June 12, 2024

Arklow, Mr. Misunderstood star on banner Kentucky Downs Preview Day for Cox, Bridgmohan

Arklow (outside) changed tactics to deny Zapperini in the Turf Cup prep (Coady Photography)

Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan racked up six wins at Ellis Park Sunday, four for trainer Brad Cox, including a stakes double aboard 4-5 favorites Arklow and Mr. Misunderstood on the inaugural Kentucky Downs Preview Day.

Aware that Arklow was not going to get much pace help in the $97,334 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup, Bridgmohan made sure to secure a more forward early position than typical for the closer. That was the key to victory for the Arch colt, who did not let the 7-1 Zapperini steal it. Attending the front runner through slow fractions of :25.56, :50.84, and 1:14.81, Arklow was able to cover Zapperini’s move when he suddenly cranked up the heat. The stretch battle was prolonged, for Zapperini kept finding more, but Arklow forced his head in front at the wire.

The time for 1 1/4 miles on the firm turf, 2:00.57, reflected a final quarter in :22.41. The closers couldn’t get involved in such a sprint for home, and Sir Dudley Digges, who had drafted just behind the leaders, ran evenly to hold third.

Arklow earned a fees-paid berth in the $750,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Cup (G3) on September 8, according to the “win and you’re in” terms for Sunday’s stakes created as stepping stones to the Kentucky Downs features. Racing for the partnership of Donegal Racing, Joseph Bulger, and Peter Conneway, the four-year-old colt brandishes a mark of 14-4-2-1, $420,932. Arklow’s previous stakes success came in the 2017 American Turf (G2) on Kentucky Derby Day, and this season, he finished second to Synchrony in the Mervin Muniz Memorial (G2) at Fair Grounds prior to fourths in the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) and Stars and Stripes (G3). The Arlington Million (G1) was a possibility until Cox decided to lower his sights here, and the move paid off.

“He’s a big ol’ horse with a giant stride to him,” Bridgmohan said. “Brad had talked to me about it and he just basically told me, ‘Don’t leave him too much to do.’ I warmed him up so he’d be on his toes when he left there. We could see there wasn’t a whole lot of pace in there. I adjusted a little bit what I needed to do. He laid close and still had enough at the end to get the job done.”

“I really liked him being up in the race today,” Cox said. “He’s never quite been that close. I was glad to see him a little more forwardly placed going longer. I think he’s a horse who could be very effective in the older horse division – a mile-and-a-quarter and beyond on grass – the rest of this year and hopefully into next year. I was very proud of him.”

A three-quarter brother to current American Turf winner Maraud (by Blame), who just placed second in last Friday’s National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) at Saratoga, Arklow is out of the Empire Maker mare Unbridled Empire. She is a half-sister to Grade 1 scorers Fourty Niners Son and Cindy’s Hero, the dam of multiple Canadian Grade 3 hero Delegation.

Mr. Misunderstood is on his way to the Tourist Mile (Coady Photography)

Stablemate Mr. Misunderstood had a relatively easier time justifying odds-on status in the $99,875 Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile, a “win and you’re in” for the $750,000 Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs on September 1.

Working out a nearly carbon-copy trip for Bridgmohan, the Flurry Racing Stables colorbearer tracked in second as Siem Riep carved out splits of :24.51, :48.11, and 1:11.21. Siem Riep quickened to reach seven furlongs in 1:22.31, but Mr. Misunderstood was capable of a sharper turn of foot in deep stretch. Driving 1 1/4 lengths clear, the four-year-old gelding clocked the grassy mile in 1:33.24. Galton raced in third at every call, while slow-starting Parlor got up for fourth.

From the same sire line as Arklow, as a son of the Arch stallion Archarcharch, Mr. Misunderstood was produced by the multiple stakes-placed Jodys Deelite (by Afternoon Deelites). His resume reads 18-11-2-0, $634,354, reflecting wins in last year’s Commonwealth Turf (G3), Jefferson Cup, Super Derby (and its Prelude), and Woodchopper along with his biggest coup in the June 16 Wise Dan (G2). Also like Arklow, Mr. Misunderstood had chased Synchrony in New Orleans, taking second in the Fair Grounds H. (G3) and fourth in the Muniz.

“Mr. Misunderstood just keeps on keeping on,” Cox said. “He’s ultra-consistent. I guess you could say we took a little bit of a drop today, but that’s the way it fell on the calendar. We thought it made a little more sense trying to get to Kentucky Downs through Ellis Park versus Saratoga.”

I’m Betty G ran faster in a near course-record tune-up for the Ladies Turf (Coady Photography)

The $88,125 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf was similarly a happy spot for favorite backers as the 9-5 I’m Betty G wired them to book her ticket to the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3) on September 8. Trained by Mike Maker and piloted by Tyler Gaffalione in his first visit to the “Pea Patch,” the Into Mischief filly flaunted her speed and flirted with a course record.

