Millionaire Kelly’s Landing will make his first start in graded company since last October when he faces five older horses in the $125,000 Aristides Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs.
The May 31 Aristides, a six-furlong event, has drawn the likes of 124-pound high weight Elite Squadron, winner of the May 3 Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) in his last start , and 122-pound carrier Noonmark, winner of the Jan. 5 Mr. Prospector Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park. It should be a tough test for Kelly’s Landing, who has raced just once since running fifth in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Monmouth Park Oct .27.
Carrying the colors of Summerplace Farm, Kelly’s Landing flashed brilliance in Dubai last year, winning the Gulf News Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I). Bred in Kentucky by the owners out of the Great Above mare Best Game, the 6-year-old Patton gelding has a 9-3-2 record from 23 starts with earnings of $1,811,557. Still, his return to competition after the Breeders’ Cup Sprint was less than inspiring – he finished third, beaten nine lengths, in a May 11 allowance race at Churchill Downs. But Kelly’s Landing has done very well in two past editions of the Aristides - he set a track record winning the race in 2005, and finished second in the 2006 running to reigning Eclipse champion Lost in the Fog.
Tom Walters’ Elite Squadron, coming off that Churchill Downs Stakes win, looks most likely to take this race. Bred in Kentucky by Matt Herbener out of the High Brite mare Sweet Mama, the 4-year-old son of Officer wired the field in the Churchill and was much the best when he prevailed over the Steve Asmussen-trained Noonmark by 4 ½ lengths. Elite Squadron went into that event off a narrow second-place loss in Keeneland’s Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II), conceding the head-bob to Rebellion after leading for the seven furlongs.
Noonmark was steadied late on the turn in the Churchill Downs Stakes, which could have cost him a closer finish. His greatest win thus far was a Jan. 5 score in the Mr. Prospector Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park, when he tracked the pace off the turn and rallied on the rail to win by two. From 15 starts for George Bolton, Joan Corrigan, and Antony Beck, Noonmark has a 4-4-2 record. Bred in Kentucky by John Murphy Sr. out of the Storm Cat mare In the Storm, the son of Unbridled’s Song was obviously thought well of by his connections – he was a $1.15 million buy-back at Keeneland’s April sale of 2-year-olds in training in 2005.
Another worth watching is the Tom Amoss-trained Indian Chant, a 5-year-old son of Suggest bred in California by Triple Crown Bloodstock out of the Ice Age mare Icy Luck. Owned by Maggi Moss, Indian Chant bested Kelly’s Landing in his last outing when he took a six-furlong allowance race by five lengths in a nearly wire-to-wire bid. Winner of two ungraded stakes races (one at Presque Isle Downs and the other at Prairie Meadows), Indian Chant seeks his first graded score in this event.
$125,000 Aristides Stakes (gr. III, race 10, approximate post 5:51 p.m.), six furlongs for older horses, dirt