BY BROCK SHERIDAN
Max K. O. will try for his second stakes victory of the year and first graded score of his career Saturday when he goes to the post in the $2 million Mint Millions at Kentucky Downs. The Grade 3 test has attracted a dozen 3-year-olds and older who will race over a mile on the uniquely configured and undulating turf course at the Franklin, Kentucky facility.
The 7-year-old Max K. O. has been close in his last two races, including when sixth, just three lengths behind winner Hozier, in the $200,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Mint Millions Turf Mile at Ellis Park in his last race while making just his second start for trainer Michael Maker on Aug. 5. Two starts back Max K. O. was fifth, a length shy of winner Fuenteventura, in the $76,500 Brooks Fields Mile on the turf at Canterbury Park on June 21.
In his last race before joining the Maker barn, Max K. O. won the $100,000 Mr. Steele at Gulfstream Park going a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf on May 14.
Max K. O., a Florida-bred, is by J P’s Gusto out of Funky Fraulien, by Sligo Bay (Ire) and has won 12 of 45 career starts with six seconds and two thirds with earnings of $536,965.
He is a two-time graduate of Ocala Breeders’ Sales having last sold for $13,000 to Rohan Crichton at the 2018 June Sale from the Sante Fe Thoroughbreds consignment.
Maker has given the riding chores on Max K. O. to James Graham and they have the outside post 12. Max K. O. is 30-1 on the morning line.
Annapolis – Coady Photo
The 8-5 morning line favorite for the Mint Millions is the Todd Pletcher-trained Annapolis for Bass Racing LLC.
The 4-year-old son of War Front will be trying to snap a two-race streak of runner-up finishes, the last coming when three-quarters of a length short of Casa Creed in the Grade 1 Fourstardave going a mile on the turf at Saratoga on Aug. 12. He was also second to Casa Creed in the Grade 3 Kelso at a mile over a firm turf at Saratoga on July 15.
In one other start this year, Annapolis won the $297,000 Opening Verse at a mile on the Churchill Down turf on May 4.
Last year Annapolis won three turf stakes including the Grade 1 Coolmore Turf Mile at Keeneland, the Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga and the $100,000 Manila at Belmont Park.
Annapolis has earned $1,476,370 from six wins and four seconds in 11 starts. His only finish out of the top two came when 11th in last year’s Grade 1 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile presented by PDJF won by juggernaut Modern Games (Ire) at Keeneland in November.
Tyler Gaffalione will be aboard Annapolis for the first time Saturday when he breaks from post 10.
The second choice in the program at 4-1 is the Roger Attfield-trained Churchtown, a last out second to Dream Shake in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup traveling seven furlongs on the Woodbine turf on July 23.
The 4-year-old gelding prefaced that with two second-place finishes against stakes horses starting when he was a half-length behind Steady On in the $150,000 Appleton going a mile on the Gulfstream Park turf on April 1 before second to Annapolis in the Opening Verse.
Churchtown will race in the colors of Michael A Pietrangelo and William Harrigan’s Miacomet Farm while trying to improve on his career ledger of four wins and four seconds in 12 starts with earnings of $304,989.
A son of Air Force Blue out of complicated, by Blame, Churchtown will be ridden by Julien Leparoux from post eight.
Others set for the Mint Millions are Cabo Spirit with Reylu Gutierrez aboard, Atone and jockey Jose Ortiz, Stitched will be ridden by Florent Geroux, Hozier with Alex Achard, Smokin’ T has John Velazquez named to ride, Ancient Rome and pilot Jamie Spencer, Gray’s Fable with Declan Cannon in the saddle, Get Her Number and jockey Gerardo Corrales and Dhabab (Ire) will carry Adam Beschizza.