Horsemen will waste no time getting the stakes action started at Keeneland, where the $100,000 Transylvania (gr. IIIT) highlights the opening day card April 5.
The Transylvania serves as the first of 16 stakes, 15 of them graded, for the meet that runs through April 26. The 1 1/16-mile turf test for sophomores will go as the ninth on a 10-race program, with a 5:13 p.m. EDT post.
Highweighted at 123 pounds is John Oxley's Star Contender, a stakes winner at 2 over the Woodbine turf but unraced since running sixth in the Jan. 1 Gulfstream Park Derby, which was his lone start on dirt. The son of Henny Hughes came up from Ocala Training Center to turn in a pre-race move March 27, five furlongs in 1:02 2/5 on the all-weather track for trainer Mark Casse. Jockey Patrick Husbands will ride from post 9 in a field of 11.
All others carry 118, including SamSon Farms' Up With the Birds, who also merits watching on the basis of three straight scores. The Ontario-bred son of Stormy Atlantic won the March 2 Black Gold Stakes going 7 1/2 on the turf at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots after taking the Coronation Futurity at Woodbine over Star Contender at the end of 2012. That 3 1/2-length win came following a maiden score by the same margin last September. Shaun Bridgmohan, who rode Up With the Birds to victory at Fair Grounds for trainer Malcolm Pierce on March 2, has the mount from post 3.
A familiar name on the 3-year-old scene is Brown Almighty, who runs for Tri-Star Racing, Joe B. Denson, and Brent Gasaway. Trainer Tim Ice sends the first stakes-winning son of Big Brown to this spot off a third in the March 11 colt and gelding division of the OBS Championship Stakes at Ocala Training Center.
Brown Almighty was placed second in an eventful edition of the Bourbon Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland as a juvenile, when he was carried out and steadied due to the inside antics of the eventually disqualified Really Sharp. Since then, Brown Almighty has been ambitiously placed, with a ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT), a fifth in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park, and an eighth in the Southwest Stakes (gr. III)—the latter of the two on dirt.
Lothenbach Stables' Bambazonki, a son of Hard Spun trained by Chris Block, was runner-up by a length in the Jan. 20 Kitten's Joy Stakes going the Transylvania distance on the Gulfstream Park turf last time out. Also exiting that race is Juddmonte Farms' Fire Guard, a First Defence colt who was fifth but came back to win a Feb. 9 allowance event, also at 1 1/16 miles, by 1 1/4 lengths over fellow Transylvania contender Jack Milton . The latter is trained by Todd Pletcher for Gary Barber.
Trainer Graham Motion will send out Holiday Star, a Pennsylvania-bred son of Harlan's Holiday who finished eighth in the March 3 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) but who had two solid scores—a 1 1/8-mile allowance optional claiming event and a one-mile maiden special weight—for Augustin Stable before that loss.
Completing the field are Kingarvie Stakes winner Pyrite Mountain for trainer Mark Frostad and Awesome Again Racing Limited Partnership; maiden winner Bethel, trained by Gennadi Dorochenko for Raut LLC; and maiden winners Amen Kitten and Redwood Kitten for Ken and Sarah Ramsey from the barn of Wesley Ward.
$100,000 Transylvania Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, approximate post 5:13 p.m. EDT), 3YOs, 1 1/16 miles (turf)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Amen Kitten (IL), A.O. Solis, 118, W A Ward
2. Brown Almighty (KY), R. Napravnik, 118, T A Ice
3. Up With the Birds (ON), S. Bridgmohan, 118, M Pierce
4. Bambazonki (FL), J. Lezcano, 118, C M Block
5. Pyrite Mountain (ON), J.R. Leparoux, 118, M R Frostad
6. Jack Milton (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 118, T A Pletcher
7. Fire Guard (KY), J. Rosario, 118, W I Mott
8. Redwood Kitten (IL), E. Trujillo, 118, W A Ward
9. Star Contender (ON), P. Husbands, 123, M E Casse
10. Bethel (KY), A.L. Castanon, 118, G Dorochenko
11. Holiday Star (PA), J. Rocco, Jr., 118, H G Motion