American Turf Horses Guide 2022

The new Matt Winn Turf Course is totally refurbished, and ready for grass runners ... The Grade 2 American Turf brings together a solid group of routers. See who's who, below ...
The new Matt Winn Turf Course is totally refurbished, and ready for grass runners ... The Grade 2 American Turf brings together a solid group of routers. See who's who, below ...

Race 9: 1 1/16th (Turf) American Turf Stakes (G2), Purse $500k, 3 (Saturday)

The grass at Churchill Downs over the Matt Winn Turf Course is newly-minted territory. With a major overhaul over the summer and into the fall/winter, it should be ready for action. With all the rain this week, expect it to be pretty much on the yielding side. Recently, this race has seen its fair share of celebrated runners come through the starting gate. Who could forget Silver Max, Noble Tune, Global View, Divisidero, Camelot Kitten, Arklow, Maraud, Digital Age, and Fancy Liquor? Last year, it was Bob Baffert’s Du Jour who surprised for the HOF trainer. What will it take to win this one? The answer … the very best “staying” and “settling” ability in what has always been a nicely contested race.

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Smokin’ T (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: S. McGaughey):

A colt by War Front, trained by Shug McGaughey, this homebred clearly missed at Gulfstream Park in the Cutler Bay $100k (3rd). That was against a couple of rivals that are entered here. He has talent, and Johnny V at his side, but that might not be enough against a tough crowd like this one.

Grade: C+


#2 Main Event (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: G. Weaver):

The winner of the Cutler Bay $100k, trained by George Weaver, is a colt that sure did enjoy the painted dirt at Gulfstream Park. Now, this son of Bernardini is coming to Churchill, looking to continue his hot streak. Weaver has had some good turfers over the years, but I am concerned that this one is not as solid as you might think. Jose Ortiz is an ace though … aggressive rides late have become a hallmark.

Grade: B


#3 Red Run (Jky: B. Hernandez/Trn: S. Asmussen):

HOF trainer Steve Asmussen is known for many things, but a turf conditioner isn’t one of them. Now, his son of Gun Runner did score nicely in the Texas Turf Mile S. $200k at Sam Houston, so he is not without accolades. Still, I was against this runner then, and am still now. Brian Hernandez is a solid jockey, but even he will not be able to make the difference.

Grade: C+


#4 Red Danger (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: B. Lynch):

A son of Orb, here is one of Brian Lynch’s colts that is looking to build on a 2nd Place finish last time out in the Cutler Bay. He knows some of these rivals, and judging by his form, he could be in a spot to improve greatly. I like the choice of Luis Saez because he is such a strong pilot down the lane. Might be the best horse out of that Gulfstream contest.

Grade: B+


#5 Balnikhov (IRE) (Jky: M. Franco/Trn: P. D’Amato):

SoCal-based trainer Phil D’Amato is shipping this gelding by Adaay (IRE) from Santa Anita to Churchill with hopes on high. He got this one from France, but this was one that ran mostly in the provinces. That’s not a knock per se, but it doesn’t mean he was necessarily up against the best. Manny Franco takes the mount, but I doubt that this colt will end up in-the-money.

Grade: C


#6 Portfolio Company (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: C. Brown):

The last time we saw Chad Brown’s colt by Kitten’s Joy, it was against Modern Games in that debacle of a Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar .. you know, the Juvenile Turf (G1). Now, a 3-yr-old, he is making his debut for a red-hot barn that travels well. Joel Rosario gets the call, and Seth Klarman owns a budding star. Is this the best price he will be all year … 9/2? Could be … if he is sharp off-the-shelf.

Grade: B+


#7 Sy Dog (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: G. Motion):

It is hard to find much wrong with Graham Motion’s colt by Slumber … heck, even the bloodline speaks “turf.” I think this router is the one to watch late in the race, and he has the turn-of-foot when it counts. With Irad Ortiz in the irons once again, he proved in the Transy (G3) @KEE that he could debut in ’22 nicely. Probably will be a short price in the end … still, winners … they win.

Grade: A-


#8 Royal Spirit (Jky: T. Gafflione/Trn: T. Pletcher):

HOF trainer Todd Pletcher is looking to put this colt by Into Mischief back on the grass after a run in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at the beginning of April. The bid for Derby “Points” failed, so Repole and St. Elias Stable will have to punt. The alternative is not bleak, especially when you consider his form. The addition of Tyler Gaffalione is the best news ever. Could be a major player in this division … at some point.

Grade: B


#9 Stolen Base (Jky: F. Prat/Trn: M. Maker):

Ever since he ran in the Bourbon S. (G2) at Keeneland, this colt by Bodemeister has caught turf fans attention. He just seems to suffer from traffic troubles, and in grass racing, timing is everything. Mike Maker knows what this runner can do, and he is getting the services of Flavien Prat. That is an intriguing combo, and could get this one to a place that he has not been since he broke his maiden on debut in July ’21.

Grade: B+


#10 Coinage (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: M. Casse):

I know a number of ‘cappers that will be licking their chops when they see that Mark Casse’s son of Tapit (that cost $450k at the Keeneland September Sale in 2020) is 6/1 on the M/L. There is no way this router is going to be that price when post time comes on Saturday. He is talented, and in 3 races this year (2-GP, 1-KEE) he has proved that he can tangle with the best. Florent Geroux takes over the riding duties, and expect this one to be in the mix … not at 6/1 though …

Grade: A-


#11 Dowagiac Chief (Jky: J. Graham/Trn: T. Amoss):

Drawn to the outside, this Tom Amoss runner has a style that is not necessarily conducive to his post position. James Graham must get to the lead, and if he doesn’t, then it is going to be a tough go for this son of Cairo Prince. Early “go-ers” are tough to count on for specific reasons, and making the lead is one of them. Graham is such an experienced professional. If anyone can do it … he can. Tough spot to be in …

Grade: C+


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