Duckhorn, winning the Ben Ali.

Duckhorn, winning the Ben Ali.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Front-End Runner Duckhorn Wins Ben Ali by Seven

Michael Tabor's Duckhorn proved to be in his element on the wet track at Keeneland Sunday, taking the $103,984 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) by seven lengths over New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) winner Parade Leader. Under Jorge Chavez, the gray 5-year-old son of Not For Love completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.18 on a course rated muddy.

Duckhorn remains perfect at Keeneland with the win. As a 3-year-old, he won a 1 1/16-mile allowance race by 6 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track. Pat Day rode the Maryland-bred that day, but Sunday he could only watch as he and Parade Leader dropped over 12 lengths off the pace as Duckhorn set unpressured early fractions. Following a :46.81 half-mile, Duckhorn extended his lead as Parade Leader moved up on the inside to gain second place, but the son of Kingmambo was still over 10 lengths off the lead three furlongs from the wire. Parade Leader closed the gap to five lengths in the stretch before he tired, allowing Duckhorn to extend his lead to seven at the wire.

"He was by himself on the lead and running very easily," said Chavez. "This is the easiest money I've made all day."

Parade Leader finished 9 1/2 lengths in front of Connected, with San Pedro five lengths farther back. Kentucky Derby (gr. I) runner-up Invisible Ink was scratched due to the off track.

Parade Leader fell to the track a quarter-mile past the wire.

"The horse is fine," assured Day. "He just tipped over and fell. He was just exhausted."

The 7-10 favorite, Duckhorn returned $3.40 and $2.20 for the win and topped a $7.40 exacta. Parade Leader paid $2.40. There was no show wagering due to the four-horse field.

Duckhorn earned $66,464 for the win, his seventh in 20 starts and first of the year from three attempts. Last year, the Patrick Byrne trainee won the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) and a listed stakes race at Laurel Park. Lewisfield Farm bred Duckhorn from the Deputed Testamony mare Ten's Testamony.

"I knew he would like the racetrack. He just relished it," said Byrne. "I thought Parade Leader made a nice run, but I was comfortable on the last turn that we would be very tough."

Sunday marks the second straight day Byrne sent out the favored horse in the Keeneland feature race. His Ethan Man finished fifth as the 3-2 favorite in Saturday's Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II). (Chart, Equibase)