Get Smokin does – leads all the way in KY Turf Cup

(Fernando De La Cruz earned the biggest victory of his career as Get Smokin won the $1.7 million FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup (G2). Coady Photography photos)

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023) – Earlier in the week, Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse admitted that running his 6-year-old gelding Get Smokin in the 32nd running of the $1.7 million FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup (G2) was going to be an experiment.

Guess what?

The experiment was a rousing success.

Get Smokin was known for his run-from-the-bell style of running. Not known so much was his ability to run that way going the marathon mile-and-a-half distance of the Turf Cup, one of the marquee races of the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs.

Casse looks like a genius now after Get Smokin turned the Turf Cup into his personal playground. The son of Get Stormy out of Hookah Lady by Smoke Glacken led every step of the way and won the race by 1 ¾ lengths.

Get Smokin played a game of catch me if you can, and no one could.

“What a horse he is!” Casse said by phone from Lexington. “Going to the lead, that was the strategy. We felt we would establish a big lead and hope that everyone else would think he could not go that far. Guess what? He did.”

Get Smokin, at 19-1, was the third-longest price in the field of 12.

And it was absolutely no surprise that when the gates sprung open jockey Fernando De La Cruz, the second-leading rider at Horseshoe Indianapolis, put Get Smokin where he likes to be.

The plot was drawn up by Casse and Harlan Malter, the managing partner of Ironhorse Racing Stable, which owns Get Smokin along with BlackRidge Stables, T-N-T Equine Holdings and Saratoga Sevens Racing.

In his 26-race career, Get Smokin had never ventured this far. He had tuned up for the Turf Cup with a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup at Ellis Park on Aug. 6. That was 1 ¼ miles and Get Smokin did his thing and tired, getting beat a length.

“I have often told Harlan that he is the craziest owner I train for,” Casse said. “But this was not a crazy idea.”

“Look,” Malter said, “he’s a horse that gets caught late. So you think if you keep stretching him out farther, it’s going to be even harder for him to get it. We looked at it the opposite way. He gallops at a very high rate of speed and has a huge heart. He carved out fractions that were workable for him and they weren’t going to catch him.”

Get Smokin was comfortable running these splits: 24.00, 49.61, 1:14.18 and 1:37.99 for the mile. And he wasn’t getting tired. He was getting stronger.

He maintained a two-length advantage virtually the whole way around. It also didn’t hurt any that speed was holding up all day.

“They told me to take him to the lead and see what happens,” De La Cruz said. “It’s a mile and a half, a long way to go. He just kept going.”

Santin, ridden by Florent Geroux, and Verstappen and Declan Cannon – both trained by Brendan Walsh – followed Get Smokin around the track for most of the way but couldn’t put a dent in his advantage. They would settle for third and fifth, respectively.

“We have no excuse,” Walsh said. “You can’t take anything away from the winner. He ran his race and we didn’t get him.”

Spooky Channel, ridden by James Graham and trained by Jason Barkley, came on in the stretch and got second at 17-1. They finished a head in front of Santin, who was a nose in front of defending champion Red Knight, the 7-2 favorite.

“He tried every inch of the way. I thought I would run down (the winner),” said Spooky Channel’s trainer Jason Barkley. “He just kept trying. He ran big. Very proud of him.”

Get Smokin has won two of six starts this year and has six wins in 27 career starts. He banked $972,220 on Saturday and now has earnings of $1,650,497.

Casse said he did not want to commit to what might be next for Get Smokin, but a trip to the Breeders’ Cup can’t be dismissed. After all, Get Smokin earned a fees-paid spot in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf by virtue of winning the Kentucky Turf Cup, part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series.

“We want to enjoy this,” Casse said. “We’ll talk to Harlan and the rest of the owners. This is just a great win for a really good horse who gives you everything.”

The final time was 2:28.66. Get Smokin paid $41.14, $21.16 and $11.50.

After Verstappen, the order of finish was Kitodan, Me and Mr. C, Therapist, Never Explain, Foreign Relations, Another Mystery and Nautilus.

Get Smokin does - leads all the way in KY Turf Cup - Kentucky Downs