Despite making his season debut, multiple stakes winner Exhi figures to be well-backed in a short field entered for the $150,000 Ben Ali (gr. III) April 23 at Keeneland.
Only five older horses were drawn for the 1 1/8-mile Ben Ali, the first of two graded stakes on Keeneland’s 10-race card. Post time is scheduled for 4:18 p.m. EDT.
Wertheimer and Frere’s homebred Exhi will likely draw favoritism in large part due to his success on Polytrack. The 4-year-old Maria’s Mon colt won four consecutive races on Polytrack last year, including the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland. He ended his sophomore campaign with a good second in the Oct. 30 Greenbrier Fayette (gr. II) at Keeneland.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Exhi wintered at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida before recently being shipped to Kentucky. He worked five furlongs in a bullet :59 4/5 on a muddy Churchill Downs main track on April 17. Javier Castellano will have the mount.
Millionaire Researcher makes his second start since being returned to training earlier this year. The 7-year-old Two Smart gelding was retired from racing to become a jump horse after he won the Charles Town Classic for the second straight year last April and was privately purchased by Zohar Ben-Dov’s Kinross Corp.
The jumping didn’t work out, so Researcher was returned to the track in February with new trainer Neil Morris. Researcher ran fourth in an allowance race after 11 months away from racing March 26 at Charles Town. This will be his first race on a synthetic surface in his 28th lifetime starts, but he has trained on an all-weather track in Virginia.
The bay gelding, who bagged his only graded-stakes score in the 2008 Queens County Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct, has won 13 times and earned $1,379,379. Alan Garcia will have the ride for the first time.
The other graded-stakes winner in the field is Dean's Kitten, who took the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) last year before finishing 14th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred is winless in seven starts since the Lane’s End, but was a solid second in the March 19 Tejano Run Stakes on the Turfway Park Polytrack last out. Julien Leparoux will be in the irons for Mike Maker.
Stay Put, sixth in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) last year and runner-up in an optional claimer at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in March, and Mister Marti Gras complete the field. Mister Marti Gras returns only eight days after finishing fourth in a Keeneland turf allowance April 15.
$150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III, Race 7, 4:18 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Polytrack) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Stay Put (KY), S Bridgmohan, 117, S Margolis
2. Researcher (VA), A Garcia, 117, N R Morris
3. Exhi (KY), J Castellano, 117, T A Pletcher
4. Dean's Kitten (KY), J R Leparoux, 117, M J Maker
5. Mister Marti Gras (KY), R Napravnik, 117, N L Pessin