HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice holds a unique and rather newsworthy distinction over his seven rivals in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
The Dale Romans-trained 4-year-old’s claim to fame heading into the first major race for older horses in the calendar year is his 16-1 upset victory over Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in Travers Stakes (G1), establishing himself as the only horse to defeat the unanimous Horse of the Year titlist last year.
The stretch drive that resulted in victory by three-quarters of a length in the ‘Midsummer Derby’ at Saratoga came as a shock to American Pharoah fans but not so much to Romans.
“I thought we had a big chance. I always thought he could win. I thought he could run like that. He chased Pharoah four or five times all year and it was an exciting year,” Romans said. “The win was the crowning moment of the year.”
Keen Ice had chased America Pharoah in a seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, a third-place finish in the Preakness and a distant second-place finish in the Belmont before his Travers win. The son of Curlin went on to finish fourth behind American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and a late-closing fourth in the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill to close out his sophomore campaign
“He developed all year. His crowning moment was the Travers. His last two races weren’t bad. A couple more jumps and he wins the Clark,” Romans said. “He just continues to get better.”
Keen Ice has been given a series of six-workouts at Gulfstream Park, including a pair of five-furlong ‘bullet’ breezes.
“I feel like this is his year,” Romans said. “I think he could be as good a handicap horse as there is in the country.”
Javier Castellano, who was aboard for the Travers win the only time he has ridden the Kentucky-bred colt, has accepted the mount for the Donn. Keen Ice will carry highweight of 121 pounds while conceding between three and seven pounds to his rivals.
Win or lose Saturday, Keen Ice is likely to be shipped to Dubai for the $10 million World Cup March 26.
“We’ll pretty much go to Dubai either way. For his first time out, we’re not going to fault him if he doesn’t run his best,” Romans said. “The way he’s training, I’m expecting some big races out of him.”
Late-Developing Financial Modeling Steps Up for Donn
Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Financial Modeling is set to make his graded-stakes debut in Saturday’s Donn Handicap, the centerpiece of the $1.25 million seven-stakes portion of Saturday’s 13-race program which starts with a noon first race post.
The late-developing 5-year-old enters the 1 1/8-mile handicap off back-to-back wins at Aqueduct, scoring in a second-level optional claimer on turf Nov. 28 before prevailing by 4 ¼-lengths in the Queens County Stakes over the inner track Dec. 19.
“He was one of our better dirt prospects in his 2-year-old year from my entire crop of horses, but unfortunately he sustained an injury in his hind leg and required surgery and a significant amount of time off. That’s why he got to the races late,” trainer Chad Brown said. “Once we got him going – he’s a little quirky – he required some extra schooling. It’s just been little bit of a challenge, mentally. Lately, the second half of 2015, he really put it together.”
The son of Street Sense, who will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., will be in receipt of six pounds from highweight Keen Ice in the Donn.
“He’s just coming into his own now, so now is a good time to take a shot in a big race while he’s in top form,” Brown said. “His best races are around two turns if you look at his form. One-turn races at Belmont really didn’t suit him. His two-turn races have been real good.”
Keen Ice, The Pizza Man Morning-Live Favorites
Travers Stakes winner Keen Ice was made the 5-2 favorite for Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap while Arlington Million (G1) winner The Pizza Man was made the 4-5 choice in the $350,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1).
The Donn: Madefromlucky 5-1; Closing Bell 15-1; Mshawish 7-2; Valid 6-1; Mexikoma 8-1; Keen Ice 5-2; Itsaknockout 4-1; Financial Modeling 10-1.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddles Madefromlucky and Itsaknockout, will be seeking his fifth Donn victory and third in four years. Pletcher also won with Constitution (2015), Graydar (2013), Quality Road (2010) and Harlan’s Holiday (2003).
The Gulfstream Turf ‘Cap: Lukes Alley 8-1; Legendary 10-1; Triple Threat 10-1; All Included (12-1); Eh Cumpari (20-1); The Pizza Man 4-5; Takeout Target (10-1); Shining Copper (6-1).
Trainer Bill Mott, who saddles Triple Threat, will be seeking his sixth Gulfstream Turf ‘Cap title, his first since 2001 when he saddled Subtle Power to victory. Mott also won with Royal Anthem (2000), Yagli (1999), Lassigny (1997) and Stagecraft (1993).
Source: Gulfstream Park