Sunday’s Keeneland barn notes by the track publicity team (Keeneland photo of War Like Goddess’ repeat victory in last year’s Bewitch)
WAR LIKE GODDESS GOES FOR THIRD CONSECUTIVE BEWITCH
WIN ON CLOSING DAY
George Krikorian’s seven-time graded stakes winner War Like Goddess will make her 2023 debut when she faces five rivals in Friday’s 61st running of the $300,000 Bewitch (G3) on closing day of the Spring Meet in a bid to win the stakes for the third consecutive year.
The Bewitch is the eighth race with a 4:44 p.m. ET post time on the 10-race program that begins at 1 p.m.
Trained by Bill Mott, War Like Goddess won last year’s Bewitch by 1¾ lengths despite a troubled trip in which she was steadied and bumped. Joel Rosario, who rode her last year, has the mount Friday and will exit post position four.
In 2021, War Like Goddess won the Bewitch by 3¾ lengths with Julien Leparoux aboard.
On Friday, War Like Goddess returns to face her own gender after closing 2022 with a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) here and a victory in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1).
Leading challengers to War Like Goddess in the Bewitch are Town and Country Racing’s Temple City Terror and Joseph Allen’s Personal Best.
Trained by Brendan Walsh, Temple City Terror was a 3-length winner of last fall’s Rood & Riddle Dowager (G3) here going 1½ miles. Fourth in the Hillsborough (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11 in her 2023 debut, Temple City Terror will be ridden Friday by Jose Ortiz and break from post two.
Personal Best, winner of the La Prevoyante (G3) in January and most recently second in the Orchid (G3) at Gulfstream Park, is trained by Shug McGaughey and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. from post five.
The field for the Bewitch, with riders and weights from the inside, is: Chaton Rouge (Jack Gilligan, 118 pounds), Temple City Terror (Jose Ortiz, 120), Ensemble (IRE) (Tyler Gaffalione, 118), War Like Goddess (Rosario, 123), Personal Best (Irad Ortiz Jr., 120), Sopran Basilea (IRE) (Luis Saez, 118).
VERSTAPPEN RETURNS TO TURFWAY FOLLOWING BREAKTHROUGH ELKHORN VICTORY
Andrew Farm, For the People Racing Stable and Windmill Manor Farm’s Verstappen made his graded stakes debut a winning one Saturday when he posted a head victory over millionaire Red Knight in the $350,000 Elkhorn (G2) going 1½ miles on the grass.
“He went back to Turfway Park last night where he had trained all winter,” said Paul Madden, assistant to trainer Brendan Walsh.
Verstappen, a Keeneland sales graduate, gave jockey Declan Cannon his first Keeneland stakes victory. Cannon has ridden Verstappen in his past four starts with three victories and a runner-up finish.
A possible next start for Verstappen could be the $225,000 Louisville (G3) to be run May 20 at Churchill Downs over 1½ miles on the turf.
“Now that we know he can run with those horses, races like that will be in play,” Madden said.
NEXT START BEING DETERMINED FOR BEN ALI WINNER RATTLE N ROLL
Lucky Seven Stable’s Rattle N Roll has returned to trainer Kenny McPeek’s Churchill Downs following his victory in the $300,000 Ben Ali (G3).
McPeek said via text that the $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3) going 1 3/16 miles at Pimlico on May 19 or the $225,000 Blame (G3) at Churchill Downs on June 3 going 1 1/8 miles are under consideration.
The Ben Ali marked the second Keeneland stakes victory for Rattle N Roll, who took the 2021 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1).
Giddyup Stables and Tom Lambro’s Call Me Fast earned his first stakes placing when he rallied for second in the Ben Ali.
“We are pretty excited about him,” trainer Mike Puhich said of the 4-year-old Dialed In gelding, who rebounded from a troubled trip in the Essex (G3) in his previous start.
On the horizon for Call Me Fast are the Pimlico Special or the Blame.
“Right now we are considering both races, but we will see how he is doing,” Puhich said. “I would probably be leaning more toward the Blame. But we will see how things shape up. Most importantly is the horse.”
Trainer Neil Pessin said Lothenbach Stables’ Happy American, who rallied from last to get fourth in the Ben Ali, likely would point to the Blame.
LOVED DOES HER FAMILY PROUD WITH SPECTACULAR MAIDEN VICTORY
When the pedigree includes a two-time Grade 1 winner, much is to be expected.
Godolphin homebred Loved delivered on that promise Friday afternoon by crushing a field of overmatched maidens by 11½ lengths going 1 1/16 miles in the fourth race for trainer Brendan Walsh.
By Medaglia d’Oro, Loved is a 4-year-old half-sister to $2 million earner and six-time graded stakes winner Maxfield, who also was trained by Walsh. Maxfield’s first stakes victory came in his lone Keeneland start when he scored a 5½-length romp in the 2019 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1).
“She is nice, and she and Maxfield are both good-looking horses,” Walsh said of Loved, who returned to the races after a 13-month layoff from her debut in a sprint at Gulfstream Park. “We have always liked her. She had to make us wait, and hopefully it will work out well.”
Walsh said Loved might join his string at Churchill Downs “at some point.”
“There is an allowance race there in three weeks, but that may be too quick back,” Walsh said.
Loved’s victory started a three-win afternoon for Walsh. It marked the second triple for Walsh in two years; the other came on Toyota Blue Grass Day in 2022 when his trio was highlighted by the victory of Prevalence in the Commonwealth (G3).