Millionaire Keertana Targets Orchid Stakes Saturday

Barbara Hunter’s 6-year-old Kentucky homebred mare Keertana defines high class and consistency with earnings of more than $1 million and a career record of 28-11-6-7 for trainer Tom Proctor. It’s no wonder she could go off favored to win Saturday’s $150,000 Orchid Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park at 1 ½ miles on turf.

A daughter of Johar, Keertana will bid to reverse a decision here last month when she finished second by a length in the $100,000 The Very One Stakes (G3) going 1 3/8 miles to Trick or Treat International’s 6-year-old Here to Win, an 11-to-1 shot for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin that was in receipt of four pounds and is expected back for the Orchid.

“She’s been remarkable,” said Proctor of Keertana’s consistency. “The few times she’s missed the board, a number of them you can attribute to human error - mine - beginning with her first two races sprinting at Arlington (Polytrack). In a couple of others she’s finished close-up in fourth and in one case fifth, but got beat only a half-length for it all (Locust Grove Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs in 2010).”

Proctor also noted that Keertana could give her longtime owner-breeder a fourth victory in the Orchid as the late veteran horseman and Gulfstream regular Stanley Rieser sent out her Pattee Canyon to score in 1970, Dogtooth Violet in 1974 and Sans Arc in 1979.

Keetana won the 2011 edition of The Very One early last year in her only previous appearance at Gulfstream, but Hunter’s distinctive red and black colors were in the winners’ circle earlier this meet when Keertana’s 5-year-old half-sister Snow Top Mountain captured the Suwannee River Stakes (G3) on Feb. 11. She is a roan/gray daughter of Najran and the siblings are out of fourth generation Hunter broodmare Motokiks, by Storm Cat.

Keertana attracted the most national attention in the fall of 2010 when she ran one of the best races of her life to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs, beaten only a half-length for it all by Shared Interest with defending champion Midday between them in a wild finish.

Sanchez Picks up Mount on Fort Loudon for Florida Derby

Jockey Jeffrey Sanchez will be squarely in the spotlight on next Saturday’s Florida Derby Day program at Gulfstream Park as he goes to the post atop Stronach Stable’s undefeated 4-year-old filly Awesome Feather, bidding for her 10th consecutive victory in the $150,000 Rampart Stakes (G3).

Sanchez also has picked up the mount on Jack or Better Farm’s homebred 3-year-old colt Fort Loudon, a longshot chance in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) facing Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite Union Rags. Trained by Stanley Gold, Fort Loudon is a son of Awesome of Course and finished fourth in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and fifth behind Union Rags last out in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) on Feb. 26.

“We thought he ran a decent race in the Holy Bull but is capable of better than he showed in the Fountain of Youth,” said Gold Sunday morning. “He had a good work yesterday morning (half mile in :51 at Calder) and he‘s ready to go.”

Jockey Rajiv Maragh rode Fort Loudon in both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Yourth, but will be aboard Fountain of Youth runner-up News Pending in the Florida Derby. Sanchez was a natural choice for Fort Loudon as he has ridden Awesome Feather in all of her career starts beginning with all six as a 2-year-old in 2010 for breeder Jacks or Better and Gold before she was sold days later for $2.3 million at the Fasig-Tipton November sales and later placed with trainer Chad Brown.

Sanchez also was the regular rider of Jacks or Better’s homebred Jackson Bend when he swept the three ‘open’ divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder in 2009 for Gold before a majority interest in him was sold privately and went on to be a major player on the national stage for trainer Nick Zito.

Vince Wilfork to Host Wednesday’s Post Position Draw

Vince Wilfork, a graduate of the University of Miami and a four-time Pro Bowl nose tackle with the New England Patriots, will host Wednesday’s Florida Derby Post Position Draw beginning at noon in Ten Palms American Kitchen & Stone Crab Parlor.

Born in Boynton Beach, home of Gulfstream’s satellite training facility Palm Meadows and the winter home of five of the last Kentucky Derby winners, Wilfork will host the 61st ceremonial post position draw for the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) with Racing Secretary Dan Bork and track announcer and NBC’s voice of the Triple Crown Larry Collmus.

Once again, post time is noon.