Keen Ice, the only horse to beat American Pharoah during the Triple Crown champion's historic 2015 Horse of the Year campaign, is scheduled to prep for the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) in Saturday's $100,000 Harlan's Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Donegal Racing's 4-year-old colt, who pulled off a 16-1 upset win over American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes (G1), is slated to be joined by Todd Pletcher-trained stablemates Stanford and Madefromlucky in the newly graded 1 1/16-mile race, one of three graded stakes on an 11-race program that will offer five stakes.
Keen Ice, who ran down American Pharoah in the stretch to beat American Pharoah by three-quarters of a length in the 1 ¼-mile Travers, is set to make his first start since finishing a distant third behind Arrogate and California Chrome in the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita Nov. 5.
“He seems to be in sharp form. The mile and a sixteenth doesn't seem like his ideal distance, but we want to get him something between now and the Pegasus,” Pletcher said. “We feel sharpening him up is better than waiting to run him on January 28.”
The son of Curlin has gone winless in seven starts since his Saratoga stunner in August 2015. Formerly trained by Dale Romans, Keen Ice was transferred to Pletcher's stable following his eighth-place finish in the $10 million Dubai World Cup last March.
Keen Ice tuned up for the 1 ¼-mile Breeders' Cup Classic with a third-place finish in a one-turn mile allowance at Belmont Park Oct. 7 while making his first start for Pletcher off a six-month layoff. In the Classic, the Kentucky-bred colt was bumped at the start, saved ground while racing off the pace and closed between horses in the stretch to get up for third money, more than 11 lengths behind victorious Arrogate.
“I thought he ran well. I think he was one race shy of giving his very best. He just had the one-mile prep race. Considering that, I thought he ran very well,” Pletcher said. “California Chrome and Arrogate were just too good on the day, but I was proud of him finishing third.”
Javier Castellano has the return mount aboard Keen Ice.
Stanford is scheduled to make his first start since finishing a troubled eighth in the Met Mile (G1) at Belmont Park in June. In his previous start, the 4-year-old colt earned a huge payday while negotiating 1 1/8 miles around three turns during a front-running triumph in the $1,250,000 Charles Town Classic (G2) in April.
“He's doing well. We gave him some time off after the Met Mile. He seemed to kind of tail off a little bit. We gave him a little bit of a break,” Pletcher said. “He's come back and is training very well and he ran well over this track last year.”
Owned by Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith and Stonestreet Stables, Stanford finished second in both the Fred Hooper (G3) and Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) during last year's Championship Meet, edged by stablemates Tommy Macho and Blofeld, respectively. Both races were contested at a mile around one-turn, but the Kentucky-bred colt won a stakes winner around two turns in the 1 1/16-mile Long Brach at Monmouth Park last July.
“He actually likes three-turn mile and an eighth,” quipped Pletcher, referring to Stanford's two-length score on Charles Town's bullring track. “He's pretty versatile. He's a handy horse. I figured it's time to get him started. We'll give it a try in there and see if he does well enough to consider the Pegasus or give him some other options.”
Pletcher named to John Velazquez to ride Stanford,
Madefromlucky, who hasn't raced since finishing second in the Excelsior (G3) at Aqueduct last April, finished second in last year's Harlan's Holiday, beaten three quarters of a length by multiple-graded stakes winner Valid.
Luis Saez has the mount aboard Madefromlucky, a multiple Grade 2 winner who has won two of four starts at Gulfstream Park.
Live Oak Plantation's Awesome Slew also is scheduled to bring graded-stakes credentials into the Harlan's Holiday. The Eddie Plesa-trained 3-year-old delivered a stunning seven-length triumph in the Smarty Jones (G3) at Parx Sept. 5 after breaking from the No. 14 post position.
The son of Awesome Again last raced in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) at Parx, where he set the race before tiring to fifth in a field of 12 with less than three weeks between races.
“In the Smarty Jones he drew a bad post position and we tried to take advantage of it and he was just much the best,” Plesa said. “The Pennsylvania Derby came up a little too quickly than would have been ideal, and the competition was a lot tougher. He tried to duplicate his (Smarty Jones) effort and he wasn't able to do that. It was a tough thing to duplicate with the race coming up quicker than I would have liked to see.”
Joel Rosario has the mount aboard Awesome Slew.
Applicator and Joshua's Comprise round out the seven-horse field.
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