09/14/2013 7:14PM

Kentucky Downs: Temeraine by a neck in Kentucky Turf Cup

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FRANKLIN, Ky. – Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens continued his successful return to the saddle Saturday when riding Temeraine to victory in the Grade 3, $399,000 Kentucky Turf Cup, the annual marquee race at Kentucky Downs.

Nudged by Stevens into early contention, Temeraine found himself among the pace chasers in the 1 1/2-mile Turf Cup, which anchored the new Kentucky Downs Million Day as the last of five straight Saturday stakes.

After the field bunched together at the quarter pole, it was Temeraine and Olympic Thunder who emerged from the pack, with Temeraine, racing closest to the rail, getting the nod by a neck.

Temeraine, trained by Tom Proctor for the father-son team of Tim and Patrick Turney, returned $6.40 as the favorite. Suntracer finished third, another length back, and Potomac River was fourth in a field reduced to seven by the early scratches of Najjaar and Royal Bench.

Temeraine, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Arch, finished in 2:29.18 over a firm course. The Turf Cup was the first stakes win of a 16-race career; he had been eligible for fourth-level allowances entering the race. He was coming off a fifth-place finish at 61-1 in the Aug. 17 Arlington Million.

“This horse is really athletic,” said Stevens, who ended a seven-year retirement in January and has won a number of big races this year, including the Preakness on Oxbow. “Tom told me just to go out and ride my race, and I couldn’t see any other speed in there besides [front-runner Whatthecatdrugin], so I went ahead and got him up in there.

“It was tight [along the rail], but that’s an indication of what an athletic horse can do.”

The $2 exacta (8-1) paid $51.20, the $1 trifecta (8-1-9) returned $71.70, and the 10-cent superfecta (8-1-9-6) was worth $35.45.

Najjaar, one of the program favorites, was scratched because he “hadn’t been eating well at all” in recent days, trainer Dan Peitz said.

Favorites swept all five races in the Kentucky Downs Million series.