Rumble Doll receives positive jock switch to Hernandez at Kentucky Downs; speed offers best chance for Turf Cup upset
Saturday’s 10-race program at Kentucky Downs features four stakes and the turf may have some give to it with precipitation expected during the afternoon. Long-distance specialist Da Big Hoss will make a title defense in the $600,000 Kentucky Turf Cup (G2) and is expected to use the 1 ½-mile event as a prep for the 2-mile Melbourne Cup (G1) on November 1.
Listed at 7-5 on the morning line, Da Big Hoss posted a two-length score last year and returns to the Franklin, Kentucky course in better form, reeling off three consecutive stakes wins beforehand. He’s delivered smashing performances in the last two and there’s no guarantee the 5-year-old can maintain his current level, with the chestnut tossing in a clunker earlier this year when fifth in the Mac Diarmida (G2) at Gulfstream following a convincing victory in the John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3).
And while his class edge appears significant, the late-running Da Big Hoss catches a field with very little pace. He remains the most likely winner, but I give Bullards Alley (#2) a chance to upset the heavy favorite.
Unplaced in his last two efforts on firm ground, Bullards Alley prefers softer conditions, recording a 2 1/4-length triumph in the 1 ½-mile Louisville H. (G3) three starts back over a “good” course. The 4-year-old gelding placed over the course last year and possesses tactical speed. Jockey Marcelino Pedroza can seize the advantage at the start and lone speed can play well at Kentucky Downs.
Here are some thoughts on the other three stakes races:
The $400,000 More Than Ready Mile kicks off the all-stakes Pick 4 and a pair of Wesley Ward entrants, Chiltern Street and Hootenanny, are expected to scratch. Dimension (#8) is the lone runner with a local win, capturing a stakes race 12 months ago, and can parlay his affinity for the unique oval into a third stakes tally in 2016. The 8-year-old gelding can handle any kind of footing, capturing a Grade 2 event at Woodbine this summer on wet turf, and the Conor Murphy trainee should have a contested pace up front to set up his finishing kick.
The $150,000 One Dreamer has the potential to be chalky, with No Fault of Mine a logical contender off a sixth in the Beverly D. (G1) and 5-2 morning line favorite Annulment looming as a serious threat. But I will tout American Mon Amie (#10) as a longshot to consider for vertical and horizontal exotics. The Illinois-bred filly made up a lot of ground last time over a “good” turf at Canterbury Park, registering a 97 BRIS Late Pace rating as she posted a commendable third versus stakes foes, and she has experience at Kentucky Downs, finishing third in a bulky field in her career debut. There appears to be a fair amount of pace signed on and American Mon Amie should be flying late at long odds.
In the $350,000 Ladies Sprint, the connections of Rumble Doll (#1) will be doing a rain dance – the 5-year-old mare has run well several times on less-than-firm conditions – and I will recommend her chances off a strong showing at Saratoga where she finished a neck back of the well-regarded Ava’s Kitten. With top 3 showings in two of her last three starts, Rumble Doll appears to be hitting her best stride for Robert Falcone Jr. and I love the addition of Brian Hernandez Jr.
Hernandez flies under the radar as the most unsung jock on the grounds presently; horses run well for him at Kentucky Downs. The Midwestern-based pilot doesn’t get the mounts of Julien Leparoux, Florent Geroux, Corey Lanerie, Flavien Prat or Robby Albarado, but Hernandez has won 3-of-14 starts this meet (21% win) and over the past two years at Kentucky Downs, he’s recorded 5 wins and 5 seconds from 32 attempts (31% top two), often aboard horses at long odds.
He can provide a boost to the in-form Rumble Doll.
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