Race of the Week: Tourist Mile
by Joe Wulffe
Saturday September 1st: Race 8 at Kentucky Downs. The $750,000 Tourist Mile run at one mile on the turf for three year olds and upward. (Post Time: 6:26 EDT).
(1) Mr. Misunderstood: Brad Cox sends out this four year old son of Archarcharch to contest this year’s edition of the Tourist Mile, looking for his third straight stakes victory. The June 16th Wise Dan (G2T) appeared to be his coming out party. On a hot humid night at Churchill Downs, He was bumped hard at the start, recovered well enough and began to chase the pace early on, sitting several lengths behind the leaders under the guidance of Florent Geroux. He then angled off the rail as the field entered the final turn and subsequently rallied down the stretch and was able to just edge past the leaders to win by half a length at the wire. He then followed up that performance with another solid effort in the Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile Stakes at Ellis Park on August 5th. Although Saturday will mark Mr. Misunderstood’s first foray over the unique European-style turf course at Kentucky Downs, he has proven himself to be quite adapt at running not only on the turf, where he has won 10 of his first 13 tries over the grass, but also at the one mile distance, where he has won five of six lifetime starts.
Over the past three years, Brad Cox has enjoyed a great deal of success, as his statistics in a number of categories are fairly exemplary. He is currently winning at a 30% rate when entering his runners into grass races (from 900 starts) as well as when returning last out winners (from 534 starts). Additionally, he has been winning non-graded stakes races at a 29% clip over that time period (from 225 starts). On Saturday, Cox will once again have Florent Geroux onboard Mr. Misunderstood. Over the past five years, Geroux has been the leading jockey at Kentucky Downs with 33 wins. Moreover, when he has teamed up with Cox over the last 60 days, he has won with 33% of his mounts for the trainer. This all bodes quite well for Mr. Misunderstood’s chances of hitting the board, at the very least, on Saturday.
Throughout his career, Mr. Misunderstood has demonstrated that he is a quality horse that can make his own trip, rather than being dependent upon an ideal setup in order to win. Furthermore, he has displayed good tactical speed and has shown great versatility in his running style such that he is equally comfortable at racing while being forwardly placed as well as stalking the pace from further back. Such adaptability should allow him to be well suited to the projected fast pace scenario of Saturday’s race. Mr. Misunderstood also can call upon a blistering turn of foot that allows him to either drive past or kick away from rivals when necessary. In addition, it has been noted that when the turf course at Kentucky Downs is dry (which it will likely be on Saturday even with a slight amount of rain in the forecast), inside speed dominates which further works in Mr. Misunderstood’s favor as he drew post position one for the race.
Mr. Misunderstood has posted the highest Bris Speed Rating (BSR) amongst the entire field for Saturday’s one mile distance. While the 100 BSR he earned did come in a losing effort in the Makers 46 Mile (G1T) back in April, if he can find some way to return to that number then he will be incredibly dangerous against this field. The biggest question for Mr. Misunderstood is how he will handle the unique layout of the European-style turf course with its hills and sweeping final turn. However, he is arguably one of the most talented horses in this race, has a multitude of attributes working in his favor, and has an excellent jockey and trainer combination backing him. He should be considered the most likely winner of the Tourist Mile on Saturday.
(7) Krampus: Bill Mott sends out this four year old son of Shakespeare looking to contend against stakes-level competition for the first time in his career. Thus far in his career, Krampus has been campaigned exclusively on the grass over which he has compiled four wins and two second place efforts from eight starts. In his last outing, a nine furlong $62.5K Optional Claiming race on June 29th at Churchill Downs, Krampus turned in a solid effort in which he initially stalked the pace whilst running three deep, took command of the race entering the stretch and then dug in and gave an all out effort to narrowly win by a nose. However, that effort likely proved to be quite taxing for him and thus Mott has given him over two months off to recover with some light training interspersed throughout that time period. While he has hit the board in two of his first three tries at the one mile distance, Saturday’s Tourist Mile will present a major challenge to this young gelding as it is not only a massive step up in class for him but also Krampus has never encountered a turf course as distinctive as the one at Kentucky Downs.
However, all hope should not be lost in regards to Krampus’s chances for success on Saturday. Mott, has proven himself to be particularly shrewd when entering runners into races at Kentucky Downs. Last year, Mott managed to win with 27% of his runners and additionally finish in the money with 55% of his runners in all 11 eleven starts at the course in Franklin Kentucky. In fact, those are the best percentages for wins and in the money finishes (minimum of 10 starts) amongst all the trainers in this year’s field for the Tourist Mile.
Additionally, Mott has done fairly well over the past three years when entering his trainees into races off of layoffs of 46-90 days as he has been winning at a 16% rate from 509 starts. Moreover, Mott has enjoyed a good deal of success when competing in non-graded stakes races as he is currently winning 19% of those types of races (from 182 starts). On Saturday, Krampus will have an unfamiliar jockey in the irons as Mott has acquired the services of Julien Leparoux, who ranks second behind his fellow Frenchman (Geroux) with 23 wins over the past five years at Kentucky Downs. Leparoux has done well this year when riding pace stalking type horses such as Krampus as he has won 17% of 267 starts this year while aboard that type of horse.
