Kelso Could Make it Four Straight for Graydar
Graydar will take on veteran runners Jackson Bend and Hymn Book and the South American import Brujo de Olleros in the $400,000 Kelso Invitational Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park Sept. 28 hoping to score entry to the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I).
A victory over the six other entrants in the one-mile test would extend Graydar's current win streak to four for owner Twin Creeks Racing Stables and trainer Todd Pletcher.
Graydar, who has two wins and a third at the Kelso distance, comes into the race off a six-month absence. The 4-year-old colt was sidelined in April after undergoing surgery to remove a chip from his left front ankle.
Prior to his surgery Graydar captured the Feb. 9 Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park in his first graded stakes start and followed that up with a win in the March 3 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The highweight in the field carrying 120 pounds, Graydar will break from post 2 with regular rider Edgar Prado up.
Grade I winner Hymn Book has only started three times this year for owner Stuart Janney III, hitting the board each time including runner-up finishes in the Monmouth Cup (gr. II) July 28 and the June 14 Criminal Type Stakes at Belmont Park. Crossing the wire third in Churchill Downs' Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) May 3, the Shug McGaughey trainee was placed second when the stewards' decision placed runner-up Cyber Secret eighth.
The 7-year-old Arch gelding will break from the 5-hole carrying 116 pounds and jockey John Velasquez.
Robert LaPenta and Fred Brei's 6-year-old Jackson Bend was second in the grade I Forego Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in his last outing Aug. 31, the closest he's come to the winner's circle since his score in Carter Handicap (gr. I) last year.
Earlier this summer the horse by Hear No Evil placed third in the Aug. 3 Housebutser Stakes at Gulfstream and in the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) at Calder Casino & Race Course. Seeking his ninth stakes win, he'll have to stretch out a bit from his average winning distance of 6.78 furlongs.
Part of a coupled entry with LaPenta's Easter Gift, Stanley Gold trainee Jackson Bend drew post 4 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
A grade III winner of the 2012 Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx Racing, Easter Gift is 3-2-0 in his five starts this year. Most recently the 4-year-old Hard Spun colt won the June 1 Mountainview Handicap at Penn National Race Course and then ran second in Saratoga's Alydar Stakes Aug. 22.
Chad Brown sends out the other half of LaPenta's coupled entry from the inside rail. Mike Smith has the mount.
Champion miler in Uruguay, the Brazilian-bred Brujo de Olleros makes his fifth U.S. start for owners Team Valor and Richard Santulli and his third appearance this year. Last time out the 5-year-old trained by Richard Mettee scored in the Carl Hanford Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park. Two starts back he was runner-up by a neck in the Donald LeVine Memorial Handicap at Parx Racing. Brujo de Olleros will break from the outside post 7 with Alan Garcia up.
Completing the field are Live Oak Plantation's Souper Speedy, who won Belmont's Jaipur Stakes (by disqualification) June 7 and an allowance race at Saratoga in his last start; and allowance winner Praetereo, who makes his third start since being claimed by trainer David Jacobson and Drawing Away Stable.
$400,000 Kelso Invitational Handicap (gr. II, Race 6, approximate post time 3:41 p.m. EDT) 3YOs & Up, one mile (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. a-Easter Gift (KY), M E Smith, 116, C C Brown
2. Graydar (KY), E S Prado, 120, T A Pletcher
3. Praetereo (KY), J Alvarado, 114, D Jacobson
4. a-Jackson Bend (FL), J Castellano, 118, S I Gold
5. Hymn Book (KY), J R Velazquez, 116, C R McGaughey III
6. Souper Speedy (FL), J Lezcano, 115, T Albertrani
7. Brujo de Olleros (BRZ), A Garcia, 115, R C Mettee
Blinkers On: Hymn Book
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