Distance Key for Dark Cove in Louisville 'Cap

Distance Key for Dark Cove in Louisville 'Cap
Photo: Keeneland/Coady Photography
Dark Cove won the Elkorn by 4 1/4 lengths on April 26.

After going the distance for his first career graded stakes win on the Keeneland turf, Dark Cove will try to do the same on the Churchill Downs green in the $100,000 Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) May 25.

In his previous start, Dark Cove added to owner Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker's record-setting Keeneland meet by cruising to a 4 1/4-length victory in the April 26 Elkhorn (gr. IIT), which like the Louisville is contested at 1 1/2 miles on the turf. Since claimed by Maker for the Ramseys for $50,000 last spring at Keeneland, the 6-year-old Medaglia d'Oro   horse boasts a victory and runner-up finish in claiming races at Gulfstream Park before his breakthrough graded stakes win.

That stakes win will result in Dark Cove spotting the field anywhere from four to 10 pounds as the 122-pound highweight.

On paper, the race appears to have a wealth of speed for the demanding trip. One of those likely frontrunners is Team Block homebred Ioya Bigtime, who will try to secure his first win since taking last year's Kentucky Cup Turf (gr. IIIT) at Kentucky Downs. The 6-year-old Dynaformer horse has placed in three graded stakes since that pacemaking effort.

But Ioya Bigtime figures to be challenged early by last year's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) third-place finisher Atigun, who enters off his first career turf win, which was accomplished gate-to-wire; and Heathcote, who ships in from Woodbine after a runaway victory in the Valedictory Stakes (gr. III) on the Polytrack. Dark Cove and Mack's Blackhawk also figure to be close early.

That early pace could help Shadwell Stable homebred Najjaar, who closed from seventh to finish second in an April 21 allowance race on the Keeneland turf. Al Qasr, a group I winner in Argentina who finished fourth in the Elkhorn, would also benefit from a quick tempo.

$100,000 Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT, race 10, approximate post time 5:30 p.m.) 3YO&Up, 1 1/2 miles, turf
PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Prime Cut (KY), C. Lanerie, 113, D. Carroll
2. Harrods Creek (KY), S. Bridgmohan, 115, W. Mott
3. Mack's Blackhawk (MN), R. Santana Jr., 112, K. Gorder
4. Atigun (KY), A. Garcia, 115, K. McPeek
5. Ioya Bigtime (IL), J. Sanchez, 118, C. Block
6. Dark Cove (KY), R. Napravnik, 122, M. Maker
7. Najjaar, L. Goncalves, 112, D. Peitz
8. Al Qasr (KY), J. Castanon, 117, J. Garoffalo
9. Heathcote (ON), E. Wilson, 115, P. Attard

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