Red Knight (rail) edged #8 Gufo and #10 Another Mystery to take last year’s $1 million Kentucky Turf Cup. Grace Clark photo
FRANKLIN, Ky. (Saturday, May 13, 2023) — Trinity Farm’s 9-year-old Red Knight became the latest winner of Kentucky Downs’ $1 million, Grade 2 Kentucky Turf Cup to go on to capture a Grade 1 stakes.
Red Knight captured Belmont Park’s Grade 1 Man o’War Stakes Saturday in New York by 1 1/2 lengths over Soldier Rising, with jockey Irad Ortiz riding for trainer Mike Maker, who is Kentucky Downs’ all-time win leader.
Donegal Racing’s Arklow — winner of the 1 1/2-mile Kentucky Turf Cup in 2018 and 2020 and second in 2019 — captured Belmont Park’s Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in 2019. Michael Hui’s Zulu Alpha, who defeated Arklow in 2019 at Kentucky Downs, started his 2020 season with victory in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational.
The Kentucky Turf Cup is a “Win And You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, with its winner receiving a fees-paid spot in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, to be staged at Santa Anita in California this year. The $1 million, Grade 2 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint’s winner likewise receives a free roll in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Both stakes are among six races worth $1 million apiece, including Kentucky-bred purse supplements, on Kentucky Downs’ showcase card Sept. 9. The all-grass meet over America’s only European-style turf course runs Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, 3, 7, 9, 10 and 13.
The last four Kentucky Turf Cup victors have been Grade 1 winners. While Imperador did not run again after taking the 2021 Kentucky Turf Cup, he was a two-time Grade 1 winner in his native Argentina. He also finished second in Monmouth Park’s Grade 1 United Nations in his race prior to running at Kentucky Downs.
Red Knight took last year’s Kentucky Turf Cup by a nose over triple Grade 1 winner Gufo. As a New York-bred, Red Knight ran for a $600,000 purse at Kentucky Downs last year but still earned one of his biggest paydays. The Man o’War was his 12th victory from 34 starts, with nine seconds and a third, for earnings of $1.7 million.
“It’s just the latest proof of the high quality of the Kentucky Turf Cup specifically and our stakes in general,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ Vice President for Racing. “We’re optimistic that Red Knight’s Man o’War victory will be the nudge that gets our Turf Cup over the hump from being a Grade 2 to a Grade 1. We know Mike Maker plans his calendar around Kentucky Downs, and we can’t wait to see Red Knight — better than ever at age 9 — back to defend his Kentucky Turf Cup crown.”