Ten (maybe 11!) of 2021 KY Downs stakes-winners expected back

Pixelate will attempt a repeat in the $1 million WinStar Mint Million at Kentucky Downs. Coady Photography

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022 ) — Ten — and possibly 11 — of the 16 horses that won stakes at Kentucky Downs last year are scheduled to return for the upcoming meet, which runs seven days between Sept. 1-14.

Trainer Mike Stidham said both 2021 Ladies Turf winner Princess Grace and WinStar Mint Million victor Pixelate will shoot for repeat stakes triumphs at the all-turf FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs. The $1 million, Grade 3 Mint Million is Sept. 3, while the Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf is Sept. 10, which features five graded stakes.

“Kentucky Downs has always been on our schedule as long as the horses are doing well,” Stidham said. “We know they run well over that track, and that’s a lot of money to turn down taking a shot at. Kentucky Downs is a meet we always look at hard, the money is so good. We target trying to run as many as we can there.”

Owned by Susan and John Moore, Princess Grace most recently was second by a half-length in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes at Churchill Downs won by Dalika. Princess Grace edged that mare by the same margin in last year’s $750,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf at a mile. Stidham said he’s hoping Dalika also shows back up at Kentucky Downs, given the provision that the purse jumps to $1 million for registered Kentucky-breds if a Grade I winner – such as Dalika just became – runs in the stakes. (The base purse increases from $300,000 to $550,000 for non-Kentucky-breds such as the German-born Dalika.)

“We’re rooting for her to come,” Stidham said, adding, “Princess Grace ran a great race in the Beverly D. like she generally does when things set up properly. She took the lead inside the eighth pole. It looked like we were going to be the winner, and Al Stall’s mare came back on the inside. Not taking anything away from Dalika, but our filly had never been a mile and an eighth. It looked to me like the mile and an eighth is what got her more than the competition got her. And the distance was probably the difference-maker at Kentucky Downs.”

(Update: Trainer Al Stall says the tentative plan is to run Dalika, who won Kentucky Downs’ 2020 One Dreamer Stakes, in the Ladies Turf.)

Pixelate, owned by 2021 Kentucky Downs leading owner Godolphin, was third in Laurel’s Prince George’s County Stakes on July 16 in his only start of 2022. He won last year’s $1 million Mint Million by 2 1/2 lengths over Somelikeithotbrown.

“We got the one race off the layoff; he ran really well,” Stidham said. “We’re hoping that race sets him up for a really big effort in his second start of the year. “

Adventuring, Turnerloose returning for Cox

Trainer Brad Cox also plans to bring back both of his 2021 Kentucky Downs stakes winners: Adventuring and Turnerloose.

Adventuring, also owned by Godolphin, won the $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks and is being pointed for the $550,000 AGS Ladies Marathon, which was elevated to Grade 3 status for 2022. In her only start as a 4-year-old, Adventuring won Mountaineer Park’s West Virginia Senate President’s Cup on Aug. 6. Cox said he isn’t yet sure which race Turnerloose will go in. Turnerloose won last year’s $500,000 Aristocrat Juvenile Fillies for owners Ike and Dawn Thrash. She was second by a half-length in Ellis Park’s Centennial Distaff Mile against older fillies in her last start.

Other 2021 stakes-winners coming back:

Stall said that In Good Spirits, who like Dalika is owned by Louisvillian Paul Varga’s Bal Mar Equine, will shoot for back-to-back wins in the $600,000 The Mint Ladies Sprint (G3), most recently having finished fourth in Saratoga’s restricted De La Rose at a mile.

Koala Princess, winner of last year’s $500,000 Ainsworth Stakes, was scratched out of Saturday’s $200,000 Lake Placid (G2) at Saratoga to run in the $500,000 Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey Music City for 3-year-old fillies Sept. 11 at Kentucky Downs, trainer Arnaud Delacour said in a text.

Tobys Heart, last year’s Music City winner, is targeting the Sept. 10 Ladies Sprint after finishing third in Ellis Park’s 5 1/2-furlong Laguna Distaff Turf Sprint. Trainer Brian Lynch believes Kentucky Downs’ 6 1/2-furlong distance will better suit the 4-year-old filly.

In Love could go in a couple of Directions at Ky Downs

Trainer Paulo Lobo said the Brazilian-bred In Love could go in either the Mint Million or the stakes he won in 2021: the $400,000 FanDuel Tapit Stakes restricted to horses that have not won a stakes this year. In Love used last year’s Tapit as a springboard to taking Keeneland’s Grade 1 Keeneland Turf Mile (now the Coolmore Turf Mile) in his next start.

Lobo and owner Bonne Chance Farm also won last year’s $1 million Kentucky Turf Cup (G2) at Kentucky Downs with Imperador, but that horse has been retired to stud in his native Argentina.

Family Way, winner of the 2021 Ladies Marathon, will attempt the repeat in that 1 5/16-mile race after finishing third in the Beverly D., trainer Brendan Walsh said.

Hendy Woods, winner of Kentucky Downs’ restricted $400,000 One Dreamer last year, is targeting the Ladies Turf, said David Carroll, who runs Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse’s Churchill Downs division.

An 11th stakes-winner from last year is being pointed to the upcoming meet but faces a tight schedule. Trainer Pavel Matejka hopes to make a race to be determined with Accredit, who paid $75 to win last year’s $750,000 Big Ass Fans Dueling Grounds Derby. Accredit hasn’t run since and has three timed workouts at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington. However, Matejka also has a private half-mile turf training gallop that goes uphill and downhill, which could boost Accredit’s fitness.

“We are hopeful that we can make it there,” Matejka said in a text. “He has been training very well and is pretty close being ready.”

Arklow Shooting for threepeat in KY Turf Cup

Among other past Kentucky Downs stakes-winners expected back: Donegal Racing’s $3 million-earner Arklow will shoot for a record third victory in the $1 million Kentucky Turf Cup (G2), whose winner gets a fees-paid berth in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Keeneland on Nov. 5. It will be Arklow’s fifth appearance at Kentucky Downs, having finished second last year (by a neck) and in 2019 to go with victories in 2020 and 2018.

Totally Boss, the 2019 FanDuel Turf Sprint winner for trainer Rusty Arnold, is on course for that $1 million Grade 2 race in his return from a year’s retirement. Totally Boss finished fourth by a total of three-quarters of a length in Ellis Park’s Twin Spires Turf Sprint in the second start of his comeback.

Ten (maybe 11!) of 2021 KY Downs stakes-winners expected back - The Mint Gaming Hall