Why I'm Betting Oscar Nominated in the Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 4th, 2018

Although most racecourses in North America are pretty similar in shape and size, Kentucky Downs is a unique and challenging exception.

The European-style course is vaguely shaped like an oval, but the first turn is significantly sharper than the wide, sweeping final turn, and in between those two is a mild right-hand bend on the backstretch. The course is also larger than a typical North American racetrack, measuring 1 3/8 miles in circumference. Throw in the undulating ground (it’s far from a level course) and you have a track that is truly unusual by North American standards.

Naturally, some horses relish the challenging conditions and some do not, which is what makes handicapping races like Saturday’s $750,000 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes (gr. III) quite a puzzle for bettors. For obvious reasons, it can pay to focus on horses (and jockeys) that have proven themselves over the testing conditions.

That’s why I’m strongly leaning toward #6 Oscar Nominated in the Kentucky Turf Cup. The five-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy has been very effective over the 1 ½-mile distance of the Kentucky Turf Cup, never finishing out of the exacta in five starts. But more importantly, he’s been remarkably successful at Kentucky Downs, winning the Dueling Grounds Derby in 2016 before returning to score a narrow victory in the 2017 Kentucky Turf Cup despite enduring a wide trip in a slow-paced race.

Oscar Nominated’s form this year is as good as ever; he won the 1 ½-mile W. L. McKnight Handicap (gr. III) in January and also finished a close second going the same distance in the Eklhorn Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland. Furthermore, his sixth-place finish last time out in the United Nations Stakes (gr. I) wasn’t half bad considering that Oscar Nominated endured a somewhat troubled trip while facing a deep and competitive field.

I think Oscar Nominated’s proven ability at Kentucky Downs will make him very hard to beat on Saturday, though #12 Big Bend could potentially give him a challenge. Trained by Tom Proctor, the son of Union Rags won the Dueling Grounds Derby here last September and followed up with a gutsy victory against older rivals in the 1 ½-mile Sycamore Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland. Big Bend hasn’t won since then, but he showed signs of returning to form when rallying to finish a close fourth in the 1 ½-mile Cape Henlopen Stakes at Delaware Park, and perhaps the return to Kentucky Downs will trigger further rebound.

I’ll also use #8 Arklow, the fast-finishing winner of the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Downs Preview Calumet Farm Turf Cup Stakes at Ellis Park last month, and #9 Soglio, who just missed in the 1 ½-mile Stars and Stripes Stakes (gr. III) two starts back at Arlington Park.

Here’s how I would play the race:

$12 to win on #6 Oscar Nominated $5 exacta: 6,8 with 6,8 ($10) $4 exacta: 6 with 9,12 ($8)

Good luck!