Keertana may go off as a longshot in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), but don’t count her out. In 1994, bettors ignored another distaffer trained by Tom Proctor at their peril. One Dreamer scored at 47-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I), when the races were also held at Churchill Downs.
Proctor knows the competition will be fierce in the Filly & Mare Turf. The field is headlined by the last two winners of the race—European Midday (in 2009) and Easterner Forever Together (in 2008). The European contingent is especially strong, with Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (gr. I) winner Plumania from France and Hibaayeb, a British group I winner and recent victress in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT) at Oak Tree in California.
Keertana drew the four post position and has been installed at morning line odds of 30-1.
"But the fields usually are tough in grade I races," said Proctor philosophically.
The 54-year-old conditioner learned his trade well from his father, the late Willard Proctor. Tom has trained for 32 years, most recently in Kentucky, Florida, and New York. He spent several years training in Southern California and last month sent a string out there once again.
Four-year-old Keertana has a home-field advantage in the Breeders’ Cup. Not only does Proctor stable at Churchill regularly, the filly has started on the turf there seven times, with three wins, two seconds, and a third. One of the victories came in the 2009 Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT).
"She’s a nice filly—as sweet as can be," said Proctor. "She gives you no problem."
Proctor also has Keertana’s half-sister, 3-year-old graded stakes winner Snow Top Mountain, in his barn. They are both fourth-generation products of Barbara Hunter’s breeding program at Brownwood Farm in Nicholasville, Ky. Hunter bred Motokiks, Matoki, and Salmon Lake, the first three dams. She bred Motokiks to 2003 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Johar to get Keertana.
Now 78, Hunter has owned Brownwood since the 1950s. She formerly rode Western pleasure horses and reiners, and at one time bred Quarter Horses at Brownwood as well as Thoroughbreds. Keertana will be Hunter’s first Breeders’ Cup starter as an owner. She also bred 1988 Juvenile (gr. I) starter Mountain Ghost.
Hunter has confidence in Proctor’s ability.
"He knows what he’s doing," she said. "I like to be around people like that."
Proctor gave Keertana her final major prep Oct. 31. She breezed five furlongs on firm turf at Churchill in 1:01.40 with the dogs up. The splits were :12.10, :25.20, :38.40, and 1:18. He said Keertana will now gallop up to the Nov. 5 race.