After taking command through an opening quarter in :23.84, I’m Betty G got rolling in :46.52 and 1:09.46. Any thought she might have gone too hard was scotched as she continued to hold sway in the stretch, passing seven furlongs in 1:20.79 and completing the mile in 1:32.64. She was technically .04 off the course mark established by Slewper Imp on July 16, 1995 – in the era of timing by fifths, however. English Affair rallied to snatch second by a neck from Bonnie Arch. Lovely Bernadette was never involved in 10th.

“The filly broke good,” Gaffalione recapped. “She’s always shown a lot of speed so I didn’t want to take anything away from her. When she made the lead, she got real comfortable and settled nicely. When I asked her for run coming into the stretch, she really kicked on.”

Three Diamonds Farm’s I’m Betty G was notching her third stakes tally, following the 2017 Pearl Necklace at Laurel and the June 23 Lady Canterbury in her latest, while extending her current winning streak to three. The four year-old has amassed six stakes placings, notably last year’s Commonwealth Oaks (G3) and Valley View (G3), and she’s earned $314,175 from her 15-5-1-5 line. The Maryland-bred is out of the winning Lady in Ermine, an Honour and Glory half-sister to Grade 3-placed stakes victress and stakes producer Sadler’s Sarah.

Jazzy Times could be another Chamberlain Bridge (Coady Photography)

The first of the stakes quartet, the $94,250 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint, witnessed an upset courtesy of the 15-1 Jazzy Times. Cox’s even-money favorite, Will Call, wound up seventh after a bumping match when trying to rally out wide turning for home.

Owner/trainer Wes Hawley, who claimed Jazzy Times for $25,000 at Churchill Downs May 26, saw hidden turf potential in the gelding. The $460,000 OBS March juvenile purchase by Zayat Stables had back class. For his initial trainer Bob Baffert, he scored in his Derby Day debut and went on to place in the 2016 Damascus and Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) before losing his way. Jazzy Times switched circuits to join Cox, got claimed and spent time with Steve Hobby, until Hawley haltered him.

Overlooked on the class hike off a successful turf experiment at Indiana Grand, Jazzy Times was well placed in fourth observing Maniacal, Extravagant Kid, and Restless Rambler duke it out. The latter retreated after scorching splits of :21.20 and :43.58, leaving Maniacal and Extravagant Kid to battle down the lane in :54.99 for five furlongs.

By that point, Ty Kennedy produced Jazzy Times, who mowed them both down by a half-length. He zipped 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:00.91, not far off Bettybird’s 1:00.52 course record from August 21, 2002.

“He’s such a good grass horse, as Wes had claimed him to be,” Kennedy said. “He broke really great. I just left him alone and let him settle himself. He did great. He was in the pocket, everything was good, and as soon as he saw daylight, he did the rest. I hung on and just waited for the wire.”

“I said the day I claimed him he might be another Chamberlain Bridge,” Hawley said, alluding to the reformed claimer who captured the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G2) during a terrific career in that division. “I just had a gut feeling he was going to like the grass, and I go along on a lot of gut feelings.”

“I didn’t have to bet because I own him. I just won $60,000!”

With this first stakes coup, Jazzy Times upped his scorecard to 21-5-4-3, $301,629. His dam, the Grand Slam mare Jazzy Melissa, descends from the family of two-time Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) hero Caller One, Grade 2-winning sire Prospect Bay, and brilliant turf sprinter Unbridled Sidney, a Churchill course record-setter honored with a stakes in her name.

While Hawley isn’t sure about using his free pass to the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3), Cox has committed Arklow, Mr. Misunderstood, and Will Call to their respective races.

“That’s totally what all three of them are doing – we’re pointing them all for the Kentucky Downs races,” Cox said.

“I’m glad they created this Preview Day. It was a great day. Both horses ran really well. Obviously the turf course is firm, so you needed to be somewhat close, so the jock recognized that from the earlier races and throughout the meet. I’m proud of both horses. They ran the way they’ve been training. It’s been a good meet at Ellis so far; we like racing there. It’s a good spot in the summer time for Kentucky racing, for sure.”

Bridgmohan was understandably thrilled with Preview Day as well.

“In this game you need stock, and when you’ve got it, I still know how to use it,” Bridgmohan said. “Brad is having an unbelievable meet and he’s got some really nice horses. It doesn’t matter where it is. A six-win day at any track feels good, no matter where it is. And it certainly feels good to win it here.

“I’ve won six at the Fair Grounds and six at Aqueduct. This is the third time and they all are special.”