Keertana, squeezing through at the hedge, quickly separated herself from the rest of the Glens Falls Handicap (gr. IIIT) field to register a 3 1/4-length win in the final stakes race of the 2010 Saratoga meet Sept. 6 (VIDEO).
Barbara Hunter's 4-year-old daughter of Johar deftly handled the 1 3/8-mile inner turf distance of the $100,000 Glens Falls -- which was a quarter-mile farther than she had run previously -- for her first graded stakes victory since taking the Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Churchil Downs in June 2009.
Second last time out with trouble in the stretch of the one-mile De La Rose Aug. 4, Keertana bided her time in sixth along the hedge for Jose Lezcano behind Go Ask Alex, who carved fractions of 47.79 and 1:12.77 on the front end. After commencing a steady rally along the inside on the final turn, she blew by Casablanca Smile under vigorous hand urging just past the eighth pole and powered clear for an easy score in a final time of 2:12.73 over firm ground.
“We were way back, then I had to check, and after that I lost my whip,” said Lezcano. “I said ‘Oh man, I feel so bad; I’m going to lose this race.’ I love that my filly was able to win. When I asked her, she kicked it up very well. She had plenty of gas left.
Forever Together, the 3-5 favorite ridden by Julien Leparoux, rallied mildly to take third by neck over Striking Dancer, 4 1/2 lengths behind Keertana. The 2008 female turf champion lost for the seventh time in a row since capturing the the Diana Stakes (gr. IT) at Saratoga last summer.
Keertana, who in 2009 won the one-mile Indiana Distaff and finished third in Belmont Park's Garden City Stakes (gr. IT), returned $12.80, $5.90 and $2.80 as the second choice. Her record now stands at 7-5-4 from 19 starts with earnings of $517,771.
“Her daddy (Johar) won at a mile and a half, and her mother’s father wanted to go a mile, so I figured a mile and three eighths would be perfect,” said trainer Tom Proctor. “She was back a lot farther (than I expected), but when they went 47 and change, that was pretty good.”
Proctor said that he is considering the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs for Keertana, with a possible start in the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) Oct. 2 at Belmont in the interim.
Bred by Hunter in Kentucky, Keertana is out of the Storm Cat mare Motokiks.
Casablanca Smile, a Chilean-bred 4-year-old filly ridden by Javier Castellano, paid $6.80 and $3 for the place as the 120-pound top weight and completed a $63.50 exacta. A dual group I winner in her native country in December and January, she is winless in three U.S. starts -- all in stakes -- for trainer Shug McGaughey and Green Hills Farm. She has been in the money each time, however.
Forever Together was positioned just in front of Keertana for most of the race but had to settle for third, paying $2.10.
“She was sitting perfectly in the first half of the race," said trainer Jonathan Sheppard. "But as they went on he (Leparouxn) let her drop farther and farther back, so then she had too much ground to make up.”