December 1, 2023

Red Knight among Maker trio in Kentucky Turf Cup

Red Night (right) edges out Gufo (center) and Another Mystery (left) to win the Kentucky Turf Cup (Photo by Coady Photography)

Trainer Mike Maker has dominated the recent history of the Kentucky Turf Cup (G2) at Kentucky Downs, winning five of the last eight editions. He will be typically loaded for Saturday’s $1.7 million renewal, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep for the Turf (G1) at Santa Anita in November.

Heading the Maker brigade is the 2022 winner Red Knight, who after a fast start to the season has dropped two straight leading up to this 1 1/2-mile fixture. The nine-year-old registered his first top-level win in May, taking the Man o’ War (G1), but was only fourth in the shorter Manhattan (G1) over 10 furlongs and most recently third in the United Nations (G1).

Maker didn’t exit that Monmouth Park empty handed, though, as the stable’s Therapist prevailed at 12-1. The eight-year-old is also in the prime of his career, having also won the Pan American (G2) back in April.

Me and Mr. C is the hot horse among the Maker trio, having won three stakes in a row, the latter two at big odds at Horseshoe Indianapolis and Ellis Park. His neck victory in the Turf Cup Preview at Ellis over 1 1/4 miles was awarded a 108 Brisnet Speed rating.

There are plenty of capable and useful alternatives to choose from in the Turf Cup. Santin stretches out after finishing second in his title defense of the Arlington Million (G1) at Colonial Downs, while Another Mystery was beaten only a neck by Red Knight in this spot last year.

Verstappen and Foreign Relations earned signature wins earlier this season, in the Elkhorn (G2) and Louisville (G3), respectively. That was also the case with the gray Spooky Channel, who landed the Muniz Memorial (G2) in March, and Never Explain, who pulled off a 15-1 upset of the Dinner Party (G3) at Pimlico.

A relatively less distinguished field of six fillies and mares line up for the $1 million Ladies Marathon (G3) over 1 5/16 miles. The field includes Vergara, winner of last year’s Dueling Grounds Oaks over the course, and La Prevoyante (G3) heroine Personal Best, who should appreciate the step up in trip after finishing fifth in the nine-furlong Matchmaker (G3).

The $1 million Ladies Turf (G3), for fillies and mares over one mile, includes graded winners New Year’s Eve, White Frost, Haughty, Henrietta Topham, and Sparkle Blue. Regal Realm, a winner on three of her last four, is another legitimate contender.