For the first time in the 79 runnings of the Ben Ali (G3), two winners of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) will line up in the same starting gate.
This happens Sunday when Silverton Hill LLC’s Dominican, the 2007 Toyota Blue Grass winner, and Starlight Stable LLC, Donald Lucarelli and Paul Saylor’s Monba, the 2008 winner, face five other rivals in the 1 1/8-mile main-track event worth $150,000.
Garrett Gomez has the call on Monba and will exit post position five.
Dominican has not run since finishing sixth in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on November 28. Dominican never has been worse than second in four starts over the Polytrack at Keeneland.
Edgar Prado will ride Dominican and break from post position three.
Also in the field is Melnyk Racing Stables Inc.’s Sterwins. Trained by Malcolm Pierce, Sterwins won last year’s Ben Ali by 3 ¼ lengths and seeks to become the first repeat Ben Ali winner since Aspro scored back-to-back victories in 1983 and ’84.
The field for the Ben Ali, from the rail out, is as follows: Adriano (J. Leparoux), Grasshopper (R. Albarado), Dominican (E. Prado), Your Round (M. Mena), Monba (G. Gomez), Sterwins (S. Bridgmohan) and Parading (K. Desormeaux). All starters will carry 117 pounds.
The presence of Monba and Dominican in the Ben Ali marks the first
time since 1994 that a Blue Grass Stakes winner has run in the race. Pistols and Roses, winner of the 1992 Blue Grass, won the 1994 Ben Ali to become the second of time Blue Grass winners to take the Ben Ali. The other was Honest Pleasure, winner of the 1976 Blue Grass and 1977 Ben Ali.
DOMINICAN BACK FOR POLYTRACK
Silverton Hill LLC’s Dominican, idle since running sixth in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on November 28, is scheduled to return to the races in Sunday’s Ben Ali (G3).
“We got up here and I didn’t know if he would make the meet,” trainer Darrin Miller said. “But, obviously he loves this track and his last two works were very good.”
Winner of the 2007 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1), Dominican signaled his readiness to return with a five-furlong work in :59.20 on April 8. The time was the best of 28 at the distance that morning.
Dominican has two wins and two seconds from four starts in his career at Keeneland and last year on Polytrack, Dominican was never worse than third in four starts.
“Polytrack seems to be the ticket with him,” Miller said. “We have a fairly easy summer planned for him.”
Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful Mafaaz (GB) joined the Kiaran McLaughlin barn Thursday, leaving the Keeneland quarantine barn for Barn 1.
“We got him over here about 9 this morning,” said Neal McLaughlin, assistant to his brother Kiaran McLaughlin.
Mafaaz had run eighth in the Toyota Blue Grass last Saturday. McLaughlin said no plans have been finalized as to whether the colt would continue on to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, for which he has a guaranteed berth by virtue of winning the Kentucky Derby Challenge at Kempton Park in England on March 18.
Stardom Bound, the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly of 2008, galloped Thursday morning at Keeneland under Michelle Nevin. Third in the April 4 Ashland (G1), Stardom Bound will be ridden in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) by Garrett Gomez, according to IEAH Stables head Michael Iavarone. Nevin indicated that Stardom Bound likely would ship to Churchill Downs early next week.
Highlighting Thursday’s work tab was the presence of G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s undefeated One Caroline, who worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 in preparation for the May 1 Louisville Distaff (G2) at Churchill Downs. Trained by Rusty Arnold, One Caroline ran her winning streak to five with a 6 ½-length victory in the Grade 2 Rampart at Gulfstream Park on March 29.
Bushwood Racing Partners LLC’s ageless wonder Better Talk Now, winner of the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Lone Star Park, worked six furlongs in 1:19 around the “dogs” over yielding turf for trainer Graham Motion. The 10-year-old gelding has won 14 of 41 career starts for earnings of $4,052,788.
WEDNESDAY LONGSHOT BECOMES FIRST WINNER FOR TRAINER CARWOOD
Gerry Carwood launched his career as a trainer with the start of the Keeneland spring meeting, and on Wednesday he scored his first victory with only his second starter. That milestone came in the third race with Carwood’s 40-1 longshot, Indian Footsteps, a 4-year-old daughter of Chief Seattle who was making her career debut. With Corey Lanerie aboard, Indian Footsteps won a six-furlong maiden claiming race by three-quarters of a length.
“I’m famous today,” Carwood said with a laugh at his barn on Thursday morning. “But that doesn’t last long in this game. It will be someone else tomorrow.”
Carwood, 33, is from County Wicklow, Ireland. He came to the United States 12 years ago and was a steeplechase jockey for four years. He then worked as an assistant to trainer Bobby Barbara in New York, and he spent four years with Eddie Kenneally while Kenneally raced Grade 1 winner Bushfire and Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) winner Kelly’s Landing. Most recently, Carwood was an assistant to Jeff Thornbury at Keeneland.
“A month ago—I had a handful of horses through the winter—I decided to set my own operation up,” Carwood said. “I kinda got tired of working for other people. ”
Indian Footsteps, who races for Mrs. A.M. Hanley, is among the four horses Carwood currently has at Keeneland, and he is eager to add more horses to his operation. A win at Keeneland has to be good advertisement for his training talent.
“It was a big day,” Carwood said. “It’s a big opportunity to get one here at Keeneland to run and to win.”
RIDERS UP! JOCKEY KARAOKE COMPETITION SOLD OUT
The inaugural Riders Up! jockey karaoke competition at Keeneland on Friday evening is officially sold out, according to Jockeys’ Guild officials.
“We’re thrilled that this event is so popular,” said Christa Marrillia, Keeneland’s special events coordinator. “We think people are really excited about supporting a great cause while having a great time. It should be fun and festive.”
Members of Keeneland’s jockey colony, along with a number of retired greats such as Pat Day, Gary Stevens, Chris McCarron and Angel Cordero Jr., are getting together for an evening of karaoke. A winner will be selected by a panel of celebrity judges. Fans will get to choose their favorite singer with a “People’s Choice” award for the jockey who receives the most tips in his or her tip jar.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, which provides much-needed financial assistance to jockeys who have suffered catastrophic injuries.
Earlier in the day on Friday, Keeneland fans can meet their favorite jockeys at the Jockey Autograph Signing from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The signing will take place adjacent to the walking ring and will include members of the current jockey colony as well as retired jockeys Pat Day, Gary Stevens, Jerry Bailey, Steve Cauthen, Angel Cordero Jr. and others.