Well-Matched Elkhorn Closes Out Keeneland
High-weighted Expansion and an interesting mix of veterans, including 9-year-olds Brass Hat and Ascertain, headline a field of 12 in Keeneland’s April 23 closing day feature, the $200,000 Fifth Third Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIT).
The Elkhorn, which is run at 1 1/2 miles on the turf course, is the ninth of 10 races on the card and is scheduled for a 5:05 p.m. EST post.
Expansion, winner of the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) at Aqueduct last November, was a disappointing fifth in his 5-year-old debut Feb. 28, the Mac Diarmida Stakes (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream Park. Owned by Gary and Mary West and trained by Chad Brown, the son of Maria's Mon missed by a nose in his only other start in Lexington, a 12-furlong allowance contest at the 2009 spring meet. He will carry top weight of 122 pounds, including rider Julien Leparoux.
Expansion, bred in Kentucky by Darley, is out of the Barathea mare La Sylphide.
Fred Bradley’s Brass Hat was eighth in the March 27 Pan American Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream in his season debut. A veteran of nine wins from 34 starts, Brass Hat has run third in the Elkhorn the past two years. In 2009, he missed by 2 1/4 lengths to Spice Route.
Trained by Buff Bradley, Brass Hat is a five-time graded stakes winner, his biggest score coming in the 2006 Donn Handicap (gr. I). Calvin Borel has the mount.
Another veteran, Ascertain, won the Elkhorn in 2007 for his lone graded stakes victory. Beginning in April 2008, the Intikhab gelding was off for nearly two years before returning to the racetrack earlier this meet at Keeneland, finishing sixth in an allowance contest.
Eight-year-old Musketier was second in last year’s Elkhorn, beaten only two lengths. Later that season the German-bred horse was runner-up in the grade I Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont, but his form fell off badly in his final two starts of the campaign. This will be his season debut.
Other contenders are Transduction Gold, who won the 2007 Sycamore Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland and was third last out in Fair Grounds’ Mervin Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT); Bearpath, winner of the Pan American in his last start; and Tiger's Rock, a two-time stakes winner at Aqueduct who was 12th in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) last month during a troubled trip. Garrett Gomez will be aboard Tiger’s Rock for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Heading into the last three days of the Keeneland meet, Gomez leads all riders with 17 wins, four more than Leparoux. Pletcher and Christophe Clement are tied for the trainer’s title with six wins apiece, while Ken and Sarah Ramsey lead all owners with five victories.
$200,000 Fifth Third Elkhorn (gr. IIT, Race 9, 5:05 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
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