09/01/2016 9:56AM

Cox hopes to begin Kentucky Downs meet with a bang

Churchill Downs/Coady Photography
On Saturday, Cash Control tries to add the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf to this victory earlier this year in the Mint Julep at Churchill Downs.

Brad Cox has been tearing ‘em up everywhere he’s gone this year, so why not Kentucky Downs? Cox will saddle Cash Control as the horse to beat Saturday in the $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf, the first and perhaps most compelling of four straight stakes on a 10-race opening-day card at the turf-only track in south-central Kentucky.

Through the first two-thirds of 2016, Cox has toured middle America with great success, from Louisiana and Arkansas back to Kentucky and Indiana, with a few wins in New York and Florida to boot.

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As the ridiculously rich Kentucky Downs meet gets under way at 1:25 p.m. Central, Cox is in the top 15 among North American trainers in stable earnings with nearly $3.9 million. Overall, the top 15 will be very well represented here this fall, as horses trained by Steve Asmussen, Mark Casse, Phil D’Amato, Mike Maker, Bill Mott, and Christophe Clement will be prominent as the five-day meet unfolds, with surely a few more big-name trainers popping in with a horse or two.

It’s all part of an upsurge at Kentucky Downs, where the vast majority of purse money is accrued through “historical racing,” the slots-like machines that first became operational at the track some five years ago. Maiden races are worth as much as $130,000, and allowances range from $140,000 to $145,000.

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Including 12 stakes at the meet, total purses are being projected at a whopping $8 million, which includes bonuses paid out to registered Kentucky-breds through the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund. After Saturday, the remaining race dates are Sept. 8, 10, 11, 15.

Cash Control, bred and owned by the Klein family of Louisville, Ky., stayed home at Churchill Downs this summer while Cox took most of his better stock to Saratoga. They’re all pretty much reunited now, with Cox having entries in five of the opening-day races.

Cash Control, with Shaun Bridgmohan back from Saratoga to ride, was assigned post 2 in the Ladies Turf, a one-mile race that drew a field of nine, making it the only race on the card that did not get the 12-horse maximum. The 5-year-old mare most recently was a narrowly beaten second in a July 16 stakes at Indiana Grand.

“She’s been pointing to this ever since that race,” said Cox. “She’s training great, and I really like the draw. I’m hoping it stacks up for us.”

The Ladies Turf kicks off an all-stakes pick-four wager (races 7-10) that concludes the day. The ensuing stakes, all worth $350,000, are the Kentucky Downs Juvenile (race 8), Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (race 9), and Juvenile Fillies (race 10).

The only graded race of the meet is the Grade 3, $600,000 Kentucky Turf Cup, one of four stakes set for next Saturday, Sept. 10.

Kentucky Downs officials have upgraded the facility to the tune of about $4 million while retaining its unique country-fair charm as the only European-style course with parimutuel wagering in the country. The main clubhouse, situated about a quarter-mile up the stretch, has undergone a massive overhaul, while the simulcast signal now is available in high-definition and includes a new graphics package.

It’s all centered around the racing product. Not surprisingly, track officials are thrilled with the number of horses entered Saturday. A total of 136 horses are on the program, including 19 also-eligibles, while another 53 horses were excluded when entries were drawn.

“The only way you get numbers like these is with all participants in the industry working together,” track president Corey Johnsen said in a media release. “I can’t wait to see the next four cards after this.”

Many jockeys will be in and out at this meet, with Florent Geroux a logical favorite to successfully defend the riding title he won here last fall with 12 winners. Among the Hall of Famers expected to ride are Calvin Borel, Kent Desormeaux, and Edgar Prado.

Jon Lies will be back from Del Mar for another season as the Kentucky Downs race-caller, and he will be joined in other public-address capacities by Gary West, Joe Kristufek, Dick Downey, and Kevin Cox. Kristufek is in his third year setting the morning line.

There is no racing Saturday at Ellis Park so as to avoid a conflict among state tracks. Ellis concludes its 30-day summer meet with cards on Sunday and Monday.

After Kentucky Downs ends Sept. 15, Churchill begins an 11-day meet (Sept. 16 to Oct. 2).


Cash Control, by Pioneerof the Nile

Last 3 Beyers: 95-96-94

◗ Remarkably consistent mare has been first or second in seven of her last nine starts and has developed a very handy stalking style that should serve her and Bridgmohan well again here.

She’s Not Here, by Street Cry

Last 3 Beyers: 95-78-82

◗ All she did was win the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon at Del Mar in her last start, and now jockey Drayden Van Dyke and trainer Vicki Oliver are out to prove that the 9-1 upset was no fluke.

Mizz Money, by Mizzen Mast

Last 3 Beyers: 83-50-88

◗ Gray filly has lined up against Cash Control in three of her last five starts and actually got the best of her on Louisiana Derby Day at Fair Grounds.