Wanderin Boy Comes Home Best in Ben Ali

Arthur Hancock III's Wanderin Boy shot to the lead and never relinquished it en route to a commanding 5 1/4-length win in Keeneland's Thursday feature, the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III).

Sent off as the 4-5 favorite, the 5-year-old dark chestnut son of Seeking the Gold entered the 76th Ben Ali off a front-running, 10-length allowance win over the track on opening day of the meet. He employed that same tactic in the 1 1/8-mile test to defeat a field of five others that included Alumni Hall, winner of the 2005 renewal.

Bumped lightly at the start by Palladio to his inside, Wanderin Boy gained a clear lead quickly and raced along in the two path under light restraint. He carried a 1 1/2-length lead into the backstretch through early fractions of :23.80, :47.60, 1:11.51.

Alumni Hall, a 7-year-old chestnut son of A. P. Indy, tracked the leader early on, offering a mild challenge from the rail entering the far turn. But a confident Javier Castellano gave Wanderin Boy the gas, repelling the Neil Howard trainee and Robby Albarado, leaving nothing but a match for place and show in his wake as he ran to the wire under a hand urging in a final time of 1:49.18.

Wanderin Boy is trained by Nick Zito, who also sent out last year's Florida Derby (gr. I) runner-up Noble Causeway, by Giant's Causeway , who finished 3 1/4 lengths in back of Alumni Hall in third.

Cosmonaut, Palladio, and It's No Joke rounded out the order of finish.

Hancock, owner of Stone Farm near Paris, Ky., bred Wanderin Boy out of the stakes-winning Pleasant Colony mare Vid Kid, whom he purchased in foal to the cover of Gilded Time for $350,000 from Idle our Farm, agent, at the 1998 Keeneland November mixed sale.

At three weeks old, Hancock found Wanderin Boy with a fractured sesamoid and built a special octagonal pen made of cattle gates to keep he and Vid Kid in fresh grass and sunshine. After that, Wanderin Boy fractured a cannon bone and had to be nursed along again, only to buck his shins in training for Zito in Florida.

Hancock, who bred and raised Sunday Silence, another ill-fated young horse, once said that Wanderin Boy's recovery was "some of the best horsemanship we've ever produced here at Stone Farm."

Because of those injuries, Wanderin Boy didn't make his first start until October of his 3-year-old season in a maiden-breaking seven-furlong effort at Keeneland under Pat Day.

The Ben Ali was the fourth start of 2006 for Wanderin Boy. The $93,000 winner's share boosted his earnings to $264,009 and brought his record to 5-2-1 in nine starts.

Wanderin Boy paid $3.80, $2.60 and $2.20. Alumni Hall returned $3.00 and $2.60, and Noble Causeway paid $3.00 to show.