09/12/2013 3:51PM

Kentucky Downs: Ancil enters Turf Dash in peak form

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Havelock, closest to the hedge when he won the Grade 3 Shakertown this spring, returns to the United States after two off-the-board finishes in England.

Ancil has never been better in his life, according to his trainer, and good for him. In a race as deep and difficult as the Kentucky Downs Turf Dash, he’s going to need every edge he can get.

Ancil, in off an Ellis Park victory that earned him a lifetime-high Beyer Speed Figure of 102 for trainer Joan Scott, is part of a full field of 12 Saturday in the six-furlong Turf Dash at Kentucky Downs.

“I really think he’ll like that course,” said Scott, referring to the undulations and asymmetrical configuration of the layout at turf-only Kentucky Downs. “Of course that’s easy to say now. But he is light on his feet and very athletic, so we’ll go down there looking for another big race from him.”

Ancil, with Corey Lanerie to ride, is listed as the 4-1 favorite in the Turf Dash, a morning line that speaks for itself. Other contenders include Havelock, who met some of Europe’s finest turf sprinters this summer in back-to-back Group 1 attempts; Saint Leon, second as the 3-5 favorite to Ancil six weeks ago at Ellis; Regally Ready, still looking for his first win since the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint; and Longhunter, a British-bred who had a three-race win streak snapped last out at Saratoga.

As for Sweet Cassiopeia, the lone female in the field, trainer Bill Connelly said Thursday he is leaning toward running her instead in the Open Mind Stakes on Saturday at Churchill Downs. Her defection would allow the lone also-eligible, Xbalanque, into the lineup.

The Turf Dash is one of four $150,000 stakes on the new Kentucky Downs Million Day, which is capped by a fifth stakes, the $400,000 Kentucky Turf Cup. The Turf Dash goes as the seventh of 10 Saturday races, with post set for 4:35 p.m. Central.

Here is a rundown of those other supporting events:

◗ Franklin-Simpson Mile (race  8): This race for older horses also has a 4-1 program favorite in Coalport, who jump-started a monstrous day for Ken and Sarah Ramsey by winning a turf allowance early on the Arlington Million card four weeks ago.

Other logical considerations in a wide-open field of 11 include The Pizza Man, Ol Army, Lonesome Street, A Diehl, Utley, and Trend.

The Pizza Man, a late-running Illinois-bred owned by the Midwest Thoroughbreds powerhouse, came to prominence by winning 7 of his first 9 career starts. He seeks to break a three-race losing streak here.

“We look forward to running him on this track configuration,” said trainer Tom Amoss. “We’re hopeful of a lively pace to set up his kick down the stretch.”

◗ Kentucky Downs Juvenile (race  6): There are a number of interesting young prospects in this seven-furlong race, but perhaps none more so than Boji Moon, an Iowa-bred who absolutely throttled statebreds in his first two starts under Terry Thompson and now tries turf and open company for the first time. Brian Hernandez Jr. picks up the mount.

“I’ve actually worked him twice, and both works were really good,” said Hernandez. “He does everything like a good horse is supposed to.”

One expected defection from the Juvenile is School On a Hill. The colt will run instead in Saturday’s Grade  2, $200,000 Summer Stakes at Woodbine, according to Wayne Catalano, who still has Mister Special in this race for the Ramseys.

◗ Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies (race 5): The Ramseys and Catalano have one of the likely choices in this seven-furlong series leadoff in Lien On Kitten, a homebred who showed considerable potential in her lone prior start on the Arlington turf, where she bided her time early before running off powerfully.

Other notables include La Mejor Fiesta, the only starter with a stakes placing after finishing second in a minor event in her last start in July at Colonial Downs in Virginia; Pocket Gift, a speedy filly in off a gate-to-wire score at Indiana Downs; and J J Julep and Personal Diary, both last-out maiden winners at Ellis.

La Mejor Fiesta is trained by Wesley Ward, who won the last of four races contested on a weather-shortened Wednesday program, giving him a meet-high third victory.