was a mile and a sixteenth around two turns. This will be a one-turn race, so we’re looking forward to giving it a shot down there. We think he’s a really nice horse, and he doesn’t owe us a thing. So let’s see how he runs at Kentucky Downs. Hotbrown doesn’t need to take his track with him. He’s won at multiple tracks, and he’s good at the distance. So we’re looking forward to running him at this European-style course. We love to come down there. We’re excited the turf course has been renovated and can’t wait to see it. And it’s in an outdoor atmosphere that will fit with our COVID restrictions.”
The cleverly named Somelikeithotbrown is from the first foal crop sired by 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown in his first breeding season in New York. His dam is the Tapit mare Marilyn Monroan, her name a play on her gray color, who raced for Skychai’s affiliated Hot Pink Stables and Sand Dollar. Overall he’s 7-5-2 in 20 starts, earning $899,838.
Somelikeithotbrown spent the summer in Louisville at trainer Mike Maker’s Trackside training center base, where he has uncorked four very strong workouts. Jose Ortiz, the 2018-2019 Kentucky Downs meet titlist, has the mount and is skipping closing day at Saratoga.
Alluding to bypassing Saratoga’s $250,000 Albany for New York-breds to run in the Mint Million, Maker said the New York-bred turf horses “are no cupcakes, either. So, we figured with the difference in the purses, we might as well stay home where he’s doing well. He’s run on hard ground, yielding ground and performed well at different places. I do like the one turn for him.”
As Kentucky Downs’ all-time winningest trainer with 63 victories, Maker’s 356 starters also are a track record. Those horses have earned $8,259,886 at the all-grass meet, with no one else close.
Maker is coming off a huge meet at Saratoga, with 24 wins and $1.97 million in purse earnings and still having horses for that meet’s final week. But it’s a sign of how important the Kentucky Downs’ meet is to the trainer that he’s back in Kentucky. He has nine horses entered in six races on the Labor Day card.
That includes another Mint Million entrant in Michael Hui’s Monarchs Glen, a $62,500 claim who in his last three starts won a second-level allowance race and Indiana Grand’s Jon B. Schuster Memorial and finished second by a neck in the West Virginia Speaker’s Cup.
Other contenders in the Mint Million include Chicago invader Betwithbothhands, who earned a fees-paid berth in the race by virtue of winning the stakes prep at Ellis Park; last year’s Grade 2 Del Mar Derby winner Pixelate; and Bizzee Channel, who won the Grade 3 Arlington Stakes before finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Mr. D (formerly the Arlington Million).
Skychai, in partnership with Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher, also is running Saratoga maiden-winner Kiss the Sky in Monday’s $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile. As a Kentucky-bred son of Twirling Candy, the Maker-trained Kiss the Sky will compete for the whole purse.
“He’s shown some ability with that Saratoga win,” Diamond said.
The Kentucky Downs Juvenile also drew a field of 11, including the Kenny McPeek-trained Tiz the Bomb, who romped by 14 1/4 lengths in a mile maiden race that came off the grass at Ellis Park. Larry Rivelli will send out 2-for-2 Nobals, who won the Arlington-Washington Futurity winner this past Saturday. Mark Casse brings up On Thin Ice, an impressive debut winner on grass, up from Gulfstream Park for the stakes. Maker also entered the maiden Fan the Fire in the stakes.
Brad Cox has a strong 1-2 punch in the $500,000 Aristocrat Juvenile Fillies, running Turnerloose and Yin Yang, both Ellis Park debut winners at a mile on grass. The Randy Morse-trained Verylittlecents, winner of the RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Juvenile Fillies, makes her first start on turf in the mile stakes, which attracted a field of ten 2-year-old fillies.
Maker: Zulu Alpha still pointing for $1 million Calumet Turf Cup
With Hui’s 2019 Calumet Turf Cup and 2020 Pegasus World Cup Turf winner Zulu Alpha now 8, Maker concedes that Father Time might be stalking the 12-time winner and $2.27 million-earner. But with the gelding having only two starts off a 10-month layoff following his third place in last year’s Calumet Turf Cup, Maker isn’t ready to write off the Zulu Alpha.
Zulu Alpha was sixth in the Grade 3 Arlington Stakes in his first start since being sidelined with a minor ankle injury. Then he was well-beaten seventh of eight in the Mr. D Stakes won by front-running Two Emmys, who got away with a crawling pace.
“We’re still pointing toward that direction,” Maker said of the Calumet Turf Cup, which he has won a record four times. As far as Zulu Alpha’s last two starts? “Good question. I mean, the first one, he needed it. The last one was kind of disappointing, but maybe it was the pace.”
Could he be showing a sign of age? “Absolutely,” Maker said. “All good things have to come to an end.” But if the gelding continues to train well, the trainer said he’ll give him another shot over a course they know Zulu Alpha relishes, “for sure.”
“He had a long time off — I want to say I babied him, didn’t train him like we normally do. That always weighs in the back of your mind. I mean, he’s a huge horse, so it’s a little tougher to get him fit than most horses. He’s not one of those aggressive horses that put a lot into training.”