Just as Well, the lone grade I winner in a field of eight older horses going 1 1/8 miles on the Keeneland Polytrack, has been assigned top weight of 123 pounds for the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) April 18.
Owned and trained by Jonathan Sheppard, Just as Well earned his grade I score by disqualification in the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes last November at Woodbine. The A.P. Indy horse missed by a head that day, but was moved up to first after Marsh Side was taken down for interference in the stretch. Julien Leparoux rode the dark bay to victory and will be aboard once again while breaking from post 3.
Just as Well’s other graded win came also came on turf, triumphing in the 12-furlong Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) last summer. An earner of more than $1 million, this will be the 7-year-old’s first start on a synthetic surface.
Bred in Kentucky by Augustin Stable, Just as Well is out of the Nureyev mare No Matter What.
The other multiple graded stakes winners in the field are Palladio and Kiss the Kid. Palladio is proven on Polytrack, having won four graded stakes over that surface at Woodbine, including the Autumn Stakes (Can-II) two starts back in November. Owned by Haras Santa Maria de Araras and trained by Roger Attfield, the 8-year-old son of Lycius comes out of a solid effort in the Sunshine Millions Classic Jan. 30 at Santa Anita when missing by a neck in his season debut. Kent Desormeaux picks up the mount.
Hardacre Farm’s Kiss the Kid will also be making his first start on synthetics. The 7-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid has won eight of 38 starts on turf or dirt, and has earned $770,873. Kiss the Kid will be trying to snap an 11-race winless streak, as his last victory came in the Appleton (gr. IIIT) in March, 2009. Rajiv Maragh will ride for trainer Amy Tarrant.
Other graded winners in the field are Ready Set, who nabbed the 2008 West Virginia Derby (gr. III) but has not hit the winner’s circle since, and Timber Reserve, the 2007 Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) winner. Timber Reserve won an optional claimer at Gulfstream two starts back in his 6-year-old debut and will be racing on Polytrack for the first time.
$150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, 4:35 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Polytrack) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Ready Set (KY), J Theriot, 117, R W Werner
2. Big Top (KY), G K Gomez, 117, N P Zito
3. Just as Well (KY), J R Leparoux, 123, J E Sheppard
4. Dubious Miss (KY), C H Borel, 117, P J McGee
5. Giant Oak (IL), S Bridgmohan, 117, N L Pessin
6. Palladio (FL), K J Desormeaux, 121, R L Attfield
7. Kiss the Kid (KY), R Maragh, 117, A Tarrant
8. Timber Reserve (KY), J Castellano, 117, J C Kimmel