February 22, 2024

Ivar, In Love take on California challengers in Maker’s Mark Mile

Ivar wins the Shadwell Turf Mile (Coady Photography)

Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) — Race 9 (5:16 p.m. ET)

Trainer Paulo Lobo’s veteran duo of Ivar and In Love have won the last two editions of the Keeneland Turf Mile (G1) at the Lexington track’s fall meet. On Friday the pair will attempt to outrun nine foes, and each other, to claim the spring meet’s corresponding fixture, the $600,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1).

The pair last met in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in November, when both were sent off as double-digit longshots. Ivar, who had just run fourth to In Love in the Keeneland Turf Mile following a five-month layoff, outran his stablemate in the Breeders’ Cup, finishing 1 1/2 lengths third to Space Blues as a 24-1 chance. In Love was comparatively ineffective, finishing seventh at more than half the price.

Beating both to the wire that day was Smooth Like Strait, whose attempt to wire the Mile field fell a half-length short against Space Blues. It was among a long streak of close losses last season for the California-based , who won the Shoemaker Mile (G1) in May but lost six other stakes by a half-length or less. The Maker’s Mark Mile serves as the Michael McCarthy trainee’s season debut. Count Again also invades from California, having won the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) and Thunder Road (G3) at Santa Anita over the winter.

Trainer Chad Brown, who won the 2021 Maker’s Mark with Raging Bull, starts a pair. Public Sector won three graded stakes last year before finishing fourth as the favorite in the Hollywood Derby (G1). Massen, a four-year-old gelded homebred racing for Juddmonte, makes his U.S. debut after winning three of his first six starts in Ireland.

Juddmonte will also be represented by the Brad Cox-trained Set Piece, winner of last year’s Wise Dan (G2) over Somelikeithotbrown. Completing the field are last-out Canadian Turf (G3) scorer Mira Mission, Tampa Bay (G3) winner Shirl’s Speight, and Atone, fourth in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) most recently.

Kaufymaker, who placed three times in stakes last season, including a third behind stablemate Twilight Gleaming in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2), joins stablemates Her World and Ruthin in the lineup for the $200,000 Limestone Turf Sprint, a 5 1/2-furlong dash for three-year-old fillies. Also in the field of 10 is Derrynane, only a neck behind Kaufymaker in the Breeders’ Cup after a slow start.