Can’t stop Maker at Kentucky Downs; decision pending for Da Big Hoss

Profile Picture: James Scully

September 13th, 2016

Mike Maker started slowly, posting a 0-for-7 mark on the September 3 card that opened the five-day meet, but there’s been no stopping him of late at Kentucky Downs. The 47-year-old trainer is poised to easily capture his second consecutive title at the turf-only venue, with more than twice as many wins as his nearest challenger entering Thursday’s final program, and his horses have been crushing the competition.

On Sunday, Maker sent out Oscar Nominated and Try Your Luck to lucrative stakes wins, with the former dominating the Dueling Grounds Derby by 6 ¼ lengths and the latter crushing the Dueling Grounds Oaks by 7 ½ lengths. Allowance winner Kitten’s Roar, who scored comfortably by a 1 ½-length margin, completed a hat trick.

Maker won 2-of-4 stakes Saturday, with Da Big Hoss and Watchyourownrobber posting convincing wins in the Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) and More Than Ready Mile, respectively.

All four stakes victories came via horses that had been claimed previously.

Since the opener, Maker has won 7-of-21 starts (33%) at the Franklin, Kentucky track and the top Midwestern conditioner will bring momentum into the upcoming meets at Churchill Downs and Keeneland.

One decision that will be closely watched in the coming weeks surrounds Da Big Hoss. Claimed for $50,000 in June 2015, the 5-year-old horse was immediately stretched out in trip by Maker and has developed into a top-class performer for owner SkyChai Racing, winning seven stakes and more than $1.4 million.

“He’s the second-best marathon horse in the U.S. (after Flintshire),” Maker said after Da Big Hoss’ repeat win in the ½-mile Kentucky Turf Cup.

When asked about future plans, Maker added: “I think we just go right to the (November 5) Breeders’ Cup (Turf). He runs really well fresh.”

The prospect of Da Big Hoss at Santa Anita, competing against the likes of Flintshire and international raider Postponed, is exciting for American racing fans but as former football coach Lee Corso likes to say, “Not so fast, my friend!”

Co-owner Harvey Diamond reiterated Monday that Da Big Hoss remains under serious consideration for the Melbourne Cup (G1) on November 1. If some logistical issues get straightened out, with connections seeking to cover exorbitant shipping costs and hoping to work out a leasing agreement and stud deal Down Under, Da Big Hoss appears certain to bypass the Breeders’ Cup for an overseas engagement.

“It will be historic just to get into the starting gate,” Diamond told Thoroughbred Daily News, adding that no American-based horse has ever lined up for the 2-mile race. “I think our horse is better at two miles than a mile-and-a-half.”

The 156th running of the Melbourne Cup will attract more than 150,000 patrons to Flemington Racecourse. I once heard “every Australian has at least 2 bits on the Melbourne Cup.” And according to reports, approximately half of Australia’s population tunes in to watch the race every year.

The legendary Phar Lap captured the Melbourne Cup in 1930 and American author Mark Twain said after attending the 1895 edition, “Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation. The Cup astonishes me.”

Da Big Hoss would pique interest from an American audience as well.

Kentucky Turf Cup winner's circle photo courtesy of Reed Palmer