Equibase Analysis: Hierarchy Could Best Zulu Alpha In Kentucky Turf Cup

The Grade 3, $1 million Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes drew a full field of 12, plus four also-eligibles. Leading the field is Zulu Alpha, arguably the best of the North American based horses that specialize in these races run at the marathon distance of one mile and one-half and farther. If not for his defeat by a neck in March, Zulu Alpha would have a perfect four-for-four record on the year including victories in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in January, the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes in February and the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes in July.

Eleven horses will try to beat the likely betting choice, including Arklow, who won this race in 2017 and who finished second to Zulu Alpha in the Turf Cup last year. However, Arklow enters this race off poor fourth and sixth place efforts and is adding blinkers for the first time in hopes of reversing his recent non-threatening efforts. Red Knight is a horse proven at this distance and beyond, having won the Point of Entry Stakes last October and the two-mile H. Allen Jerkens Stakes in December of 2018. Another with a chance to compete is Postulation, most recently beaten three-quarters of a length when second to Zulu Alpha in the Elkhorn.

Then there’s Hierarchy, entering the race off a second of 11 finish in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup Stakes last month at Ellis Park. Many of the rest have yet to run well at this distance or in stakes but could jump up to compete on this occasion. He’s No Lemon could be one of those as he recently won at the distance of 11 furlongs on turf and last summer was placed first via a disqualification in the mile and one-half Bald Eagle Derby. The rest of the field consists of American Tattoo (ARG), Bundibunan, Celerity, Changi, Eons, Grand Journey, Perfect Tapatino (FR), Standard Deviation, Surprise Twist and Tintoretto (GER).

There’s no doubt Zulu Alpha is the one to beat and therefore a legitimate betting favorite, but I think Hierarchy is up to the task of posting the upset win in this year’s Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes. Hierarchy has run two “A” races in a row, arguably the two best races of his career, winning the first of the two then finishing second (beaten a half-length) in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup Stakes in his most recent start. Both efforts earned Hierarchy 110 Equibase Speed Figures. Zulu Alpha earned a 110 figure nearly winning the Pan American Stakes in March and a 105 figure winning the Elkhorn Stakes in July so Hierarchy fits with the favorite.

Additionally, the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup has already become a “KEY RACE”, indicated by two or more horses having come back to win since that race. Winner Factor This almost won the Grade 1 Turf Classic last weekend at Churchill, which is not the reason the race is a key race but indicates how productive the race was. The fourth place finisher, Ry’s the Guy, won strongly last weekend at Churchill Downs and both the eighth and 11th place finishers have since won. The horse Hierarchy beat for second has not run back yet but with the winner and fourth place finishers having run very well, I think Hierarchy can do the same and win. Jockey Corey Lanerie was up for both recent big efforts and rides back and that’s another positive sign. Additionally, Hierarchy put in a strong four furlong (47.8) workout in preparation for this race so he’s fit and ready to run big. Last but not least, Hierarchy was entered to run in the $300,000 Tapit Stakes on Wednesday and his trainer (Joe Sharp) opted for this race instead, likely figuring with the horse in top form he could run well enough to win.

Zulu Alpha won the 2019 Turf Cup over Arklow by three lengths but didn’t run as well subsequently in the Turf Classic or Breeders’ Cup Turf. Rested three months, Zulu Alpha began his seven year old campaign with a strong win in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, earning a career-best 119  figure in the process. After duplicating that figure and effort in the Mac Diarmida Stakes in February, Zulu Alpha lost a heartbreaker in the Pan American Stakes by a neck after battling for the lead the entire last eighth of a mile. Rested three and one-half months, Zulu Alpha returned in the Elkhorn Stakes this past July and won more decisively than the three-quarter length margin of victory makes it appear. However, his figure did regress to 105 after 110 in the Pan American. Freshened two months again and proven capable of winning big races off this kind of layoff, Zulu Alpha is certainly the one to beat on paper and as a horse who shows up every time I think he has every right to win.

Postulation, Red Knight and Grand Journey are three more with a decent chance to compete at least for the minor awards, and it’s not out of the question one of them could post the upset if everything goes their way. Postulation has run 11 times at marathon distances in his career, winning twice and finishing second three times. The most recent of those efforts came when leading from the start in the Elkhorn Stakes before being passed late by Zulu Alpha and finishing three-quarters of a length behind in second. That effort earned a 105 figure, and in 2018 at the distance in the Point of Entry Stakes Postulation earned a 112 figure so a top effort puts him right there with the main contenders. Red Knight won the 2019 Point of Entry Stakes with a 108 figure and was second, beaten a half-length, in the 2019 Elkhorn so fits at this level and distance. Not seen since finishing fourth of 11 in the McKnight Stakes in January, Red Knight also won the two mile H. Allen Jerkens Stakes in 2018 so he’s a true “stayer” who must be respected as a contender.

Then there’s Grand Journey, who will likely be one of the longshots in the field. He started out his career in claiming races but won three straight last spring and summer on the grass, the best of those earning a 107 figure. In his third race of the year this past June, Grand Journey won at the distance of one mile and one-sixteenth on turf and earned a 105 figure. Trainer Mike Maker claimed the horse from that race then put him in a stakes race on July 8. Although fourth in that race, Grand Journey was beaten a nose and a head for second and tied his previous best 107 figure. Maker, who also saddles Zulu Alpha, has a knack for finding horses he can turn into successful turf stakes runners and I have a suspicion Grand Journey may be one of those and can run better than his high odds suggest he can. North American leading jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. sees fit to ride and that’s significant. Also of significance is the fact that Grand Journey is by Giant’s Causeway, who has produced a number of top turf runners including 2019 Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar. For those reasons I plan to at least make a win and place bet on Grand Journey at likely very high odds.

The rest of the field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures, is American Tattoo (ARG), Arklow, Bundibunan, Celerity, Changi, Eons, Grand Journey, Perfect Tapatino (FR), Standard Deviation, Surprise Twist and Tintoretto (GER).

Main Win Contenders (in probability/preference order):
Zulu Alpha

Secondary win contenders and in-the-money contenders:
Red Knight
Grand Journey

Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes – Grade 3
Race 10 at Kentucky Downs
Saturday, September 12 – Post Time 6:04 PM E.T.
One Mile and One-Half on Turf
Three Years Olds and Upward
Purse: $1 Million

The post Equibase Analysis: Hierarchy Could Best Zulu Alpha In Kentucky Turf Cup appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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