By Keith Pettyjohn — Even though there aren’t many Graded Stakes Races on tap this weekend, there are a few potentially nice rewards available for those who can piece together the handicapping puzzles that comprise Kentucky Downs’ 11-race card Saturday.
This track has earned its reputation for presenting some of the most competitive turf races in the United States. With its European-style layout, massive purses, and large fields, it’s a handicapper’s dream that, if you’re not smart and lucky, could become your worst nightmare.
If you love grass racing, this is the track for you. And for those times when you can connect all he handicapping dots, you will get rewarded handsomely.
On Saturday, our focus will be the $1-million Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup going a mile and a half.
The morning line favorite and most likely winner of the race is #10 Zulu Alpha. This veteran won last year’s renewal and earned a Class-Based Performance Rating, a GSR, of 104.
Indeed, Zulu Alpha is quite the pro, winning several graded stakes races in his career while compiling 12 victories in 34 starts with earnings of over $2-million.
In winning his last, the G2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland, he earned a 103 Performance Rating, placing him ahead of his main rivals #2 Red Knight, #5 Arklow and #6 Postulation.
Our “Play-At-A-Price” choice in this race is #12, Hierarchy, listed at 10-1 on the early line and should be all of that at post time.
After returning from a three-month break in May, he has been improving, taking forward incremental steps, the key to proper development.
In that return on May 25th, he earned what was his lifetime best Class-Based Performance Rating of 91 in a classified allowance race at Churchill Downs going a mile and 1/16th.
Subsequently, he moved forward again, winning with a GSR of 94 in another strong Churchill classified allowances going a mile and 1/8th.
Last time out he was second in a listed stakes at Ellis Park at a mile and a quarter, moving forward yet again to a 99, losing to Factor This by a half length. And note that Factor This returned to finish second to Digital Age in the CD Turf Classic, earning a 106.
In his last three races, Hierarchy has been running longer distances and improving his Performance Ratings each time vs. tougher rivals. Joe Sharp, already a dual winner at the meet, will have him set for another class and distance rise.
There may not be any racing from the New York or Southern California this weekend but there’s still plenty of excellent racing on tap with many opportunities to find value plays.
It Only Takes One