January 20, 2022

Zulu Alpha looks to stay hot in Elkhorn

Zulu Alpha speeds to victory in the Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. at Gulfstream Park on March 2, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography/Leslie Martin

A forecast 100 percent chance of rain in Lexington Saturday figures to soften up the turf for the $250,000 Elkhorn (G2) at Keeneland, but any footing seems to suit Zulu Alpha, the likely favorite in a field of 10 in the 1 1/2-mile fixture.

Since August, Zulu Alpha has won five of seven starts, including graded triumphs in the Sycamore (G3) in October, and in the W.L. McKnight (G3) and Mac Diarmida (G2) in two starts at Gulfstream over the winter. While the two-length Sycamore victory is evidence handles the Keeneland grass, the McKnight victory over stablemate Soglio occurred over a turf that perhaps played more soft than the official yielding.

In addition to Zulu Alpha and Soglio, trainer Mike Maker also relies on three-time John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) winner Bigger Picture, who’s placed in all three previous runs over the Keeneland turf.

Among those seeking to upend the Maker trio include multiple graded-placed Canessar, Grade 2 veteran Hunter O’Riley, and Red Knight, who displayed his staying power when taking the $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens over two miles when last seen in December. Tiz a Slam and Final Copy could provide the pace in the Elkhorn, while Vettori Kin, the 2018 Louisville H. (G3) winner, appears to be rounding into form and will surely appreciate the stretch-out from a 1 1/16-mile prep two weeks ago.