A star-studded cast of older horses that includes three former Kentucky Derby (gr. I) starters tops a field of seven in the $150,000 Ben Ali (gr. III), the feature race on Keeneland’s April 19 program.
Among those going to post in the 1 1/8-mile Ben Ali are Dominican, 11th in the 2007 Derby, and Adriano and Monba, who finished 19th and 20th, respectively, in last year’s Run for the Roses. Dominican and Monba also won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) in consecutive years, making this the first time two past winners of that race will line up in the Ben Ali. Post time is set for 4:35 p.m. EDT.
Silverton Hill’s Dominican took the Blue Grass by a nose over eventual 2007 Derby winner Street Sense. It would be the last win of the year for the son of El Corredor, who won just once in seven starts in 2008, that coming in an allowance race at Presque Isle Downs. The chestnut gelding is 2-2-0 from four lifetime starts at Keeneland.
This will be the season debut for Dominican, who is trained by Darrin Miller. Bred in Kentucky by Barak Farm and out of the Dixieland Band mare First Violin, he has earned more than $700,000 from 17 starts. Edgar Prado will get the mount.
“Obviously, he loves this track and his last two works were very good,” Miller said. “Polytrack seems to be the ticket with him. We have a fairly easy summer planned for him.”
Donald Adam’s Adriano won the 2008 Lane’s End Stakes (gr. I) at Turfway Park to set him up for his run at history. The A.P. Indy colt was sent to the turf by trainer Bill Mott after his failed try in the Derby and after three off-the-board efforts, scored in the Kent Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Delaware Park in August. This will also be his season debut.
Adraino, who has won four times in 12 starts, has one Keeneland effort on his résumé, a fourth-place finish in the 2007 Breeders’ Futurity. Julien Leparoux will ride for the first time.
Monba did not make another start in 2008 after finishing last in the Derby. But the son of Maria's Mon has looked better in his two starts this season while racing in California. After finishing third in the Thunder Road Handicap (gr. III), Monba was a game fourth in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) on March 7, finishing just 1 3/4 lengths back of the winner.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Monba won his only lifetime starts at Keeneland, romping by more than four lengths in his racing debut in October of 2007. Garrett Gomez will be in the irons.
Even with all of the big names in the field, one horse who can’t be overlooked is Melnyk Racing Stables’ Sterwins, the winner of last year’s Ben Ali. Coming four-wide off the pace under Shaun Bridgmohan, Sterwins drew away to win by 3 1/4 lengths in the 2008 running. It was his only start at Keeneland.
Sterwins, trained by Malcolm Pierce, began his 2009 campaign in February with a runner-up finish in an optional claimer at Fair Grounds. Bridgmohan will get the mount once again on the Runaway Groom gelding.
Also of note in the field is Neil Howard trainee Grasshopper, best known for running second to Street Sense in the 2007 Travers (gr. I). Grasshopper won the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) at Fair Grounds in February of 2008 for his only graded stakes score. The Dixie Union colt is winless since that race.
$150,000 Ben Ali (gr. III, Race 8, 4:35 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Polytrack) PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Adriano (KY), 117, Julien R. Leparoux
2. Grasshopper (KY), 117, Robby Albarado
3. Dominican (KY), 117, Edgar S. Prado
4. Your Round (KY), 117, Miguel Mena
5. Monba (KY), 117, Garrett K. Gomez
6. Sterwins (ON), 117, Shaun Bridgmohan
7. Parading (KY), 117, Kent J. Desormeaux