Del Mar Derby (Grade II) third Redwood Kitten and Arlington Classic (GIII) winner General Election head a competitive field of nine 3-year-olds enter for Saturday night’s 36th running of the $100,000-added Jefferson Cup (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
The Jefferson Cup, a one-mile turf event that honors the most populous county in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, will run as Race 8 at 9:39 p.m. (all times Eastern) on a special 11-race “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” program billed as “Homecoming Dance: A Night to Remember.”
The Jefferson Cup is the second of two stakes events – the first is the inaugural $175,000-added Homecoming Classic headlined by reigning Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) champion Fort Larned – and will be the first leg of a $100,000-guaranteed Late Pick 4 that covers Races 8-11.
Saturday’s first race is 6 p.m. and admission gates will open at 4 p.m. It is the final Saturday and penultimate day of Churchill Downs’ first 12-date September Meet.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Redwood Kitten is likely to vie for favoritism after a good third in the $251,250 Del Mar Derby behind Gabriel Charles and Gervinho on Sept. 1. The Wesley Ward trainee, who has done his best running on the front-end, won the $100,000 James W. Murphy at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard in May and was fifth in the $500,000 Virginia Derby (GII) at Colonial Downs in June.
Redwood Kitten, a two-time winner and $167,050-earner from 11 starts, will break from the inside hedge under high-percentage rider Ricardo Santana Jr., who rides the Kitten’s Joy gelding for the first time.
Redwood Kitten isn’t the only horse with a fondness of being forwardly placed in the early stages of a race. Saratoga maiden winner and first-level allowance runner-up Rapscallion, trained by Graham Motion; Balino, runaway winner of Calder’s $72,200 Naked Greed in early August; and Miceli, second to Sayaad in Saratoga’s $100,000 Dance of Life on Aug. 21 for trainer Adam Kitchingman all have displayed front-running tactics.
That may bode well for WinStar Farm’s General Election, who rallied to win the $150,000 Arlington Classic in May. The Harlan’s Holiday colt finished three-quarters of a length behind Redwood Kitten in the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Derby for trainer Kellyn Gorder. Overall, he’s won three of nine starts and a field-best $218,110 with a pair of seconds, including a runner-up effort behind Winning Cause in the $200,000 Coolmore Lexington (GIII) on Keeneland’s Polytrack.
The field also includes Tate’s Landing, who returns three weeks after a fourth-place finish against allowance company at Kentucky Downs to make his second start off a layoff over a route of ground for Motion; trainer Wayne Catalano’s Saratoga allowance/optional claiming race winner Gentleman’s Kitten, also owned by the Ramseys; Charles Cella’s Ray’s Away, who was finished a length in front of Tate’s Landing at Kentucky Downs for trainer Lynn Whiting; and the Mike Trombetta-conditioned One More Cat, who was fourth in the Dance of Life.
The Jefferson Cup field from the rail out with jockeys: Redwood Kitten (Santana); Rapscallion (Miguel Mena); Balino (Brian Hernandez Jr.); Tate’s Landing (Robby Albarado); General Election (Joe Rocco Jr.); Miceli (Corey Lanerie); One More Cat (Shaun Bridgmohan); Gentleman’s Kitten (Norberto Arroyo Jr.); and Ray’s Away (Leandro Goncalves).
The Jefferson Cup reappears at Churchill Downs’ September Meet after a one-year hiatus. Previously, it was staged during the Spring Meet from 1977-2011. Albarado, who rides Tate’s Landing, has won the race a record four times: King Cugat (2000), Senor Swinger (2003), Rush Bay (2005) and Brilliant (2006). Bridgmohan, the rider of One More Cat, won the 2007 renewal on Inca King. All other jockeys, trainers and owners are seeking their first Jefferson Cup win. The Ramseys are looking to avenge their loss in 2004 when favorite Kitten’s Joy, who would become that year’s Champion Turf Male, was beaten a head by Prince Arch over a “yielding” Matt Winn Turf Course.
This will be the first time the race will be contested at one mile. It was a 1 1/8-mile grass race from 1983-2009, and was 1 1/16 miles on turf in 2000-11.