Morton Fink’s Wise Dan, who closed 2011 with daylight victories in the Fayette (G2) here and the Clark (G1) at Churchill Downs, will make his 2012 debut Sunday when he faces six rivals in the 82nd running of the $150,000 Ben Ali (G3) at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
The Ben Ali, won last year by Exhi, will go as the eighth race on Sunday’s nine-race program with a 4:42 p.m. (ET) post time. First post time for the final Sunday card of the spring meet is 1:05 p.m.
Other graded stakes winners in the field include Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Big Blue Kitten, winner of the 2011 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2), and Catesby Clay’s Rogue Romance, winner of the 2010 Bourbon (G3) here.
The field for the Ben Ali, from the rail out, is as follows: Eye of the Leopard (Shaun Bridgmohan, 118 pounds), Cease (Miguel Mena, 118), Rogue Romance (Julien Leparoux, 118), Guys Reward (Corey Lanerie, 118), Ioya Bigtime (Calvin Borel, 118), Wise Dan (Velazquez, 123), Big Blue Kitten (Javier Castellano, 118).
MCPEEK SET FOR DAILY STAKES ACTION
Trainer Ken McPeek, Keeneland’s leading trainer for the past three consecutive seasons, has a light day today compared with the following three days, when he has 14 horses entered in races here. His lone runner today is Livin the Dream Racing 2010 LLC’s Dream Pegasus in the Appalachian (G3) Presented by the Japan Racing Association . His five runners Friday include Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables’ Kathmanblu in the Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3). His five horses Saturday include Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Golden Ticket in the Coolmore Lexington (G3), and his four entrants on Sunday include Catesby W. Clay’s Rogue Romance in the Ben Ali (G3).
Dream Pegasus, a 3-year-old daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus, is making her turf debut in the Appalachian, her second race of the year following a fourth in the Valdale at Turfway Park.
“She came out of the race with some small stuff, so we needed to back off and get her sorted out,” McPeek said. “She’s had a nice series of breezes. I know we’re going to be a bit of a price in there, but she’ll be competitive and give us a good run.”
The Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare marks the 2011 debut for Kathmanblu, who won the 2010 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine on the Keeneland turf and was third in last year’s Central Bank Ashland (G1) on the Polytrack.
McPeek said Kathmanblu last year battled some liver issues, “a similar ailment to what (champion) Uncle Mo had, except not as extreme.” The 4-year-old Bluegrass Cat filly has not raced since finishing eighth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) here last October.
“She’s bigger and stronger now as a 4-year-old,” he said. “The time off has done her a lot of good.”
In his last start, Golden Ticket was second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). Then while at Gulfstream Park, the 3-year-old Speightstown colt had an abscess in a heel and missed a work.
“That kept him out of the (Toyota) Blue Grass (G1), which might be a blessing in disguise,” McPeek said. “He’s had a couple of nice works here going into the Lexington. He’s a good colt, and it ought to be a good distance. His last race was excellent.”
Golden Ticket has indicated to McPeek that he will be able to handle the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Coolmore Lexington.
“I think if I had run him longer earlier in his career he’d be a little farther along,” McPeek said. “We kind of relegated him to sprinting in the beginning, but then as soon as I stretched him out, he did a lot better, so he seems to be able to carry his speed. Hopefully the Lexington is a jump to another level.”
Rogue Romance, a 4-year-old Smarty Jones colt, won the 2010 Bourbon (G3) on the Keeneland turf before running third in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). After receiving nearly a year off to recover from breaking a wing bone in a foot, he returned to competition in March, winning a one-mile allowance on dirt at Gulfstream. He’s making his Polytrack debut in the Ben Ali.
“This is a really nice horse,” McPeek said. “We like running here for the Clay family and Runnymeade Farm. We just felt like it would be a good time to run (Rogue Romance) on (Polytrack). He’s won on the turf and dirt.”
UNBEATEN SUMMER FRONT TRIES POLYTRACK IN COOLMORE LEXINGTON
Saturday’s Coolmore Lexington (G3) marks the Polytrack debut and the first start of the year for Waterford Stable’s Summer Front, who is undefeated in three career starts on turf. The War Front colt is up to the challenge, said Ben Colebrook, assistant to trainer Christophe Clemente.
“He’s a nice horse. He’s very classy,” said Colebrook, who said Summer Front arrived at Keeneland Tuesday afternoon from Payson Park in Florida. “He’s run three times on the grass, so we’re trying something new here. I think with any luck he should take to the Polytrack pretty well. At some point, we might even try him on the dirt.”
A year ago, Summer Front breezed well over Keeneland’s Polytrack before the April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, where he was sold for $475,000, the third-highest price of the sale. The colt is a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Laragh, winner of the 2008 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine on the Polytrack. His second dam, Cherokee Crossing, produced Grade 1 winner and 2001 Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (G2) winner Siphonic.
Summer Front broke his maiden in late September at Belmont Park then won the one-mile King Cugat in November at Aqueduct and the one-mile Dania Beach at Gulfstream in December.
