Kentucky Turf Cup 2013 and other thoughts

USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky Downs prepares for a big day and Woodbine gets things warmed up on Saturday head of a main course of graded stakes on Sunday.

As we slowly work our way towards the Keeneland Fall Meet, Super Saturday and the 2013 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, we find ourselves looking right at a weekend packed full of activities in the Bluegrass state where Kentucky Downs will run the Juvenile Turf, Juvenile Fillies Turf, Turf Dash (goodness, no!) Franklin-Simpson Mile, and the Kentucky Turf Cup as part of their 10-race card on Saturday afternoon. Woodbine in Canada prepares for a big Sunday with some juvenile lawn races on Saturday, and Belmont features a pair of graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Garden City.

PP Horse Jockey Trainer ML
1 Olympic Thunder (BRZ) A. Garcia K. McPeek 10/1
2 Whatthecatdrugin J. Court T. McCauley 15/1
3 Amen Kitten E. Baird W. Ward 12/1
4 Najjaar J. Graham D. Peitz 7/2
5 Royal Bench (IRE) R. Napravnik T. Voss 10/1
6 Potomac River J. Vargas B. Baez 15/1
7 Side Road C. Lanerie K. McLaughlin 9/2
8 Temeraine G. Stevens T. Proctor 3/1
9 Suntracer E. Castro C. Block 4/1

Gary Stevens makes his way from SoCal to Kentucky to ride Temeraine (3/1) in the Kentucky Turf Cup; Temeraine was a good second in the G3-Arlington Handicap two races back and finished fifth at odds of 61/1 in the Million in mid-August. Apparently, that resume was enough to earn the title of morning line favorite at odds of 3/1. I like Temeraine but I can't get behind him as the likely winner especially when you consider there is almost zero speed in this race outside of Whatthecatdrugin, a miler that appears to have little to no shot to stretch his speed to a mile and a half.

I was disappointed in Najjaar's performance in the American St. Leger on Million weekend in Chicago but I think this Kentucky Turf Turf is a good spot for him to come back with a solid effort. While the overall distance of this race is shorter than the race at Arlington Park, Kentucky Downs is a bit more testing and I think the likely slow pace and demanding finish will suit his running style. Additionally, Najjaar can sit close to the lead if the pace is slow enough (and it looks like it will be), and his strong late kick should be enough to propel him away from his rivals in deep stretch. James Graham needs to hold him together for the first mile and a quarter and keep him good and settled if he's to hold off the charging horde in the final strides.

I really like Royal Bench (IRE) a bunch in this race as he should get a good trip behind what should be milers speed. Unfortunately, I've got a big question as to whether he's good enough to beat this group. If he's at the 12/1 or better spot by post time, I'll take a small chance on the upset.

The Ramsey's have entered a Kitten into the Turf Cup (because, of course they have), as Amen Kitten will attempt to rebound from a lackluster performance in the Secretariat at Arlington Park. They've also entered a Kitten in the Juvenile Fillies Turf in the form of Lien On Kitten, a debut winner at Arlington at one mile on the lawn.

Transitioning right into some Woodbine talk: If you're looking to continue the juvenile turf party, head on over to Woodbine Saturday afternoon where they'll run the G2-Natalma for the girls and the G2-Summer Stakes for the boys, both at the distance of a mile. I don't think it's a stretch to anticipate a least a few of the contenders in these two races to end up at Santa Anita in a couple months for the Breeders' Cup. The Saturday action at Woodbine is just a prelude to the big day on Sunday when the Toronto track will feature the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, along with the G1-Northern Dancer and G2-Canadian.

There are three offspring of turf champion Artie Schiller entered in the Summer, two of which are fillies: 1-Spanish Flower (filly), the brilliantly named 2-Tropic of Artie (colt) and 3-My Conquestadory (filly). Both Spanish Flower and My Conquestadory are cross-entered in the Natalma.

I'm excited to see the Chad Brown filly, Ready to Act, stretch out to a mile in the Natalma after a solid debut win at Saratoga at 5 ½ furlongs. Brown is pretty much gold with turf runners these days so it's probably best to include this filly in any of the exotic wagers.

Not to be forgotten, there's a couple of graded stakes races at Belmont this Saturday, including a nice field for G1-Garden City featuring American Oaks winner Emollient, Del Mar Oaks (and Sands Point) winner Discreet Marq, stakes quality Watsdachances (IRE), and Lake Placid runner-up Caroline Thomas. Discreet Marq, in particular, has had herself a heck of a 2013 with three wins, a second and a third in five starts.

One Garden City filly makes her North American debut, Alterite (FR), after finishing sixth in the Group 1 Prix de Diane at Chantilly in mid-June. Alterite has shown some class over in France after finishing third in a Group 1 race on Arc weekend last fall and narrowly missing her second top-level victory when finishing second by a head to Silasol (IRE) in the G1-Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp in late May. Silasol is a double Group 1 winner as she scored in the G1-Prix Marcel-Boussac - Criterium des Pouliches, the aforementioned Arc weekend race, last fall.

Alterite's been at her best over soft ground in France, so beware if things get wet in New York on Saturday. Additionally, she typically races near the middle or rear of the fields back home so she's unlikely to show much of anything out of the gate in the North America.

Concise (GB) is a third-time-in-North America starter for Graham Motion and she's given a good account of herself in both of her prior starts at Saratoga. Unfortunately, this filly seems a bit lacking on class when compared to some of the other top contenders in this race.

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