Stars converge on Oak Grove for last 4-year-old KYSS prelim

Many of harness racing’s top performers — both human and equine — will converge on Oak Grove on Monday afternoon (June 17) to contest $300,000 worth of third-round Kentucky Sire Stakes preliminary heats and a pair of $41,000 Open events.

Since arriving at Oak Grove in April, Crawford Farms Racing, Alagna Racing and Pryde Stables’ Mambacita has been flawless. She has reeled off five wins in as many starts so far this season, all in Kentucky Sire Stakes competition, and she seeks a sixth in Monday’s sixth race, the lone third-round split for 4-year-old trotting mares. The daughter of Tactical Landing has won 16 of 36 starts in her career, has earned $945,418 to date in her career, and on Monday will again be driven by Dexter Dunn after he steered her to a 1:52.3 seasonal mark on June 4. On the strength of her 2024 campaign, the Tony Alagna trainee has been installed as the 3-5 morning line favorite from the pole, followed by Railee Something (to be driven by Andy McCarthy), at 3-1, after working into four consecutive second-place finishes to Mambacita.

Admiral Hill looks to complete a sweep of the summer preliminaries in race one, the lone event for 4-year-old male pacers. Having prevailed at odds-on in both preliminaries to date in the current series, the Sweet Lou gelding has won five of six races this season and retains the services of driver Yannick Gingras. Per Engblom trains the 14-time winner, who has been installed as the 4-5 morning line favorite in the field of five, for Morrison Racing Stables.

The 4-year-old mare pace (race three) figures to be more contested, with spring series champion Strong Poison returning to Oak Grove following a 1:49.4 Open win at Eldorado Scioto Downs and a defeat at MGM Northfield Park. The Always B Miki mare is approaching $900,000 in career earnings, and trainer Virgil Morgan Jr. has retained Gingras to again drive the 8-5 early favorite from post one in the six-mare field. To Strong Poison’s immediate outside is Zanatta (7-2, Andy Miller), who rode the pocket to a 1:51 win in her June 4 preliminary, while preliminary runner-up Hungry For Love (5-2, David Miller) will start from post five.

A total of 21 4-year-old male trotters entered the third preliminary, and they have been split into three divisions: races two, four and eight. Spring series champion Bestfriend Volo brings a five-race winning streak into the second split for trainer Nancy Takter, and Dunn will again drive the Walner gelding, installed at even money, from post four in the field of seven. Dunn also gets the call on Alagna trainee Ari Ferrari J, who has been listed at 7-5 after winning both his preliminary splits in the current series, in the third split.

The fifth and seventh races are the weekly Open Paces, now offering $41,000 purses and both featuring full 10-horse fields. In all, $447,000 in purse money will be at stake on the 12-race program.

First post is 3 p.m. CDT (4 p.m. EDT); free past-performance pages and The Players’ Guide, featuring commentary from racing analyst Ray Cotolo, are available on the Oak Grove website (https://www.oakgrovegaming.com/racing/handicapping-resources/).

Mambacita, pictured winning the spring Kentucky Sire Stakes championship for 4-year-old trotting mares, looks to keep a flawless season intact in the third Kentucky Sire Stakes summer series preliminary round on Monday.