Ramon Dominguez, who has been aboard Summer Front in his previous races, will be aboard the colt in the Coolmore Lexington and will break from post two in the field of 11. Summer Front is the 120-pound co-highweight with Castaway for the race.
IN NEW BARN, PACHATTACK READY FOR 2012 DEBUT IN DOUBLEDOGDARE
In her only race at Keeneland, Pachattack chased Aruna to the wire in last fall’s Juddmonte Spinster (G1), falling just a half-length short.
On Friday, the 6-year-old mare will make her 2012 debut for the Aruna camp in the Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
“They (Flaxman Holdings) bought her last fall (at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale for $1.2 million) as a broodmare prospect,” said Dave Rock, assistant to trainer Graham Motion, who also trains Aruna for Flaxman Holdings. “Everything else is a bonus.”
Before going through the sales ring, Pachattack had finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (G1). After the sale, it was off to Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.
“She was there all winter because it was so mild,” Rock said. “She missed no training at all. She had her last work there Monday (five furlongs in 1:02) and arrived here Tuesday night.”
Rajiv Maragh, who has been aboard Pachattack for her past three starts that also includes a runner-up finish in the Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga, has the mount Friday.
Team Valor International’s State of Play, third-place finisher in the opening-day Transylvania (G3), jarred his stifles and was forced to miss Saturday’s Coolmore Lexington (G3). According to Barry Irwin, head of Team Valor International, State of Play was treated at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital on Tuesday and is scheduled to return to full training on Friday.
Stephanie’s Kitten, third as the favorite in the Central Bank Ashland (G1), this morning worked five furlongs around the dogs in 1:01.80 for trainer Wayne Catalano. Also working on the turf were veteran stakes campaigners Simmard and Musketier (GER) for trainer Roger Attfield. Working in company over six furlongs, Simmard, racing on the outside, was clocked in 1:15.80 and finished a length in front of Musketier (1:16). Musketier has won the past two runnings of the Elkhorn (G2) that serves as the closing-day feature next Friday.
Trainer Tim Richardson and jockey Juan P. Vargas teamed up to win the fourth race on Wednesday with Ripplewood Farm’s Beauchamp Viceroy (GB), giving them both their first career win at Keeneland. Making his Keeneland debut, Vargas rode the 10-1 longshot to a 6 ½-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile claiming race in a time of 1:52.76. Vargas returned in the sixth race and won aboard another longshot, riding William M. Hembrecht’s 12-1 choice Potomac River to a three-length win in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race on the turf in 1:42.59.
In this afternoon’s Appalachian (G3), Somali Lemonade will be making her first start since finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs in November. In that race, Somali Lemonade broke from post position 14 and covered 35 feet more than the winner, Stephanie’s Kitten. The extra distance equated to about 4.1 lengths at the finish, almost the exact margin of her only defeat in three starts.
ELFERS AND TERRY WIN KEENELAND HANDICAPPING CONTEST
With a record 336 entries in the Keeneland Wednesday Handicapping Contest, it figured to be quite a battle. In the end, Patrick Elfers, of Bethel, Ohio, picked five winners from the six contest races to take home the $1,500 first-place prize.
Elfers, who often eats breakfast in the Keeneland track kitchen on his trips to Lexington, enjoys listening to trainers and exercise riders and sometimes picks up the names of one or two horses to bet.
“I never thought I would win today,” Elfers said. “I pay a lot of attention to my friends who handicap on a regular basis, and listen to what I hear around the track.”
Elfers posted a score of $134.40 for his day of picking winners, $28.80 ahead of Gretchen Feld of Lexington, who finished second with $105.60 in her account, earning $700. Robert Jones, also from Lexington, earned $90.80 in winning wagers and received $400 for finishing third. Cash prizes were paid to the top 10 finishers from the $3,360 purse.
In Sunday’s “Ladies Only” Pink Day Handicapping Contest, a benefit for breast cancer research, Margaret Terry of Lexington captured the top spot, winning a gift basket from the Keeneland Gift Shop and a special pink basketball, signed by the 2012 NCAA Championship Kentucky Wildcats basketball coach, John Calipari.
RADIO/TV COVERAGE OF SATURDAY’S COOLMORE LEXINGTON
The Kentucky Winner’s Circle radio show Presented by Diesel Injection Service Company will broadcast live from Keeneland on Saturday from 2-4 p.m. ET with a preview of the Coolmore Lexington (G3) and Jerome (G2) from Aqueduct.
The show will be broadcast on 1450 The Sports Buzz, serving Louisville and Southern Indiana; streamed live on 1450theSportsBuzz.com; and available on a free app download from the station website.
E. J. Clark will anchor from Keeneland with racing analyst Caleb Keller. Co-host Lane Gold will report from New York.
Horse Racing Radio Network’s coverage of the Coolmore Lexington will begin at 4:30 p.m. and be available in Lexington at HANK 96.1 FM or Sirius channel 92 or 93.
TVG Network will have comprehensive, on-site of the Coolmore Lexington from 4:30-5:30 p.m.