Favored Dubious Miss, icily ridden by Calvin Borel, led nearly all the way to register his third consecutive win over Keeneland's Polytrack in the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) April 18.
Dubious Miss broke second behind Big Top to his inside in the 1 1/8-mile test, but Borel guided the 2-1 choice to the lead soon after, where they were able to get to the rail and slow the pace down. Dubious Miss and Timber Reserve, on the outside, raced in close proximity on the front end through easy quarter-mile fractions of :24.41 and :48.16.
The eight-horse field bunched up heading into the final turn but Borel never moved on the winner as Timber Reserve began to drop back with three furlongs to run. Kiss the Kid , ridden by Rajiv Maragh, moved into position to challenge after six furlongs were completed in 1:12.62. Dubious Miss and Kiss the Kid showed the way through the lane, Borel finally shaking the reins at Dubious Miss just past the three-sixteenth pole.
Rallying Giant Oak ranged into contention while charging five paths wide under Shaun Bridgmohan, but could not make much impact. Dubious Miss was in control by more than two lengths approaching mid-stretch and was gathered up late to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Kiss the Kid drew closer in the final strides as a clear runner-up. Giant Oak finished third, 3 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
The winning time was a so-so 1:49.60.
Second choice Just as Well, the 123-pound high weight, was forced to fan out from last rounding the turn and settled for fourth, three lengths behind Giant Oak. The Ben Ali was the synthetic track debut for Jonathan Sheppard's charge.
Dubious Miss, a 6-year-old David P. Holloway homebred trained by Paul McGee, is unbeaten on the Keeneland Polytrack. The gelded son of E Dubai --Cryptoclover, by Mountain Cat, won for the eighth time in 19 lifetime starts overall with earnings of $429,630. The Ben Ali victory was worth $90,000.
Borel was typically modest about the victory. “Paul said, ‘Ride him like you own him.’ He (Dubious Miss) loves this track; he ran two powerful races here before and he showed up today. Paul had him ready and all I had to do was ride him.”
McGee noted: “He’s three for three now on this Polytrack, and he’s run a couple of good races at Arlington and Turfway on the Polytrack as well. He’s run well at Churchill (Downs) too, so I’m sure we’ll pick something out for him there.”
The winner, coming off a runner-up effort in the Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the turf in New Orleans Feb. 20, ended a three-race losing streak since taking an off-the-turf allowance contest at Keeneland Oct. 31.
Dubious Miss carried 117 pounds and paid $6.60, $4 and $3, topping a $58.80 exacta. Kiss the Kid made his synthetic track debut for trainer Amy Tarrant and returned $9 and $5.20. Giant Oak, fourth in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) last time out, was $4.20 to show.
Just as Well was followed by Palladio, Big Top, Ready Set and Timber Reserve.