Kensei notched his second straight grade II score Aug. 1 in the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (VIDEO) at Saratoga, as he pulled away from Warrior's Reward in the stretch for a convincing victory under Edgar Prado.
A 3-year-old son of Mr. Greeley, Kensei scored another huge win for trainer Steve Asmussen, who only minutes before sent out Soul Warrior to a 23-1 upset in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. II). Owned by Stonestreet Stables and Gulf Coast Farms, Kensei entered the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy off a 3 1/4-length win in the July 4 Dwyer (gr. II) at Belmont. The bay colt has now won both of his two-turn races.
Stalking the early pace set by Warrior’s Reward, Kensei had the perfect trip under Prado. He sat right off the leader, who posted moderate fractions of :23.43 and :47.50 under Calvin Borel, then came up to challenge around the far turn.
Kensei took a narrow advantage at the three-eighths pole and steadily inched away from Warrior’s Reward in upper stretch. He put the race away inside the sixteenth-pole, gliding home for a 2 1/4-length victory.
Charitable Man, sent off as the 6-5 favorite, was taken four-wide in the early going, but put himself in striking position around the far turn under Alan Garcia. The Peter Pan (gr. II) winner lacked a winning turn of foot in the stretch and was only able to find his best run in the final yards. He settled for third, a neck behind runner-up Warrior’s Reward.
Kensei stopped the clock in 1:47.90 on a "fast" main track.
“He came out of the gate very well and then he got real keen the first part of the race,” Prado said. “When I asked him, he responded. He’s been training really sharp up here. I really liked him last time I rode him, and I really liked him today, too.”
Kensei, who was bred in Kentucky by Gulf Coast Farms and is out of the Belong to Me mare Private Feeling, has now won four of seven starts for earnings of $528,628. Asmussen would not speculate on the next spot for Kensei, but said it was “improbable” that both he and Rachel Alexandra would run in the Aug. 29 Shadwell Travers (gr. I). Both 3-year-olds are trained by Asmussen and co-owned by Stonestreet Stables’ Jess Jackson.
”It’s been a good day; unbelievable,” Asmussen said. “When the horse won the Dwyer in such an impressive fashion, this became a target for us. We’re glad to be on Kensei’s side. He’s a beautiful horse; he was very composed today with the crowd. For him to perform as he did on the highest stage speaks a great deal to his class.
“We’ll be happy and have a good dinner tonight, and then deal with tomorrow (saddling Rachel Alexandra in the grade I Haskell Invitational) before anything else.”
Sent off as the second choice in a field of six, Kensei paid $7.50, $3.60, and $2.40. The exacta (3-4) returned $28.20 and the trifecta (3-4-5) was $46.40.
The connections of Warrior's Reward and Charitable Man indicated that both horses would be pointed to the Travers if they come out of the Jim Dandy in good order.