By Dick Downey
With over $1.5 million in purses on the line, Kentucky Downs attracted 140 entries to its 10-race card on Saturday. The lineup features a contentious More Than Ready Mile featuring the best jockeys from last year's meet.
The card is highlighted by that stakes race and two others that precede it, each with prize money of $300,000: the Calumet Farm Juvenile and the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies. Post time for the first race is 1:35 CDT. The three stakes races kick off at 4:35 CDT.
Ten are entered in the More Than Ready Mile, and four of the named jockeys are among the six top riders from the 2014 Kentucky Downs meet: Julien Leparoux, Florent Geroux, Rafael Hernandez and Robby Albarado.
The entries include two from the barn of Wesley Ward, a perennial presence at Kentucky Downs: Undrafted and Green Mask.
Undrafted, owned by NFL player Wes Welker, comes in after a freshening following a victory in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 20. "This is the biggest race I've ever won, including Breeders' Cups and everything," Ward said after Frankie Dettori brought Undrafted in at 14-1 odds.
Undrafted finished third in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last year after also running third in the Kentucky Downs Turf Dash. Joel Rosario will ride Undrafted. The jockey's only other mount on the card is the Ward-trained Moment Is Right in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies.
Green Mask comes in for Ward off a longer layoff than that of Undrafted. He was last seen running third in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan on March 28. Luis Saez has the mount.
Regally Ready won this race last year for Steve Asmussen and will defend his title under Leparoux, who won the Kentucky Downs riding title last year. Since that September, Regally Ready's record has been a bit spotty. He won the ungraded Big Bear Stakes at Santa Anita before running seventh in the Cigar Mile on Nov. 29. This year he was fifth in a Fair Grounds allowance race, first in an Indiana Grand allowance and fourth in the Warrior Veterans Stakes at the latter track.
Brad Kelley, who grew up in Simpson County and now owns Calumet Farm, will sponsor Saturday's stakes race for male juveniles, and he also has Skyring, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, in the More Than Ready Mile. Joe Rocco, Jr. rides Skyring, who's earned almost $700,000 and who seeks to regain the form he had some 18 months ago.
Among other notables in the race is Tourist, trained by Bill Mott. Last summer Tourist finished second in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes, but that was followed by a dismal performance in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Mile. This is the first race since Breeders' Cup for Tourist, who will be ridden by Geroux, third-ranked in the 2014 Kentucky Downs jockey colony.
Departing was entered by Al Stall, Jr. He was a disappointing seventh in the Grade I A. G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga on Aug. 1, but previous to that outing, Departing won the Grade II Firecracker Stakes at Churchill Downs. Albarado, sixth-leading rider at Kentucky Downs last year, is named aboard Departing.
Knight's Nation, second in the Firecracker, was entered by Dallas Stewart and will be ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr., a multi-year veteran of Kentucky Downs. He was leading rider at the 2012 meet.
The iconic Jack Van Berg entered recent multiple allowance winner Even Echo, and Martin Pedroza has the mount. Merrill Scherer has Pumpkin Rumble with Corey Lanerie up. Fredericksburg, winless for almost two years for Michael Matz, has the services of Rafael Hernandez, fourth in the jockey standings last year.
Adding interest to the race is the fact that Ward was the meet-leading trainer last year. He as fourth in 2013, eighth in 2012, fifth in 2011 and second in 2010.