FLORENCE, Ky., Sept. 20, 2011 – Although several trainers remain mum about horses for all five stakes that make up the WinStar Kentucky Cup Day of Champions at Turfway Park on Saturday, others have announced their plans.
Trainer Mike Stidham plans to enter Workin for Hops in the $200,000 WinStar Kentucky Cup (G2) and expects the 4-year-old City Zip gelding to deliver his usual consistent performance. In seven starts this year, Workin for Hops won the Grade 3 Hanshin Handicap at Arlington in May, and he was second in both the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile and the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap, though disqualified to third in the latter. He finished fourth three times but was beaten by 2 1/4 lengths or less each time. The glaring exception over the past 12 months is a 10th place finish in the King Edward at Woodbine. Even then he was beaten only 4 1/4 lengths.
“He’s always right there,” said Stidham. “In that race (the King Edward), he got shuffled back and never got into contention. It just didn’t set up for him—he’ll stalk or be on the lead. But still he didn’t get beat by much. He tries hard and gives you a big effort, and you can’t ask for more than that.”
Workin for Hops breezed four furlongs in :47.80 at Arlington on Saturday, seventh fastest of 47 to go that distance. He will ship to Turfway from Arlington Thursday with Stidham’s entry for the Distorted Humor Kentucky Cup Distaff (G3), Upperline.
Trainer Paul McGee is sending three to Turfway on Saturday and will shoot for the big money in the WinStar Kentucky Cup with Demarcation, a hard-knocking gelding with career earnings of $659,429. Demarcation typically does his best running from well off the pace.
“He’ll be coming from off of it for sure,” said McGee. “He hasn’t raced at Turfway, but I think he ought to like it. The track is often kind to horses that come from behind.”
Best of all, McGee thinks Demarcation is rounding nicely into form for the WinStar Kentucky Cup following a good runner-up finish last out in the August 6 West Virginia Governor’s Handicap.
“He won the Mineshaft at Fair Grounds to start the year, and then he tailed off,” said McGee. “Last time out was an improved effort. He’s back to doing really good again.”
Demarcation will ship from Churchill Downs on Saturday morning with stablemates High Quality, headed for the Distorted Humor Kentucky Cup Distaff (G3) and Chilled, expected for the Speightstown Kentucky Cup Sprint (G3).
Late-running Shediak (FR) will try to reproduce his newly regained form in the WinStar Kentucky Cup for trainer Ben Cecil, who liked what he saw in the 6-year-old’s last two races, an optional allowance win and a win in the Windy Sands Handicap, both at Del Mar. The gelding was Group 1-placed at Longchamp in France early in his career but has struggled while racing solely in California since coming to the U.S. in 2008.
“Based on his European form, he had been a bit of a disappointment until his last two races,” said Cecil. “I think the turf and dirt surfaces he’s run over here in California have been too firm for his liking. He really seemed to like the softer Polytrack at Del Mar in his last two. We thought he would be (assigned) 114 lbs. for his last race (the Windy Sands) but he was highweighted (at 120 lbs.) and still won. So we’re hoping the Turfway Polytrack is a softer Polytrack like Del Mar.”
Shediak worked a handy five furlongs in 1:02.60 over Santa Anita’s dirt training track on Monday, fastest of two at the distance, before boarding a plane in the wee hours of Tuesday and arriving at Turfway about 1:30 p.m.
Patrick Valenzuela, who rode Shediak in his successful last two starts, will ride the gelding in the WinStar Kentucky Cup. Shediak is owned by Paul Bogassian’s Triple B Farms.
Dodson Skaggs’s patience with WinStar Kentucky Cup probable Future Prospect has already paid off. The 7-year-old gelding won three races in Kentucky for owner/trainer Skaggs before heading to New York in February 2009. Eight months later, after six wins including two restricted stakes, he was on the shelf with a pulled suspensory. He didn’t return to racing for two years.
“It took me that long to get him healthy,” said Skaggs, who brought Future Prospect back in March and won with his first outing, an optional allowance at Turfway. He since has run six more times, finishing fifth twice and third once before winning his last three races, the last two on Presque Isle Downs all-weather surface.
“He liked the surface at Presque Isle but he doesn’t have to take his track with him. He’s run at seven different track and won at all seven. He’s won with nine different riders. He gives all he’s got. He can sit back (off the pace) but if he gets in front he’s hard to hold back. If he’s got anything left at the end, he’ll give it to you. Manny Cruz won with him at Churchill but he had commitments on Saturday, so Edgar Prado will be riding. Manny talked to Edgar about him and told him this horse is the trying-est horse he ever rode.”
Future Prospect trains on the all-weather surface at Highpoint Training Center outside Louisville and will ship up Saturday.
Distorted Humor Kentucky Cup Distaff (G3)
High Quality, McGee’s entry for the $100,000 Distorted Humor Kentucky Cup Distaff (G3), started 2011 with a game allowance win on the dirt at Fair Grounds on March 11. The daughter of Elusive Quality then went to the sidelines for five months before running fourth, beaten less than two lengths, last time out in a grass allowance at Arlington Park.
“We’re taking a shot,” said McGee. “She has never run on synthetic, but she has run well on grass. She needed that last race off a layoff. She had a bullet work since that race (breezing five furlongs in 1:00.80 Sept. 11 on the dirt at Churchill), and she’s doing really well.”
Stidham trainee Upperline also will contest the Distorted Humor Kentucky Cup Distaff. The Grade 3 winner won the Trillium Stakes at Woodbine two races back and comes in to Saturday off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Beverly D at Arlington last month, beaten four lengths.
“That was a deep, deep, contentious field in the Beverly D.,” Stidham said. “There were some really good Grade 1 winners in that race, so we were happy with the way she ran. She dug in and tried hard.”
Upperline last worked Sept. 10, firing a bullet five furlongs in a minute flat at Arlington on September 10, best of 29 at the distance.
Asked about the WinStar bonus in this race, a mating with one of three WinStar stallions to the top three finishers, Stidham said, “The way she’s going, if she’s sound at the end of the year we’ll give her a little break and think about running her as a 5-year-old. But we’re planning to breed her, so sure, that’s a helpful bonus.”
The owners of the top three Distaff finishers may choose any of their mares for the bonus seasons.
Speightstown Kentucky Cup Sprint (G3)
McGee has an interesting, if lightly raced, candidate for the Speightstown Kentucky Cup Sprint (G3) in Chilled. After a second-place finish at 60-1 in his debut at Churchill July 4, Chilled broke his maiden last time out at Hoosier Park, drawing off by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:09 flat at even money against a field that included older horses.
“I was surprised he was that big a price in his debut,” said McGee. “But that was a seven-furlong race, and I didn’t really have him cranked up. He’s a nice horse, and I really think he deserves a shot in a stakes—especially against straight three-year-olds.”
The five stakes will run as races six through 10 on Saturday’s 12-race card. First post is 1:10 p.m.