G1 U.N. winner Therapist headed to $1.7M FanDuel Ky Turf Cup

Therapist #1 ridden by Javier Castellano wins the Grade I – $600,000 United Nation Stakes over Catnip. Photo by Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO

FRANKLIN, KY (Monday, July 24, 2023) — Therapist, the 8-year-old winner of Saturday’s Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park, will be pointed for Kentucky Downs’ $1.7 million, Grade 2 FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup, trainer Mike Maker said. So will his 9-year-old stablemate Red Knight, the United Nations third-place finisher who won the Kentucky Turf Cup last year.

U.N. runner-up Catnip is likely for Kentucky Downs’ $2 million Mint Millions (G3) at a mile, trainer Michael Stidham said.

Money talks, and Maker long has been fluent in Kentucky Downs, which offers among the most lucrative purses in the world. Last year he won a record 12 races while his record 66 starters ran out more than $2.3 million in purses en route to a record seventh meet title.

Maker said Monday that he’s targeting the 1 1/2-mile FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup — a race the trainer has won a record five times since 2015 — for both Therapist and Red Knight.

“He finished strong, and I loved his gallop-out,” Maker said of Therapist. “Red Knight would appreciate a faster pace, and he had a pretty wide trip as well. But both horses ran very well.”

A significant chunk of Kentucky Downs’ stakes purses comes from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF) restricted to registered Kentucky-breds. Therapist and Red Knight were both born in New York. Maker doesn’t look at the money left on the table by racing a non-Kentucky-bred at Kentucky Downs. Rather, he looks at the money left on the table by not running a horse at Kentucky Downs, with the track’s base stakes purses by themselves among the highest in the world.

The FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup’s $1.7 million pot includes $400,000 in KTDF. Even so, the stakes’ $1.3 million base purse forms the most lucrative stakes for which any turf horse in America can run outside the Breeders’ Cup. A Kentucky-bred winner will earn more than $1 million; a non-Kentucky-bred winner will earn about $800,000.

On top of it, the winner gets a fees-paid spot in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf Nov. 4 at Santa Anita as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series program.

Besides Red Knight winning last year’s Kentucky Turf Cup, Maker’s huge 2022 meet included another New York-bred, Somelikeithotbrown, winning the Mint Million Mile. That Grade 3 stakes has been renamed The Mint Millions, reflecting its new $2 million purse that features a $1 million base purse and $1 million in KTDF.

Therapist, the 12-1 fifth choice ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations’ field of nine, closed from seventh to wear down the forwardly placed Catnip to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths. Red Knight, who two races earlier won Belmont’s Grade 1 Man o’ War, also closed well to finish another three-quarters of a length back in third.

Maker claimed Therapist for $50,000 in January for prominent New York owner Michael Dubb. The gelded son of the New York stallion Freud had raced farther than 1 1/16 miles only once in 37 prior starts, finishing fourth in a 1 1/8-mile New York-bred stakes in 2019.

“This is Mike Maker’s sweet spot,” Dubb said, referring to distance racing. “When we got him, the horse hadn’t been racing this long, and I asked Mike why he wanted to go this long. He said, ‘I see it in the breeding.’”

Maker has made a career out of claiming horses and turning them into stakes-winners. Therapist is his seventh former claiming horse to win a Grade 1 race; his first was $35,000 claim Furthest Land, who a year later won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile over what was then Santa Anita’s synthetic surface. Therapist is Maker’s 16th individual horse to win a Grade 1.

Therapist, now a 13-time winner, ran at Kentucky Downs last year, finishing fourth in an allowance race.

Catnip to cut back in distance

Stidham said the logical objective for Catnip is Kentucky Downs’ $2 million Mint Millions at a mile. Catnip had the lead in mid-stretch of the United Nations but couldn’t hold off Therapist.

“We felt that probably the mile and a half over that course might be a little too far based on Saturday,” Stidham said Sunday. “We thought he ran well, but with the course configuration at Kentucky Downs and a mile and a half, that might be a little outside of his best distance.”

With the Mint Millions being Kentucky Downs’ richest of 11 stakes worth at least $1 million for Kentucky-breds, “I like everything about it,” Stidham said cheerfully, adding, “now we’ve just got to win.”

While Catnip also is nominated to the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million (G1) at Colonial Downs on Aug. 12, “right now, if you put a gun to my head, I’d say we’d be running at Kentucky Downs,” the trainer said.

The Kentucky-bred Catnip is a half-brother to Princess Grace, who won the 2021 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3) and was a narrow second in the stakes last year. Like Catnip, Stidham trained Princess Grace and their mother, Masquerade, for owners Susan and John Moore. Catnip is a son of Kitten’s Joy, while Princess Grace was sired by Japanese-bred Karakontie, the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner.

“The part Catnip reminds me of Princess Grace is just like Masquerade, the mother,” Stidham said. “They all just have a really big heart. They go out there and run hard every time.”

G3 Caress winner could head to $1M Ladies Sprint

John O’Meara’s Roses for Debra, winner of Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Caress Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf for older fillies and mares at Saratoga, could run in Kentucky Downs $1 million, Grade 2 AGS Ladies Sprint on Sept. 9.

Trainer Christophe Clement, who is 3 for 3 with Roses for Debra, listed the 6 1/2-furlong Kentucky Downs stakes among the options for the 4-year-old filly’s next start. By the Kentucky stallion Liam’s Map but foaled in Pennsylvania, Roses for Debra would race for the Ladies Sprint’s $600,000 base purse, still far more than the other options Clement mentioned to the Saratoga media team. Those are the $150,000 Start N Fancy at 5 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 25 at Saratoga and the Grade 2, $300,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters at 6 1/2 furlongs Sept. 18. The filly is 4 for 4 at six or 6 1/2 furlongs on synthetic and turf.

“We’ve got a lot of options,” said Clement, who won the 2017 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint with Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Lull.

G1 U.N. winner Therapist headed to $1.7M FanDuel Ky Turf Cup - Kentucky Downs