Named for Elkhorn Creek, a stream running through several Central Kentucky counties, the Elkhorn is the ninth race on the Lexington track's closing day card. The 1 1/2-mile turf contest for 4-year-olds and older is slated for 5:13 p.m. EDT.
Trained by Roger Attfield, English-bred Forte Dei Marmi took the lead in the upper stretch of last year's Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (gr. Can-IT), and then held on for a neck victory in the grass event at Woodbine at the Elkhorn distance. The bay gelding by Selkirk—Frangy, by Sadler's Wells also won the last two runnings of the Sky Classic Stakes (Can-IIT), as well as the 2013 Singspiel Stakes (Can-IIIT) at the Ontario oval. He boasts an overall record of 10-1-5 from 34 starts, for earnings of $1,037,447.
The connections of Forte Dei Marmi, who was bred by Fitlocks Stud, are hoping for a better result in this year's Elkhorn as he was pulled up and vanned off in the 2013 edition. In his last start, he was fifth, beaten just two lengths in a 1 1/8-mile grass allowance contest at Keeneland April 5. The gelding, who will tote top weight of 120 pounds in the Elkhorn, worked five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 at the Lexington track April 22.
Forte Dei Marmi has secured a new rider in jockey James Graham, and the pair will break from the 13 post.
The gelding will face several strong challengers in the Elkhorn, including Glen Hill Farm's Florida homebred Old Time Hockey. The son of Smarty Jones is seeking his third straight victory and will enter the race off a three-quarter-length score in the April 5 Tampa Turf Classic Stakes for Florida-breds at Tampa Bay Downs.
Trained by Tom Proctor, the 5-year-old chestnut gelding scored the biggest victory of his career in the 2012 La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT). Old Time Hockey, who has secured the services of jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, will have to overcome the rail position in the Elkhorn.
Another worthy contender is three-time grade III winner Optimizer, who is looking to snap an eight-race losing streak in the Elkhorn. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas for Calumet Farm, the son of English Channel was most recently a distant ninth in his seasonal debut in the Frank Kilroe (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park. The 5-year-old horse hasn't raced at Keeneland since his juvenile season, when he was third in the Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) behind Dullahan. Optimizer will break from post 2 under jockey Joseph Rocco Jr.
$250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes (gr. II, approximate post time 5:13 p.m. ET), 4YOs & Up, 1 1/2 miles (turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Old Time Hockey (FL), S Bridgmohan, 118, T F Proctor
2. Optimizer (KY), J Rocco, Jr., 118, D W Lukas
3. Unitarian (KY), J Castellano, 118, T A Pletcher
4. Hangover Kid (NY), J R Leparoux, 118, J Servis
5. Temeraine (KY), J Lezcano, 118, T F Proctor
6. Suntracer (IL), R Albarado, 118, C M Block
7. Rapscallion (KY), J Rose, 118, H G Motion
8. Tattenham (KY), J Rosario, 118, W I Mott
9. Royal Bench (IRE), C J Lanerie, 118, B P Walsh
10. Tricky Hat (CHI), R Napravnik, 118, C R McGaughey III
11. Amen Kitten (IL), J R Velazquez, 118, W A Ward
12. Eagle Poise (KY), A O Solis, 118, H G Motion
13. Forte Dei Marmi (GB), J Graham, 120, R L Attfield
14. War Dancer (KY), A Garcia, 118, K G McPeek