(Coady Photography photos of Gear Jockey winning the $1 million Ainsworth Turf Sprint)

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023) — On a day when past stakes-winners at Kentucky Downs proved dominant, the $1 million, Grade 2 Ainsworth Turf Sprint came down to two former winners over the course.

Gear Jockey, winner of the 2021 Turf Sprint, loomed alongside pacesetter Bad Beat Brian with an eighth-mile to go, but 2022 Franklin-Simpson winner One Timer was flying fast on the outside. The two came to the wire together. Or almost together. Gear Jockey, with Jose Lezcano aboard, held on to win by a short head. Bad Beat Brian, who last year won a Kentucky Downs allowance race, grudgingly gave way to finish another neck back in third, with Olympic Runner another neck back in fourth.

“We’re pretty happy,” understated winning trainer Rusty Arnold. “He’s a favorite. I thought he had lost his edge. He’s had his issues, and we thought we had him in pretty good shape. He loves this course. Two times he’s won on it, so obviously he does. Great ride. Very happy.

“He won kind of the same way two years ago. We wanted to run here last year. We missed it. It’s nice to get him back.”

In victory, Gear Jockey earned another fees-paid berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, this time at Santa Anita. Gear Jockey finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar two years ago.

It was Gear Jockey’s first win since the 2021 Turf Sprint nine races ago. He was off eight months after getting the winter off when he fell off form. Arnold was able to get only one prep into the 6-year-old horse, in which Gear Jockey finished last of six that day in a $150,000 stakes at Colonial Downs. Arnold was forced to scratch from a planned earlier race at Ellis Park when a sprinkler issue flooded the turf course and necessitated the race moving to dirt.

But everything was smooth sailing with the big money on the line. Lezcano settled the horse into second behind front-running Bad Beat Brian.

Bad Beat Brian and jockey Chris Emigh rattled off fractions of 21.77 seconds for the first quarter-mile and 45.08 for the half before Gear Jockey engaged the leader after five-eighths of a mile in 57.23 seconds. Gear Jockey covered six furlongs over firm turf in 1:10.59  and paid $48.60 to win as the seventh choice in the field of 11 older horses. In the mad dash to the wire, a total of a length separated the winner from sixth-place Front Run the Fed and seventh-place Eamonn.

“He broke very sharp,” Lezcano said. “He gave me the same race he gave me two years ago when he won here. To be honest with you, I knew it was going to be very close. At first, I thought the other horse (One Timer) got me. I thought he got me in the last bob and I was like” — he illustrated by clenching his teeth — “I really didn’t know. Sometimes you know. The angle here is different so it’s hard to know.

“I was very happy for the horse. He is a tough horse and he tries all the time. I am very happy for Rusty and his whole team. They work very hard.”

Jockey E.T. Baird also thought One Timer won.

“I thought I got there,” Baird said. “He ran good. They out-footed me the first part so I just conceded and held him together. I didn’t know at the wire. I knew it was going to be close. He ran hard.”

One Timer is a fast horse and broke on the rail. But he was fifth early on, several lengths behind Bad Beat Brian.

“The other horse, Bad Beat Brian, caught a flier,” said Larry Rivelli, One Timer’s trainer. “We’ve run against him several times and we’ve been in front of him. There’s nothing you can do. He just got us. Baird knows the horse well enough that he let him settle in.

“He likes this track. We’ll see him next year. Same race. That’s what we’re going to do. We’ll run him in the Breeders’ Cup and give him some time off.”

Bad Beat Brian continued to prove a great $40,000 claim by trainer Brittany Vanden Berg during the 2022 Ellis Park meet.

“He looked like he was going to carry on,” said Vanden Berg, who is married to Emigh. “Chris said, ‘I caught a flier when I broke. I’m going to take advantage of this.’ He went to the lead, and was like, ‘I better keep him in hand, keep him in hand. I know they’re going to be coming.’ He said, ‘Just at the end Gear Jockey kind of got a little in front of me, but Brian started fighting back. But then I just got overtook at the end.’ I was screaming so loud I actually ended up over the fence. My legs were off the ground. It was so close, I couldn’t decipher it.”


Gear Jockey, a Kentucky-bred son of Twirling Candy, now is 5-2-6 in 24 starts, earning $1,586,651 with the $589,680 payday for owner-breeder Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm. Kelley, a native of Simpson County, is a previous owner of Kentucky Downs.

“We had this horse in at Ellis to get him ready,” Arnold said. “We got him down there and were ready to go. It was a beautiful day, but the sprinklers had been left on all night so we couldn’t run him. Then we were scrambling, and I don’t think he got to Virginia the right way. It was a disaster. Then we just pointed for here. He had three really, really good works.


“We thought we had him right, but there is a way of being fit and there is racing fit. Everybody else has been running and we’ve been on the shelf with one start in a year basically.

“He’s had his issues. You get him over here without his issues and you’ve got a different horse.  Each time he ran one of those there was a reason for it. We tried to give him the winter off and get him right. The only one we kind of scratched our head on was the last race in Virginia because we thought we had him good enough to run a good race. We knew we were coming here. But he didn’t run at all. We had shipped down the day before and nothing went right. Everything went right for this one.”


Rounding out the field were Cogburn, Front Run the Fed, Eamonn, Dr. Zempf, Dream Shake, Counterstrike and Noble Reflection.

- Kentucky Downs