09/20/2011 11:38AM

Turfway: Owners experience beginner's luck with Baryshnikov

Patrick Lang/Lang Photography
Baryshnikov, who has won four of his last five races that have come on Turfway Park's Polytrack, is a prime contender in Saturday's WinStar Kentucky Cup.

Bill and Connie Apostelos must think this is an easy game. The first horse bought by the neophyte owners was in a partnership on a $35,000 claim more than two years ago. That horse is Baryshnikov, who has developed into a remarkably consistent performer at age 5 and will be one of the favorites Saturday when Turfway Park brings back its fall showcase as the WinStar Kentucky Cup.

Since Mike Maker assumed his training last fall, Baryshnikov has steadily ascended the class ladder while never finishing worse than third in 10 starts, including a third behind Turallure and Get Stormy in the Aug. 26 Bernard Baruch at Saratoga in his latest outing. Moreover, he has shown an affinity for synthetic surfaces, having won four of his last five attempts over the Polytrack surface in place at Turfway in Florence, Ky.

Connie Apostelos said she and her husband “have no complaints” about their venturing into horse ownership while watching Baryshnikov earn more than $220,000 in those 10 races.

“We’re just waiting for him to show the world he can win a graded race like this,” said Apostelos, who got herself and her husband, an investment-company owner, into the sport at the invitation of Jeff Columbro, her business partner in the Cincinnati-Dayton area. “We’re really excited about running him in the Kentucky Cup.”

Formerly known as the Kentucky Cup Classic, the WinStar Kentucky Cup is a Grade 2, $200,000 race that has been shortened by a sixteenth of a mile to 1 1/16 miles and serves as the anchor of a five-race series that dates to 1994. Maker won the last KC Classic in 2009 with Furthest Land, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.

Baryshnikov is one of at least seven 3-year-olds and upward committed to the WinStar, with the others being Demarcation, Future Prospect, General Quarters, Shediak, Strike Impact, and Workin for Hops.

Saturday entries will be drawn Thursday, as Turfway remains one of the few tracks in North America to still use a 48-hour entry policy for some of its programs.

The Kentucky Cup is being revived after a one-year hiatus. Grades were saved for the anchor race and for the Distaff and Sprint, as so permitted by the American Graded Stakes Committee; however, the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies have not been run since 2008 and begin anew without a grade.

Although Turfway has moved to Saturday evening programs during the fall meet, the 12-race Kentucky Cup program will be staged in the afternoon, with first post 1:10 p.m. Eastern. General admission is free. Daylong television coverage is being provided by TVG.

A number of top jockeys will be in for the day, including Calvin Borel, Kent Desormeaux, Edgar Prado, Jesus Castanon, and Corey Lanerie.

In the other four Kentucky Cup races:

◗ Grade 3, $100,000 KC Distaff: Upperline and Ailalea, both graded winners, look like the favorites for this 1 1/16-mile race, with at least five other fillies and mares expected: Bella Medaglia, High Quality, Kiss Mine, La Gran Bailadora, and Secret File.

◗ Grade 3, $100,000 KC Sprint: This six-furlong race for 3-year-olds is shaping up with some depth, with Cal Nation likely to come favored for WinStar and trainer Todd Pletcher. Jimmy Baker is considering the uncoupled duo of Philippe and Will’s Wildcat, with other probables being Chilled, Free Entry, Lou Brissie, Matthewsburg, Song of Humor, and Unsaddled Glory.

◗ $100,000 Juvenile: The 1 1/16-mile race previously won by such greats as Boston Harbor, Point Given, and Vindication had just a handful of probables as of Tuesday. Maker may have the favorite in Hansen, a homebred gray colt who got an 89 Beyer Speed Figure in winning his Sept. 9 debut at Turfway by 12 lengths.

◗ $100,000 Juvenile Fillies: Flashy Lassie, winner of the Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill Downs, brings the best credentials to a one-mile race for which at least nine fillies are expected.