Zulu Alpha, with Jose Ortiz aboard, winning the $1 million Calumet Turf Cup in 2019. Coady Photography.

Grade 1 Winner Zulu Alpha Retired to Old Friends

Edited Press Release

Zulu Alpha, the 2019 winner of Kentucky Downs’ $1 million Calumet Turf Cup (G3), will scratch out of the 2021 edition of the race set for Sept. 11 and has been retired, owner Michael Hui said. Trainer Mike Maker also confirmed the defection to the Kentucky Downs racing office on Sept. 10.

“I’m going to scratch Zulu,” Hui said by phone. “He’s going to be retired to Old Friends. There’s not a whole lot that’s physically wrong with him. After consultation with Mike this weekend, he just believes he will not be competitive at this level.”

Maker, who has won the Calumet Turf Cup – now a Grade 2 race – a record four times, still has four horses in the 1 1/2-mile stakes in Tide of the Sea, Bluegrass Parkway, Ajourneytofreedom and Glynn County, with a fifth potential starter if Dynadrive draws in from the also-eligible list. Dynadrive needs one more scratch to run after the defections of Zulu Alpha and Fantasioso.

Hui said he long ago worked out an arrangement with Old Friends to send Zulu Alpha to the Thoroughbred retirement home in Georgetown, Ky., when the now 8-year-old gelding’s racing career was over. Hui had Hogy, his 2017 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint winner, at Old Friends until his death earlier this year.

Zulu Alpha retires with 12 wins out of 37 starts, along with five seconds and six thirds, for earnings of $2,269,118. Hui claimed the gelding almost exactly three years ago for $80,000 with the 2019 Calumet Turf Cup in mind. That became one of seven graded stakes Zulu Alpha won for Hui, including the 2020 Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf. 

After coming in third in last year’s Calumet Turf Cup, Zulu Alpha raced only twice this year, finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Arlington Stakes and seventh in the Grade 1 Mr. D (formerly the Arlington Million). Maker conceded a couple of weeks ago that age might have caught up with the grand gelding, but added that two races was too small a sample to not give Zulu Alpha another shot over a course he loves as long as he was doing well.

“I’m not really a true horseman; I’m more of a racetrack guy,” Hui said. “I was very blessed to have Hogy, and unfortunately he passed. But Zulu, at the racetrack he was at a different level. Very competitive but he also liked attention from humans. His race record speaks for itself. He took me to a level I had never dreamed of. The right thing to do is while he’s good, he deserves the utmost in retirement. 

“I have all the faith in Mike. He’s guided me on this path several times now. But Zulu was a special one. When Mike says he’s not competitive at this level, I have to believe it.”

Hui doesn’t expect to have another horse like Zulu Alpha, but he’s going to keep trying, including via high-priced claims. “We have the mindset that we point toward Kentucky Downs, mark the calendar and work backward,” he said.