June 19, 2024

Ben Ali, Elkhorn featured on final Saturday of Keeneland spring meet

Skippylongstocking wins the West Virginia Derby (Photo by Coady Photography)

Foul weather is forecast to take over from the sunshine at Keeneland on Saturday, so ability over wet dirt and turf might prove an asset in the featured events for older horses.

The $300,000 Ben Ali (G3) at 1 3/16 miles on the dirt has attracted a competitive field of seven. Skippylongstocking has blown alternatively hot and cold in a handful of starts since last August, but the potential for rain could move up the son of Exaggerator, who won over a sloppy track last summer in the West Virginia Derby (G3).

Trademark doesn’t have the credentials that most of his rivals have, but the stakes winner does have early foot and thrived in an off-the-turf renewal of the Commonwealth Turf S. at Churchill Downs last fall. Another with positional speed is Pioneer of Medina, who won the Mineshaft (G3) in a photo two back and will look to rebound from a sub-par sixth in the New Orleans Classic (G2).

Rattle N Roll, who won the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) over the Keeneland strip in October 2021, figures to come on from his season-opening fourth in the New Orleans Classic, while 2022 Lexington (G3) hero Tawny Port will look to snap a three-race unplaced skid with blinkers added. Happy American won a pair of stakes at Fair Grounds over the winter, but his late-closing style has not been effective in his two most recent outings.

The $350,000 Elkhorn (G2), over 1 1/2 miles on the turf, features a title defense by former champion turf male Channel Maker, who held off Another Mystery by 1 1/4 lengths to win last year’s renewal over firm ground.

Trainer Mike Maker, unsurprisingly, will have multiple serious contenders. Value Engineering enters off a victory in the Mac Diarmida (G2), his second stakes win since joining the barn last fall. The ageless Red Knight, meanwhile,has won three of his last five, but hasn’t always run to his best account over the Keeneland turf (5-1-1-0).

Also in the lineup are Rising Empire, a half-length second in the Muniz Memorial (G2) last time, and Highest Honors, who’s settled for minor checks at this level for the past year.