By Dick Downey
Kiaran McLaughlin, Tom Proctor, Chris Block and Danny Peitz train the four favorites in Saturday's $400,000 Grade III Kentucky Turf Cup going 1 1/2 mile at Kentucky Downs.
Block is the defending winning trainer, having sent out Ioya Bigtime to win the 2012 running of the track's signature race. This year, he brings in Suntracer for the Chicago-based Team Block, installed as the 4-1 third choice on the morning line. Eddie Castro retains the mount from a second place finish in the American St. Leger stakes at Arlington Park.
The 12-furlong distance of the Kentucky Downs Turf Cup should not be a problem for Suntracer, a son of Kittens Joy bred by the owner. The American St. Leger is 1 11/16 mile, and Suntracer has competed in three races going one 1/2 mile, with second- and third-place finishes to his credit.
McLaughlin teams up with Corey Lanerie on Side Road, a son of Street Cry. Side Road has seen action in grade I and grade II contests in two of his last three starts. He finished second in the 1 1/2 mile, grade II Elkhorn stakes at Keeneland in April, but he had less of an impact, in the 1 1/4-mile, Grade I Manhattan on Belmont Stakes day, finishing seventh on a yielding track. Gary Stevens rode him in each race. Both times Side Road has run 12 furlongs, he's finished second. This is only the third occasion McLaughlin has run a horse at Kentucky Downs.
Tom Proctor, a regular at Kentucky Downs' annual meetings, has entered 3-1 morning line Favorite Temeraine. While the son of Arch has never run the 1 1/2-mile distance, his last two starts have been at a mile and a quarter. He finished second in the Grade III Arlington Handicap in July before running fifth, beaten 3 3/4 lengths after making a late run in the Grade I Arlington Million on Aug. 17. Stevens has been named to ride Temeraine.
Temeraine Is the only entry with a start at the track. He finished fourth, beaten four lengths, in a 1 mile 70 yard allowance race last year.
Trainer Danny Peitz makes his debut at Kentucky Downs with Najjaar, rated the second choice on the morning line at 7-2. Third in the American St. Leger, Najjaar was fourth, beaten a length and a quarter by Temeraine in the Arlington Handicap. Najjaar, who was derailed from the Triple Crown trail last year, is one of those horses that's almost always around at the end, but he's not won a race since March 2, 2012.
Ken McPeek, a veteran of several meets at Kentucky Downs, has entered Olympic Thunder. The Turf Cup will be his third race since he was imported from Brazil. Olympic Thunder ran a close fourth in the Kittens Joy Stakes at Colonial Downs, then finished fifth in an optional claimer at Saratoga on Aug. 15.
Wesley Ward, who at this post was three-for-four at the current Kentucky Downs meet, steps down the class ladder a bit with Amen Kitten. This son of Kitten's Joy finished sixth, beaten 8 1/4 lengths, in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington on August 17. After a very slow start, he made up nine lengths on the leader.
Tom Voss, who often runs his trainees a long distance of ground on grass, has entered Royal Bench. Royal Bench has won one race from two starts at this distance – the victory coming at Delaware Park in his fourth -- and most recent -- U. S. start after he was shipped to the U. S. from France.
Potomac River will make a go of it for trainer Sergio Baez. It will be his first start at 1 1/2 mile.
Last but not least, Whatthecatdrugin was entered in the Turf Cup on Tuesday by trainer Tevis McCauley after the gelding ran in the Presque Isle Downs Mile on Sunday, finishing seventh after hopping at the start. That was his only off-the-board finish in a dozen starts this year. He's had six wins and five seconds for earnings of $174,865 so far in 2013.
For more about the history of the Kentucky Turf Cup, click here.
The Grade III Kentucky Turf Cup field in post position order:
1. Olympic Thunder, Alan Garcia, Ken McPeek, 10-1
2. Whatthecatdrugin, Jon Court, Tevis McCauley, 15-1
3. Amen Kitten, E. T. Baird, Wesley Ward, 12-1
4. Najjar, James Graham, Daniel Peitz, 7-2
5. Royal Bench, Rosie Napravnik, Thomas Voss, 10-1
6. Potomac River, Juan Vargas, Sergio Baez, 15-1
7. Side Road, Corey Lanerie, Kiaran McLaughlin 9-2
8. Temeraine, Gary Stevens, Thomas Proctor, 3-1
9. Suntracer, Eddie Castro, Chris Block, 4-1
Owners: 1 - Haras Regina, LLC (Sergio Nogueira); 2 - Unlimited Equine, LLC, JBL Thoroughbreds, LLC and McCauley, Tevis Q.; 3 - Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey; 4 - Shadwell Stable (Hamdan Al Maktoum); 5 - Merriefield Farm (Charles Noell); 6 - Maribel Ruelas; 7 - Darley Stable (Mohammed Al Maktoum); 8 - Niall Racing (Timothy B. Turney and Patrick F. Turney); 9 - Team Block (David, Patricia and Ryan Block)
Breeders: 1 - Haras Ponta Pora; 2 - Marcus Vogel & Hortense Vogel; 3 - Kenneth L. Ramsey & Sarah K. Ramsey; 4 - Shadwell Farm, LLC; 5 - Kilfrush Stud; 6 - Mereworth Farm; 7 - Darley; 8 - Donard H. Niall & Michael L. Niall; 9 - Team Block