Over the course of his career, Krampus has displayed a rather versatile running style. Hhas been able to win not only whilst being forwardly placed but also when he has been taken further back and allowed to stalk the pace from there. However, it is unknown which of these running styles he will demonstrate coming in off of a two month layoff. Yet given that the TimeForm Pace Projector has indicated a likely fast pace for the race along with the presence of multiple good early speed type horses in the field, it is more than likely that Krampus’s new pilot, Leparoux, will allow his charge to settle in several lengths off of the pace and stalk the frontrunners from there. Such positioning will allow Krampus to avoid becoming involved in an unnecessary speed duel early on versus more experienced foes and potentially permit him to relax and thus save his stamina for the final portion of the race when he will need to make a bid for the lead. The 93 and 96 BSRs that he has posted this year for the one mile distance, while not the fastest amongst the entire field, at the very least make him fairly competitive against his rivals. Additionally, as Krampus is so lightly raced there is a definite possibility that he has yet to display his best form or true potential and Saturday could be that day when he finally lives up to his abilities. While it would be somewhat of a shock to see Krampus win the 2018 Tourist Mile, an on the board finish certainly is within the realm of possibilities for him.
(4) Mr. Cub: The barn of trainer Ian Wilkes sends out this four year old son of Artie Schiller looking to rebound after a disappointing last out effort at Saratoga three weeks ago. In his most recent performance, the $100K eight and a half furlong Lure Stakes, Mr. Cub bobbled at the start with Chris Landeros aboard but recovered well enough to lead for the initial portion of the race before getting caught and passed in the final turn. He then began to fade badly down the stretch and finished a well-beaten seventh, 13 lengths behind the winner. However, it is quite likely that he did not appreciate the slightly soggy turf course that day at Saratoga. Furthermore, he actually ran quite well in the two outings against stakes company prior to that race and should relish a return to firmer ground. Mr. Cub has raced solely on the grass throughout his career and in fact appears to particularly enjoy contesting races at the one mile distance as he is a perfect three for three thus far. Additionally, Mr. Cub is just one of two horses entered into Saturday’s Tourist Mile that have won before at Kentucky Downs (that win actually came in a one mile $140K Allowance race last year) and that prior experience over the grass could be a valuable asset for him.
Over the last three years Ian Wilkes has proven himself to be a fairly competent trainer in a number of categories, although his stats are not particularly gaudy. Wilkes has managed to win 13% of the non-graded stakes races (from 119 starts) he’s entered runners into over that time period as well as 13% of the turf races (from 631 starts) he’s had his trainees run in. Additionally, Wilkes has done a bit better when contesting races run at route distances as he currently boasts a 15% win rate from 999 starts. On Saturday, Wilkes will once again have veteran jockey Chris Landeros aboard Mr. Cub; Landeros has in fact hit the board in four of his last six starts with Mr. Cub. While Landeros is not one of the top turf riders in the country, he has proven to be more than capable when riding E/P type horses such as Mr. Cub as he has won 14% of 193 starts with that type of horse this year.
Mr. Cub has a somewhat versatile running style as evidenced by the E/P designation given to him by Brisnet. He has demonstrated that he is equally adept at playing the role of pacesetter and trying the wire the field as well as sitting just off the leaders and rating before trying to seize control of the lead in the latter stages of a race. The TimeForm Pace Projector has indicated that it is likely that Mr. Cub will indeed be forwardly placed on Saturday as he has shown good early speed in some of his more recent starts. However, Mr. Cub will likely have to contend with the presence of several other rivals that project to be forwardly placed and will likely play some role in trying to dictate a fast initial pace. Yet, over the past several years at Kentucky Downs, those horses that have shown good early speed and have either been on or near the lead in the opening stages of route races have usually gone on to win those races. Thus it would behoove Mr. Cub’s jockey to ensure that his charge gets a good clean break from the gates and is on the lead from the get go.
Furthermore, Mr. Cub’s prior experience over the undulating and sweeping turf course at Kentucky Downs could prove to be a difference maker as the majority of the field has never run over the course before. The 97 and 95 BSRs that Mr. Cub has posted this year, while contesting stakes races over a mile on the turf, certainly make him competitive against the assembled field of foes. Additionally his most recent workout suggests that Wilkes has him in good form and ready to fire off a quality effort on Saturday. The biggest question for Mr. Cub is whether or not he can manage to hold onto the lead turning for home as he will likely face intense pressure from several of his rivals as they try and vie for the lead. Thus while he does possess a favored running style that could allow him to win on Saturday, it is much more likely that he will have to settle for a minor award instead.
Trainer Wesley Ward has entered two runners into this fairly competitive field of eight for this year’s edition of the Tourist Mile. Both the (2) Master Merion and the (8) Bound for Nowhere return to the United States after last being seen competing in the Royal Ascot meet back in June. Master Merion’s most recent form in his last two races has not been great at all, although one of those two efforts was over the Arlington Polytrack in the Hanshin Cup (G3) while the other came in the absolute free-for-all that is the nearly 30 horse field of the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot. However, Master Merion has proven himself to be quite capable at handling the one mile distance while on turf as he has hit the board in four of his five tries at the distance. Additionally, Master Merion also boasts a win over the Kentucky Downs turf course when he won a seven furlong $250K stakes race last September. On the other hand, Bound for Nowhere has been in prime form thus far this year as he has molded himself into a legitimate threat for contending in this year’s Breeders Cup Turf Sprint. However, that is the main concern for him. Bound for Nowhere has yet to race beyond six furlongs and his pedigree doesn’t exactly suggest success for stretching out to a route distance. Yet, both of these horses possess very good early speed and will likely be involved in initially contesting the pace. As it appears that the course at Kentucky Downs favors horses with that kind of running style, both Master Merion and Bound for Nowhere could have legitimate shots at hitting the board on Saturday. However, as Bound for Nowhere is the second choice on the morning line for the Tourist Mile and I have sincere doubts about his ability to get the distance, there may be more value in using his stablemate, Master Merion, as an underneath play in all exotic wagering especially if he goes off at or near his ML odds of 6-1.