A tepid pace ultimately proved no hindrance to either of the two Grade 1 winners in the field of five for Saturday’s $695,000 Suburban (G2) at Belmont Park, with 2015 Travers (G1) winner Keen Ice wearing down 1-2 favorite Shaman Ghost in mid-stretch and drawing off to win by three lengths under Jose Ortiz.
With the lead comfortably held by Matt King Coal through splits of :25.28, :50.01, and 1:13.81, it appeared that pacesetter would have a strong edge in the final quarter-mile, especially as Shaman Ghost, who had been a tracking second, appeared to come under a bit of pressure to keep up approaching the final turn.
As it turned out, Matt King Coal proved out of gas in upper stretch. Shaman Ghost took a brief lead, but Keen Ice was freshest of all late, rallying in the middle of the track and scoring as he pleased in a time of 2:02.02 for 1 1/4 miles on a fast track.
“I know that Shaman Ghost is a really good horse but how the race developed, my horse pulled me really close to him,” said Ortiz, who finished the day with five wins. “I thought I was going to be a little farther [behind]. When we hit the three-eighths pole, I was right next to him [Shaman Ghost], on his heels, without asking, so I was in a very good position. Keen Ice gave me everything he had. He was full of run today.”
Owned by Donegal Racing and Calumet Farm, Keen Ice paid $12. Shaman Ghost finished three lengths ahead of Follow Me Crev, with Watershed and Matt King Coal completing the order of finish.
This was the first victory of any kind for Keen Ice since his upset of Triple Crown hero American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers, which was the only loss of the season for that Horse of the Year. Keen Ice became the first Travers winner to later win the Suburban since Lemon Drop Kid (1999-2000).
Following an eighth-place effort in the 2016 Dubai World Cup (G1), Keen Ice was transferred from Dale Romans to Todd Pletcher, for whom he subsequently ran a distant third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), fourth in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), and seventh in this year’s Dubai World Cup, all to Arrogate.
“We were hoping he’d be able to run fresh coming from Dubai and we gave him a little freshening at Calumet following that race and he was coming into this race training well,” Pletcher said. “We’ll see how he comes out of this but the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) would most likely logically be his next step.”
Earlier in his career, Keen Ice also placed in the Haskell Invitational (G1), Belmont S. (G1), Remsen (G2), Risen Star (G2), and Harlan’s Holiday. His record now stands at 22-3-2-3, $3,037,245.
A Kentucky-bred son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, Keen Ice was reared by Medomak, by Awesome Again. Other Grade 1 winners from this female line include Verrazano, Somali Lemonade, Serra Lake, and Chic Shirine.