Keen Ice prepares for Breeders' Cup Classic
Article from The Courier-Journal, Jennie Rees. Photo from Adam Coglianese/NYRA
The glow of the Travers victory has not waned in the nearly six weeks since Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice upset Triple Crown winner American Pharoah at Saratoga.
Donegal founder Jerry Crawford, at Churchill Downs to watch Keen Ice work Saturday, said he has yet to come down from Cloud 9, having the only horse to beat American Pharoah in a year and the first to beat a Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
“Nor do I have any intention of doing that,” he said, adding cheerfully, “We’re just going to go ahead and win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and continue right along with the high.
“… I would not trade places with another horse, and I have a lot of confidence. This isn’t in any way disrespectful to other horses. It’s just how excited we are to have a horse who continues to get better every day, and not a lot of people can say that as approaches the end of October of a 3-year-old season.”
Six months ago, Donegal’s $120,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase was a maiden winner who had been a somewhat disappointing fourth in the Louisiana Derby and at risk of not making the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field. Keen Ice, a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, got in and was a troubled seventh in the Derby, an improving third in the Belmont and then showed another leap forward when second to American Pharoah in Monmouth Park’s Haskell.
Immediately afterward, Crawford said he hoped for a rematch in the Travers, the result being a three-quarters of a length victory over the Triple Crown champ.
“He sent us all the signals that the next time was the time,” Crawford said. “But until he developed the kind of tactical speed we saw him start to deploy at the Haskell, he didn’t have the tools to do what he did in the Travers.”
The $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 31 at Keeneland will be the first time Keen Ice and American Pharoah face older horses, including two-time champion mare Beholder and East Coast star Honor Code and two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Tonalist.
As part of that preparation, Keen Ice worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:02 1/5 under regular work rider Tammy Fox. That time was about in the middle of the 58 at the distance.
“Tammy called the track heavy,” trainer Dale Romans said. “Which is good. I mean, it’s safe. It’s just a little deep. The times aren’t that fast, but we don’t worry about times. It was just to go around there and let him stretch his legs. He’s plenty fit, and he doesn’t work fast very often anyways.
“On a track like this, I thought it was as good as we can see him work. Between meets, they keep this track a little heavier. It’s almost always that way. They tighten it up a little when it gets to racing. And the cooler air has something to do with it. As long as it’s safe, I’m happy. It’s been than being too fast and they’re bouncing over it, then they try to go run on a heavy track.”
Said Crawford: “I thought it looked very smooth and easy.”
The Romans-trained Brody’s Cause, winner of Keeneland’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, worked five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 for the Juvenile. Stablemate Unbridled Outlaw worked in 1:02 2/5 for the same race.
Channel Marker, with jockey Francisco Torres up for trainer Philip Bauer, worked a half-mile in 48 for the Turf Sprint.
Exaggerator, runner-up in Keeneland’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:03 1/5 Saturday at Keeneland as Keith Desormeaux, who won the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with Texas Red, hopes to be the first trainer to repeat in the race since D. Wayne Lukas’ three-peat from 1986-1988 with Capote, Success Express and Is It True.
“I had him in 1:02 and change but it was hard to see and we had three watches on him,” said Julie Clark, who oversees Desormeaux’s Keeneland string. “I liked the work and thought he finished very strong.”
Jockey Florent Geroux was aboard both Exaggerator and the Larry Jones-trained 3-year-old filly I’m A Chatterbox, who later worked five-eighths in 1:00 2/5 for the Oct. 30 Distaff.
“She was pretty rank last week as it was her first work since winning the Cotillion,” Jones said of the best-of-40 half-mile in 47 1/5 seconds. “She was more agreeable today. She started a little high-headed and then she settled in. This was good.”
The Eddie Kenneally-trained Bradester continued his strong works, breezing in five-eighths 58 3/5 seconds, the fastest of 22 at the distance, for the Oct. 30 Dirt Mile. A week earlier, Bradester worked in 59.
Trainer Todd Pletcher worked five of his Breeders’ Cup horses, including Stopchargingmaria (five-eighths in 59 3/5 seconds for the Distaff in company with the stakes-winning 2-year-old Uncle Vinny); Churchill Downs’ Grade I Humana Distaff winner Dame Dorothy (half-mile in 49 for the Filly & Mare Sprint); Red Rifle (49, for the Turf) and Mshawish (five-eighths, minute, Mile on turf).