09/13/2012 2:10PM

Kentucky Downs: Three new stakes boost Turf Cup card

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David Owens/Equi-Photo
Clare Skies Ahead, trained by Flint Stites, comes off a victory going 1 3/8 miles in a Monmouth Park turf race.

They’re all new, and they’re all pretty good. Three $75,000 stakes are on the Saturday undercard at Kentucky Downs leading into the annual showcase race, the Kentucky Turf Cup, and each looks like a race worth renewing in future years at the turf-only track in Franklin, Ky.

Two of those races are for 2-year-olds, essentially filling a spot on the Kentucky racing calendar once occupied by Kentucky Cup events at Turfway Park, while the other is a pseudo-counterpart to the Turf Cup for fillies and mares.

Here is a rundown of those supporting events:

◗ While the Turf Cup is run at 1 1/2 miles, the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon (race 3, post 2:35 Central) is a bit shorter at 1 5/16 miles, or the approximate distance of a once-around trip on the unique oval. The race drew a field of seven would-be marathoners, with East Coast shipper Clare Skies Ahead (post 6, Shaun Bridgmohan) listed as a 2-1 favorite over Fleur de Lilly (post 1, John McKee, 5-2), and Strong Willed Lady (post 5, Corey Lanerie, 3-1).

Fleur de Lilly, stretching out after winning 3 of her last 4 starts, could wind up as the controlling speed, which is fine with trainer Buff Bradley.

“We don’t know if she’ll go this far, but she can gallop all day,” said Bradley. “We could’ve run her last weekend in the mile race for fillies, but we opted for this thinking it suits her style better. She’s the ‘on’ horse right now. She’s pretty high on herself.”

Clare Skies Ahead, trained by Flint Stites, makes her fifth straight stakes start and comes off a victory going 1 3/8 miles in a small Monmouth Park turf race.

◗ Oscar Party, the 7-5 morning-line favorite despite being a maiden facing winners in the $75,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies (race 7, 4:35), has switched owners since her last race while remaining under the care of trainer Wayne Catalano. The filly recently was sold privately by Gary and Mary West to James Covello.

“She ran into lots of trouble in her last race,” an Aug. 12 maiden route over yielding turf at Saratoga, said Catalano. “I don’t think she cared for the soft ground either. This race doesn’t look like it came up all that tough, so I think she might be a winner.”

Kent Desormeaux has the mount on Oscar Party, who was assigned post 4 in a field of eight entered in the seven-furlong race. The strongest opposition appears to be Noun (post 1, Bridgmohan), Moonwalk (post 5, Lanerie), and Zip Cash Back (post 8, Leandro Goncalves).

◗ Al Stall Jr. had a nice Saratoga meet, getting 7 wins and 17 in-the-money finishes from 23 starters. One of his more promising winners was Central Banker, who resurfaces in the $75,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile (race 8, 5:05) at seven furlongs.

“This seemed like a natural spot for him,” said Stall. “I think the distance is within his scope. We got him out of Saratoga right after he ran [Aug. 23], and he’s trained well [at Churchill]. He’s a nice-acting horse and a tough horse. I like his chances.”

Bridgmohan will be aboard Central Banker, the 5-2 morning-line choice in a field of 12, breaking from post 7. Other logical contenders include Midas Dancer (post 2, David Cohen), who gets first-time Lasix off a recent maiden win at Ellis Park; Rip Roarin Ritchie (post 8, Goncalves), stretching out for Wesley Ward after winning the five-furlong Tyro Stakes on the Monmouth turf last out; and Ruler of Love (post 10, Calvin Borel), a sharp maiden winner on the Arlington Million undercard.

The purses for all three of the undercard stakes include $25,000 from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.