09/17/2009 12:00AM

Meet heralds changing of seasons


The annual rite of summer becoming autumn will commence Saturday when Kentucky Downs opens a four-day meet by featuring the 13th Kentucky Cup turf series.

As usual, the Grade 3, $150,000 Kentucky Cup Turf anchors the meet, which consists of 30 races and runs through Sept. 28. Six races will be run on two Saturdays, when programs are interspersed with action from Turfway Park, while nine races will be run on two stand-alone Monday programs at the turf-only track located adjacent to the Tennessee border near the south-central Kentucky town of Franklin.

Rumor Has It, the Chicago freewheeler who pulled a stunning 59-1 upset in the 2008 KC Turf, is back, although it seems unlikely that the bulkier field and the abundance of contending speed opposing him Saturday will allow him such a cozy scenario this time.

Instead, the balance of power in the 1 1/2-mile KC Turf seems slanted toward shippers from the Eastern United States. That contingent includes Deal Making, whose breeder-owner, George Strawbridge Jr. of Augustin Stable, bred and owned the remarkable Rochester, a gelding who ran in the KC Turf five straight years, posting two wins (2002-03), two seconds (2004-05), and a third (2006).

Deal Making, with Brice Blanc in from California to ride, comes off a decent eighth-place finish in a rugged edition of the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga.

"I might've thrown him to the wolves in the Baruch," said Graham Motion, who trains Deal Making. "He acts like he wants a mile and a half, and his family was that way. Hopefully he's in a good spot."

Other East Coast shippers include Cloudy's Knight, a $2 million earner who will be making his first start in more than a year and first for Jonathan Sheppard, who trained Rochester; Southwest, a Lazy Lane Farms homebred exiting a sharp race at Saratoga; and Rogue Victory, a stretch runner trained by Louisville, Ky., native George Weaver.

The KC Turf is carded as the 13th of 16 races on the combined card. Fifteen horses are entered, although only as many as 12 can start.

The Kentucky Cup turf series was first run in 1997, three years after the original Kentucky Cup was founded at Turfway, where its Polytrack version will be renewed next Saturday, Sept. 26, in Florence, Ky.