Trainer Alex Clarkson had qualms about running Keep Up back in the $115,700 River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) Nov. 25 off a Nov. 16 allowance victory over Noble's Promise at Churchill Downs, but the 5-year-old horse gave every indication he wanted to run.
Successfully rehabbed from a bowed tendon with stem cell therapy after a 15-month break begun in April 2011, John and Alice Chandler's homebred son of Unbridled's Song earned his first graded stakes score at odds of 30-1 in his sixth start of 2012. The bay horse also gave Clarkson his first stakes score as a trainer while defeating multiple graded stakes winner Boisterous by half a length. Skyring was third by a head.
"I was very cautious and I wasn't too confident, but he was doing great," said Clarkson, who has saddled 38 winners from 320 starters. "He was eating up, training great, looks good, so we decided we would give it a shot."
Keep Up was making his first start in stakes company of any sort, and had only a maiden and two allowance victories to his credit—but is now 3-for-3 on turf, a surface he seems to relish. Jockey Miguel Mena was aboard for his fourth stakes score of the Churchill fall meet; Mena won the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) on Uncaptured, as well as the Golden Rod (gr. II) aboard Seaneen Girl.
Racing 10th in a field of 12 older horses in the 1 1/8-mile turf test, Keep Up was reserved behind an early pace set by Global Power, who got a quarter in :23.81 and a half in :47.26. Still 10th after three-quarters in 1:11.07, Keep Up commenced an eight-wide outside rally heading into the stretch and got up in time to pass 9-10 favorite Boisterous, who had gained a short lead after closing on the rail. Final time for the distance was 1:48.05.
"I didn't really have any trouble," jockey Jose Lezcano said of his runner-up finish on the favorite. "He broke good and I put him in a good spot. When I asked, he gave me his race. The other horse just ran past me and did it easy."
"He was far back, but it was a pretty solid pace and he was traveling nice," Mena remarked of the winner. "I rode him with patience and from the quarter pole he flew home."
In the one-mile allowance victory one start back, the bay runner employed similar tactics.
"He came out of that race so well, and Miguel emphasized, 'I never hit him,'" Clarkson remarked. "I watched the replay a zillion times and he never did hit him, he only ran the last quarter. So we decided if he runs a temperature, stops eating, anything, we won't run. Right up to a few hours ago, we were like, 'It's such a tough race,' and every time I run him I give him a tougher assignement, but he handles it."
Keep Up returned $62.60, $15.60, and $10. Boisterous paid $3.40 and $2.60. Skyring returned $19.40. Swift Warrior, Optimizer, Miami Deco, Middie, Guys Reward, Global Power, Depeche Chat, Temeraine, and Stormy Lord completed the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by John A. and Alice Chandler's Mill Ridge Farm, Jamm LTD, and Shug McGaughey out of the Deputy Minister mare Keeper Hill, Keep Up improved his record to 5-1-4 from 11 starts, with earnings of $213,623.