Updated on 09/16/2011 8:17AM

Cetewayo casts giant shadow


As far as September traditions in Kentucky go, it hasn't quite achieved the same standing as tobacco harvesting, high school homecomings, or pledge-night ceremonies.

But in just a few short years, the Kentucky Cup turf series has come a long way. For one September day each year, the focus of Kentucky racing is on the sprawling but otherwise forgotten terrain of Kentucky Downs, the turf-only course in Franklin that has played host to four Kentucky Cup races every year since 1998.

Saturday, the tradition resumes. The centerpiece of the Kentucky Cup series is its richest and longest race, the $300,000 Kentucky Cup Turf, a 1 1/2-mile handicap that occasionally produces a longshot starter for the Breeders' Cup Turf. This year, in what could be the most accomplished field assembled at Kentucky Downs, the two topweights and likely favorites are graded stakes winners from the East and West Coasts, Cetewayo and Continental Red.

Cetewayo, trained on a private farm in northeast Maryland by Michael Dickinson, has shipped in with perhaps the most impressive credentials in race history: 11 wins, including two in Grade 1 company, and earnings of more than $1 million. The 8-year-old horse will carry 118 pounds when breaking from post 8 in a field that was limited to 12 (with three others excluded).

Continental Red, trained in Southern California by Ian Jory, is a Grade 2 winner who has run against some of the best of his circuit. Earlier this year, Continental Red, a 6-year-old owned by Sharon Fitzpatrick, was narrowly beaten in the San Marcos and San Luis Obispo handicaps before he won the San Luis Rey. He finished a respectable fourth in his last start, the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap.

Probably the main challengers to the top pair are Grammarian, a graded winner this summer in Southern California; Riddlesdown, a speedy type who could threaten from the start; and Rochester, who ships in for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard.

The rest of the field is Cheshire, Gretchen's Star, Nowrass, Homeland, Devil Time, Red Mountain, and Deputy Strike.

The Kentucky Cup program also includes the $200,000 Mile, the $100,000 Ladies Turf, and the $100,000 Turf Dash. They will be packaged with two other Kentucky Downs races and interspersed with 10 races from Turfway Park in a 16-race card .

First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern, with the Kentucky Cup Turf set for 5:51.

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