Seven runners have entered the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland, but on paper the race comes down to a battle between three starters. Peter Vegso’s Go Between, Turtle Bird Stable’s Sir Whimsey, and Knob Hill Stable’s Leonnatus Anteas head up the 1 1/8-mile event over the main track April 20.
Go Between, runner-up to Heatseeker in the March 1 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) last time out, carries the high weight of 123 pounds and should be the horse to beat. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the 5-year-old son of Point Givenis a proven turf contender who moved his game to the synthetic surface for the first time at Keeneland last year and aced his first attempt on the Polytrack with a record-setting 1:49.97 for nine furlongs in the Fayette Stakes (gr. III).
Bred in Florida by Vegso out of the Caerleon mare Meditation, Go Between returned to turf after his Fayette score to run sixth by just half a length in a blanket finish in the Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. III), then won his first start of 2008 when he took the Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita Jan. 26. His graded turf scores include the 2006 running of the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) and the Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT).
Go Between’s major challenger in the Ben Ali figures to be Sir Whimsey, winner of the March 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) in his most recent start. Trainer James Toner sent the 4-year-old son of Jump Start to that win off a two-length allowance victory at Gulfstream following a second-place effort in Aqueduct’s Don Rickles Stakes. Bred in Virginia by Chance Farm out of the Star de Naskra mare Apogee, Sir Whimsey ran fourth in the 2007 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) behind Cowtown Cat and was fifth behind Sightseeing in the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont that season as well. The Ben Ali will be his first attempt over a synthetic surface; with all of his previous 13 starts on dirt.
Not to be disregarded is Leonnatus Anteas, fourth-place finisher in the 1 3/16-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap. The 4-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic went into that race after losing by only a half length in the 1 1/16-mile Autumn Stakes (gr. III) at Woodbine over the Polytrack. Leonnatus Anteas has won two of three starts at the 1 1/8-mile distance over Woodbine’s synthetic surface – last October’s Durham Cup Stakes (gr. III) and the 2006 Coronation Futurity.
$150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III, race 8, approximate post 4:40 p.m. EDT), 1 1/8 miles for older horses, Polytrack
PP, Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Sterwins, 117, Shaun Bridgmohan
2. Go Between, 123, Garrett Gomez
3. Crossword, 117, Robby Albarado
4. Mayan King, 117, Kent Desormeaux
5. Sir Whimsey, 121, Edgar Prado
6. It's a Bird, 117, John Velazquez
7. Leonnatus Anteas, 117, Jono C. Jones