One is a past winner of the prestigious Queen’s Plate in Canada, the other a deep-closing allowance type in search of his first stakes win. Together, Sir Dudley Digges and Tizzarunner give trainer Mike Maker a solid one-two punch for the $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial, an about 1 1/16-mile heat on the turf that is one of six stakes on the Santa Super Saturday card at Fair Grounds.
Although Sir Dudley Digges registered his signature win on a synthetic surface, the paucity of such tracks in the U.S. has meant more grass racing for the son of Gio Ponti, and the results have been fine. The Ken and Sarah Ramsey-owned four-year-old has won four of eight this term, three allowances at Churchill Downs plus the $96,000 Old Friends at Kentucky Downs. Once placed in two prior starts over the Fair Grounds lawn, Sir Dudley Digges’ only lackluster tries this season have been against graded fields.
Tizzarunner, who failed to handle soft ground in the $75,000 Find at Laurel in his August 19 debut for Maker, rebounded to win a pair of allowances over the same course while rallying from 21 and 14 lengths down, respectively. He couldn’t do the same against a tougher group last time in the $100,000 Artie Schiller at Aqueduct, but narrowed the deficit from 10 lengths to just under three in a solid effort.
Shaham was a Grade 3 winner at age three in 2015, was sidelined for all of 2016, and has made only three starts this year. However, he fared well in a November 25 allowance at Fair Grounds, finishing a clear second in what his first start in nine months, and could improve here.
Up With the Birds, a former Canadian Horse of the Year, spent most of the season on the tough Southern California circuit, placing only once in allowance company. Winless since taking the Nijinsky (G2) at Woodbine in July 2016, he finished well behind Sir Dudley Digges and Thatcher Street in a Keeneland allowance in October, but won his only start in New Orleans back in the 2013 edition of the Black Gold, which kick-started his championship campaign.
Second by a head to Sir Dudley Digges in the September 7 Old Friends, Thatcher Street is still in search of his first win of the year following a fourth in his title defense of the River City H. (G3) at Churchill. Turbo Street, claimed by Steve Asmussen for $25,000 at Saratoga in early September, won first out for his new connections in the $100,000 Remington Green later that month. The inconsistent Applicator, upset winner of the $270,000 Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs, is another capable of a big run.
Here’s a look at the other stakes on the program:
Prado’s Sweet Ride, a stakes winner on Louisiana Derby Day and later placed in the Modesty H. (G3) is the likely choice among nine fillies and mares in the $75,000 Blushing K. D., also at about 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Entered perhaps in the event of a surface switch is Valadorna, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) runner-up and a recent blowout allowance winner on the main track here.
An evenly-matched group of older horses line up for the $75,000 Tenacious at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Notables include Grade 3 winners Fear the Cowboy and Stickstatelydude, Lukas Classic (G3) runner-up Money Flows, and Dazzling Gem, who missed by less than a length in both the $73,000 Louisiana and the Mineshaft H. (G3) last winter.
Cross-entered in the Tenacious and the $75,000 Bonapaw at about 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf is Field of Courage, who registered a 40-1 upset of the Nearctic (G2) over soft ground at Woodbine on October 15. More recently, he failed to see out a mile in the $116,000 Labeeb over the same course. Also entered are Chiltern Street, Kid Perfect, and Irritator, all last-out allowance winners on the Kentucky circuit.
Kentucky also provides the main contenders in the $50,000 Sugar Bowl, a six-furlong dash for two-year-olds. Steel Shot comes off a 2 3/4-length maiden tally for Mark Casse, while Bourne in Nixa beat allowance foes by a length for Steve Margolis last time. Land Battle, meanwhile, was stakes-placed at Prairie Meadows, Evangeline Downs, and Remington Park earlier this year.
The $50,000 Letellier Memorial, for two-year-old fillies at six furlongs, features dual stakes-placed Upset Brewing; She’s Pretty Lucky, a debut graduate at Churchill who finished a distant fourth in the $82,000 Rags to Riches last time; and the Darley homebred Stellar Moon, a daughter of Tapit and multiple Grade 1 winner Stellar Jayne.