By Jennie Rees for Kentucky Downs — A horse trained by Rusty Arnold earned a free roll in the $1 million, Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint for the second time in three years as Calumet Farm’s Gear Jockey wore down front-running Bombard to take the $1 million FanDuel Turf Sprint by 2 1/2 lengths. Diamond Oops nailed Bombard at the wire to take second by a nose.
“This race has been very good to me,” said Arnold, who won the 2019 race, when the purse was $750,000, with Totally Boss and also finished third with Leinster. “This whole track has.
“The depth of this field was unbelievable. It was a Breeders’ Cup race. To show up today was just huge.”
As it turned out, Calumet Farm was the day sponsor for Saturday card of the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs, including being the title sponsor of the $1 million Calumet Turf Cup and providing the signature bourbon of the day, Calumet Bourbon. Calumet owner Brad Kelley is a Bowling Green native who grew up in Franklin and made his first fortune in discount cigarettes with a company based in Bowling Green.
Asked about the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar on Nov. 6, Arnold said, “That would be the plan if Mr. Kelley says so. It’s up to them.”
When it was pointed out that Calumet and Kelley have never shied from a challenge or a marquee race, Arnold said, “I just don’t want to speak for him, but I think that’s why we ran in it.
“They’ve just been so good to me, one good horse after another that they’ve sent,” the trainer said of winning on Calumet Farm Day with a Calumet Farm horse. “…. They’ve backed me for seven or eight years, and it’s nice to pay them back.”
The disappointment in the race was the popular mare Got Stormy, who finished sixth a month after beating males to win Saratoga’s Grade 1 Fourstardave for the second time. Got Stormy won Kentucky Downs’ Ladies Sprint last year in her first attempt at sprinting over soft turf.
“Tyler said she traveled great,” said trainer Mark Casse, referencing jockey Tyler Gaffalione. “Just, they were rolling. You’ve always heard me say that she likes hard ground. I think when she’s sprinting she probably would actually like it a little softer. Today they were just a little too fast for her. But she’s fine.
“We knew this was a tall task but this will get us ready for the Breeders’ Cup. And so everything for us was timing and getting a good race into her… I knew that it would be a tall task. But I’m proud of her.”
With Jose Lezcano aboard, Gear Jockey powered home in 1:07.90 in the only race of the meet staged at six furlongs. Kentucky Downs is considering 2021 the baseline year for times because of the new GPS timing and tracking system provided by Equibase and its technology provider, Gmax. Under any measure, however, it’s the fastest time recorded for six furlongs at Kentucky Downs or its predecessor, Dueling Grounds.
Gear Jockey put the early pressure on Bombard, who finished second in the 2020 race in a dead-heat, through fractions of 22.38 seconds, 45.14 and 56.25 — resolute but not torrid for quality sprinters over firm turf. The winner dispatched Bombard and was comfortably in front to hold off 21-1 Diamond Oops under Florent Geroux.
“He’s been working good. He felt very good,” Lezcano said. “He broke right on top, and I let him follow (Bombard) and when I asked him at the three-sixteenths he took off again. At the quarter (pole) he had already taken me there, but at three-sixteenths I had to ask him because no one was coming and he might hang and fool around.
“The whole way he gave me the feeling that I had so much horse. When I asked him he really kicked on.”
For his part, Arnold wasn’t taking anything for granted during Kentucky Downs’ long stretch.
“I’ve seen so many horses get caught here the last sixteenth of a mile,” he said. “You don’t feel good until you hit the wire. But I felt really good when he hadn’t asked him to run when he hit about the three-sixteenth pole..”
Gear Jockey paid $13.40, $7.20 and $5.40. Diamond Oops, returned $19.20 and $11.40, the ninth-longest shot in the capacity field of 12. Bombard returned $5.40, with Saratoga’s Grade 3 Troy Stakes winner Fast Boat fourth, followed by Grade 1 Jaipur winner Casa Creed, Got Stormy, last year’s other dead-heat runner-up Front Run the Fed, Chewing Gum, Stubbins, 2020 winner Imprimis, Siem Riep and Born Great.
“It was a great trip,” Geroux said of Diamond Oops. “He broke really good. I sat right behind the pacesetter and I had the winner right on my side. The winner was too good for us today, but he ran a great race.”
Said Andie Biancone, assistant trainer of Diamond Oops and daughter of trainer Patrick Biancone: “I’m thrilled. I couldn’t be happier. I knew he was going to hit the board, so I’m happy.
“We discussed it and we wanted to put him closer to the pace today, which was a good move, obviously. He’s best just sitting right off the pace like that. He ran a huge race. I thought in the second half of the stretch that he was tiring out a little bit, but he’s such a fighter that he didn’t want to let that horse by him.”
Joe Orseno, trainer of Imprimis, said an examination after the race showed that the “tie-back” surgical procedure that the now 7-year-old gelding had on his throat a few years ago to correct a breathing obstruction failed. He said he was optimistic that it could be corrected but that, if not, Imprimis could be retired.
A bay son of the Lane’s End stallion Twirling Candy, out of the Tapit mare Switching Gears, Gear Jockey now is 4-2-5 in 15 starts, earning $902,875 with the $576,600 payday.
After racing a mile or more in his prior starts, Gear Jockey had sprinted three times, winning a Saratoga allowance race, rallying to take third in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Troy Stakes and now earning his first stakes victory of any kind, let alone a graded race.
“I’d made a mistake to try to run him long,” Arnold said. “We shortened him up, and his three sprints have been unbelievable. The third in the Troy was a sneaky really good race. He didn’t get away from the gate, got compromised (with) his running style. We kept him up there (at Saratoga), breezed him there, and didn’t move him until the very end of the meet so we could breeze him on the grass. His last work (47 seconds for a half-mile) was phenomenal, and he just did everything right.”