John B. Connally Turf Cup Attracts Eight


Admiral Kitten brings Grade 1 class into the John B. Connally Turf Cup after winning the Secretariat Stakes in August (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).

The Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes, one of four stakes races on Saturday’s Sam Houston card, brings together a field of eight. Only four of the eight have positive form previously in stakes, led by Admiral Kitten, who won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes last summer before two runner-up efforts in other grade 1 events. King David finished second in the 2013 Connally and won the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap last October so fits with these as well. Marine Patrol returns from two months off, last seen finishing second of nine in the Woodchopper Stakes. Among the rest, Fredericksburg enters the race off a strong win at Gulfstream Park and finished second the last time he raced in a stakes, which was last September in the Stanton Stakes. Vertiformer was a stakes winner in France and won in his second North American start, but that was back in June of 2012 and he is winless in five races since.

Cajun Don, Arthur's Court and Michael's Gabriel round out the field.

Fredericksburg has run in stakes races on turf three times in his career to date, his best finishes a third place effort in the Stanton Stakes in September and a fourth place effort in the Bourbon Stakes as a two year old in the fall of 2012. However, Fredericksburg appears to have turned a corner as a newly turned 4-year-old because in his second race following a layoff, on December 21, he earned a career best 108 Equibase Speed Figure that is on par with the 108 figure Admiral Kitten earned when second in the Hollywood Derby a few weeks earlier. Likely to improve a bit more in his third start off the layoff and with jockey Luis Saez in the saddle again after riding Fredericksburg for the first time last month, he can post the upset to win the John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes.

King David posted the upset at odds of 28 to 1 when victorious in the Jamaica Handicap in the fall of 2012, then three races later finished well to run second in a field of 10 in last year's Connally. In his most recent race on Dec. 21, King David had to have a shoe repaired in the paddock shortly before the race. That kind of incident can have a negative effect on a horse, and could explain his poor sixth place effort in the race. Having earned 104-105 figures in three of his last six races and having won half of his 12 career start on the grass, King David fits on all counts to be competitive with his best effort. 

Admiral Kitten earned a 107 figure when second in the 2013 Jamaica Handicap in October (the same race King David won a year earlier) then a career best 108 figure when second in the Hollywood Derby last month. Although he is facing older horses for the first time in the Connally, Admiral Kitten has proven competitive in his last seven races, all first or second place finishes, so must be taken very seriously as a contender to win this race.

The rest of the field with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures is Arthur's Court (94), Cajun Don (93), Marine Patrol (95), Michael's Gabriel (86) and Vertiformer (112).

My Selections:
King David
Admiral Kitten
$200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes
Saturday, Race 8, Sam Houston Race Park, 11:15 PM E.T
One Mile and One Eighth on Turf, 4-year-olds and up