09/26/2013 10:55AM

Churchill Downs: No clear standout in competitive Jefferson Cup

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – There is no real favorite and no real throwout. The Grade 3 Jefferson Cup, which directly follows the Homecoming Classic on the Saturday night program at Churchill Downs, is just one of those races that drew nine horses that look very similar in ability and promises to confound horseplayers.

One of the more intriguing starters in the one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds is Miceli, who ships in from Southern California by way of an eastern U.S. summer tour that included a training stop at Penn National. Sired by the highly regarded War Chant, the colt is entered off a solid runner-up finish in an overnight turf stakes last month at Saratoga for his trainer, Australia native Adam Kitchingman.

“I own and bred him, so I’d be happy to be in the top three,” Kitchingman said this week from Santa Anita. “It’s obviously a very tough, competitive race. The horse has been training really good, so we’re looking forward to it. After this race, we’ll bring him back home to California.”

Miceli will have Corey Lanerie aboard when breaking from post 6 in this 37th running of the $100,000 Jefferson Cup. He figures as one of the pace chasers in a race that will give a chance to Redwood Kitten, Rapscallion, Tate’s Landing, and Ray’s Away to put their early foot on display.

A too-fast tempo might well set things up for the likes of General Election, winner of the Grade 3 Arlington Classic in May for WinStar Farm and trainer Kellyn Gorder, or Gentleman’s Kitten, a last-out winner of a Saratoga optional claimer on turf for the red-hot owner-trainer tandem of Ken and Sarah Ramsey and Wayne Catalano.

The Jefferson Cup, first run in 1977 as a 2-year-old sprint, evolved into a 3-year-old turf route run annually in the spring before going on hiatus for a year after Banned won the 2011 running. It is the last of the eight stakes at the new September meet, as well as the only one on turf.

The Jefferson Cup leads off a pick four (races 8-11) with a $100,000 guaranteed pool.