When asked who he thought his top Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) prospect was this past winter, without hesitation owner Ken Ramsey said it was Brother Keith. But after a pair of failed Derby prep efforts on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride surface, Ramsey has reluctantly decided to change gears and send the talented but enigmatic colt to the turf.
On March 1, Brother Keith will make his grass debut against seven 3-year-old rivals in the $100,000 Baldwin Stakes (gr. IIIT) on Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. The about 6 1/2-furlong sprint is the feature on Santa Anita’s nine-race program.
“He’s been disappointing, there’s no two ways about it,” said Ramsey. “At the beginning of the year we thought he’d be running this weekend at Santa Anita, but we thought it would be in the Sham, not this race.”
After Brother Keith broke his maiden at first asking in November at Churchill Downs he was sent to California to train under Bobby Frankel. The thinking was that the son of Johar, the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I) winner in a dead-heat, would do better on a synthetic surface than on natural dirt. That has not been the case, as Brother Keith finished a distant fourth in the Jan. 17 San Rafael (gr. III) and then set the pace but tired to finish seventh in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) three weeks later.
Now, Brother Keith’s future is uncertain.
“I wanted to send him down to Florida for a mile and an eighth allowance race on the dirt, but Bobby said let’s give the turf a try,” said Ramsey, who will have Derby hopeful Notonthesamepage running in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) this weekend. “If it doesn’t work out we can always try him back on dirt. It’s pretty clear that the synthetics didn’t work out.
“We’re kind of in an experimental stage with him right now. Bobby seems to think he’s going to start to turn it around on the turf. And the good news is, (the Baldwin) is still a $100,000 graded race. If he should win, the earnings still count toward the (Kentucky) Derby. I guess there’s still about a one percent chance he could still make it.”
Bred in Kentucky by Trudy McCaffery and out of the Hennessy mare Hawa Mahal, Brother Keith was purchased for $150,000 at the Keeneland September 2007 yearling sale. Garrett Gomez, who was also aboard for the San Rafael, will get the mount.
Brother Keith’s main competition in the Baldwin could come from Dennis O’Neill’s Flashmans Papers, the only stakes winner in the field. Trained by O’Neill’s brother, Doug, Flashmans Papers won the Eddie Logan to complete a busy juvenile campaign, which saw him race seven times in England (four in group stakes company) before shipping to the U.S.
A son of Exceed And Excel, Flashmans Papers finished 10th in the Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland in his North American debut. He came back to win an optional claimer at six furlongs on the Hollywood turf in December and then scored by a half-length in the one-mile Eddie Logan on the Santa Anita grass three weeks later. The bay colt, already with earnings of more than $150,000, was sixth in the San Pedro Stakes last month in his 3-year-old debut.
Regular rider Rafael Bejarano will handle the riding assignment on Flashmans Papers, who was bred in England by Cliveden Stud.
Another English-bred colt to watch for is Michael House’s Battle of Hastings, who was seventh in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) in November in his U.S. debut and is the only other multiple winner in the field. The Royal Applause colt won two of five starts in England before shipping to the states and into the barn of Jeff Mullins. Tyler Baze will ride.
$100,000 Baldwin Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 7, 3:36 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Beauteous Maximus (CA), 3 Colt 115, Alex O. Solis
2. Preemo (KY), 115, Joel Rosario
3. Brother Keith (KY), 115, Garrett K. Gomez
4. Dream of Kaylee (NY), 115, Mike E. Smith
5. Battle of Hastings (GB), 115, Tyler Baze
6. Dream Now (KY), 115, David Romero Flores
7. Flashmans Papers (GB), 119, Rafael Bejarano
8. Luckiest Man (KY), 115, Victor Espinoza