“She’s going to be just a pure sprinter, dirt or turf,” trainer Wesley Ward told Oaklawn publicity. “We’ll probably try to stick a little bit to the grass to keep her sound because the ultimate goal would be the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
“I’ve told them all along that I feel so strongly about this filly. Plus, Keeneland is my home base and hers as well, so we would like to go against the boys. It’s a 6-furlong (dirt) race. I think she’s really going to jump up as we get through the season, and numbers-wise she’ll be right up there as a serious contender for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint against the boys.”
Ward’s bulletin was informative, considering that the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) was another logical option. But the 5 1/2-furlong turf dash wouldn’t give her as much time to kick into gear as the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and that extra half-furlong on the dirt could be decisive. Indeed, in her 2019 finale in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita, Kimari left herself with too much to do, and rolled too late, when fourth to stablemate Four Wheel Drive.
Another argument in favor of the Sprint is the possibility of rain-softened ground for the Turf Sprint come November. Although Kimari performed admirably on good-to-soft at Royal Ascot last summer, missing by a head to Raffle Prize in the Queen Mary (G2), quicker conditions would have played to her strengths. In her two ensuing stateside starts on firm turf, she romped in the Bolton Landing S. at Saratoga and got up in time in the Indian Summer at Keeneland.
Kimari is also proven to enjoy the Keeneland main track, where she ran off by 15 lengths in her unveiling last spring. The Munnings filly was set to kick off 2020 at the same venue.
Ward revealed that his original intent was for Kimari to resume on the Keeneland turf. After a scintillating work on dirt, however, he changed his comeback target to the Beaumont (G3), until Keeneland’s Spring Meet was called off amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since we gave her the winter off, she came back completely sound,” Ward said. “I took her to Calder (now branded Gulfstream Park West), which I think is the best dirt surface, as far as being very, very safe and horses coming back sound from their breezes.
“I gave her a work from the gate (on March 6). She worked (5 furlongs) in :58 flat. That’s the first horse I’ve ever had do that there – just was a real eye-catching breeze. After that day, I switched from thinking about running her on the grass at Keeneland to the dirt at Keeneland.
“I knew the dirt wouldn’t be an issue.”
Kimari came right back March 15 and fired a bullet 6-furlong drill at Gulfstream Park West in 1:12.20. Shipped back to Kentucky, she polished off her preparations with a pair of 5-furlong moves. Kimari clocked 1:01.00 on March 24 over Turfway Park’s Polytrack and breezed a bullet 1:00.80 at her Keeneland headquarters March 30.
The Purple Martin checked another box on her resume, establishing her ability to handle a sloppy track. On the morning after, Ward reported that Kimari was “great” and due to travel back home to Keeneland Sunday.
The game plan is for Kimari to take another swing at Royal Ascot, this time for the 6-furlong Commonwealth Cup (G1) for 3-year-olds. With the British racing season currently on hold, the status of the June 16-20 meeting is uncertain. Ward might have to call another audible until the coronavirus cloud is dispelled.