2023 Ben Ali Stakes, Elkhorn Stakes & Doubledogdare Recap

This past Friday and Saturday saw three races headline the weekend’s Keeneland card. The feature race over the two days was the 2023 Ben Ali Stakes & the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes

A race that has become a Keeneland tradition, the favorite for this year’s renewal was the Jorge Abreu-trained Howe Street.

Lightly raced, Howe Street was just having his fifth career start and his first run in graded company. On the other side of the market, Channel Maker was making his 51st start and was looking to land his seventh graded win. He was also looking to become only the third horse in history to win back-to-back Elkhorn’s.

It would end up being a frustrating day for connections of both horses, as the Brendan Walsh-trained Verstappen would pull off the shock to win the biggest prize of his career.

With the pace at the front of the race collapsing down the home straight, the race was set up perfectly for the closers. Both Verstappen and Red Knight sensed an opportunity and set down to battle. In what was always going to be a nail-biting finish, it was Verstappen that got his head down when it mattered most to deny Red Knight by the narrowest of margins.

Supporting the Elkhorn this weekend were two Grade 3 races, the 2023 Ben Ali Stakes and Doubledogdare Stakes.

This year’s Ben Ali looked incredibly competitive, and as the seven-runner field hit the final furlong almost every horse looked to have a chance of winning. In the end it was class that prevailed, as the former Breeders’ Cup Futurity winner Rattle N Roll was able to show an extra burst of speed deep inside the sixteenth pole to land the spoils. A former Grade 1 winner, it will be interesting to see where the Kenny McPeek-trained horse shows up next.

The weekend kicked off with this year’s running of the Doubledogdare Stakes. Favorite for the contest was the Brad Cox-trained Interstatedayddream. Looking to cement her class, she immediately hit the front and looked set to control the fractions. With the pace fast and frenetic it collapsed dramatically up the home straight. With others tiring, Frost Point roared off the home turn full of running. With some ground to make up on the long-time leaders, she began to close with every stride. With the shadows of the posts looming, her finishing effort would prove not to be in vain as she finally hit the front with just 100 yards to go.

Elkhorn Stakes

Grade 2, 1 and a half miles, Turf, open to horses aged four and over. Total prize pool: $350,000

  1. Verstappen +2000
  2. Red Knight +250
  3. Another Mystery +1500

Winning time: 2:29.28

Heading into this year’s Elkhorn all eyes were on the Bill Mott-trained Channel Maker who was attempting to repeat his success from last year. Looking to control the pace of the race he bounded out of the gate with purpose and took up the early running with another former graded winner Tiz The Bomb.

Elkhorn Stakes Race Video

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The order of the race would remain largely unchanged with both Channel Maker and Tiz The Bomb keen to make the race an intense stamina test. Many wondered if both would be able to keep up the frenetic pace, as the pair rounded the home turn, both dropped anchor leaving the contest wide open.

With the race now set up for the closers, both Verstappen and Red Knight were able to pick their way through the field. Traveling like the best two horses down the finishing straight, it looked clear that it wouldn’t be much that would separate them. With both runner’s neck and neck, it was Verstappen who was able to squeeze out a little bit more. With the posts looming, he stuck his neck out and timed his bob to perfection, winning the race by the slimmest of margins.

Here the 2022 Elkhorn Stakes recap in case you want to check it out

Elkhorn Stakes Payouts

PositionHorseWinShowPlace
1Verstappen$34.30$12.50$6.64
2Red Knight $8.22$5.50
3Another Mystery  $7.20

2023 Ben Ali Stakes

Grade 3, 1 and 3/16 miles, Dirt, open to horses aged four and over. Total prize pool: $300,000

  1. Rattle N Roll +300
  2. Call Me Fast +2000
  3. Pioneer of Medina +350

Winning time: 1:56.48

The Kenny McPeek-trained Rattle N Roll returned to the scene of his greatest success as he looked to land the third Graded Stakes race of his career.

Prominent in the betting before the race, he started the race in a lethargic fashion, happy to let others dictate the pace. That pace was set by Pioneer of Medina and Trademark who would end up leading the field up until the final turn.

Ben Ali Stakes Race Video

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With the rest of the pack closing, each of the seven runners in the race had a chance heading down the home straight. With horses strewn all over the track, the eye was drawn to the center as Rattle N Roll started to burst clear.

Showing exactly why he was a former Breeders’ Cup winner, Rattle N Roll and jockey Brian Hernandez dug deep when it mattered to win the race by a couple of lengths. Call Me Fast burst through late to finish in second with Pioneer of Medina able to claim a brave third.

2023 Ben Ali Stakes Payouts

PositionHorseWinShowPlace
1Rattle N Roll$7.98$5.18$3.40
2Call Me Fast $12.84$5.48
3Pioneer Of Medina  $3.84

Doubledogdare Stakes

Grade 3, 1 mile 1/16, Dirt, open to fillies and mares aged four and over. Total prize pool: $300,000

  1. Frost Point +1200
  2. Hidden Connection +400
  3. Green Up +300

Winning time: 1:43.95

A tremendous weekend of racing kicked off on Friday with the Doubledogdare Stakes. Interstatedaydream was looking to cement her class and land her third Graded Stakes victory.

Keen to show why she was the heavy pre-race favorite, she flew out of the gates and settled into an early lead. Green Up for Todd Pletcher was running in her first graded race and was keen to not let her rival get too far ahead.

Doubledogdare Stakes Race Video

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With the two pouring it on up front, disaster struck for Interstatedaydream who tamely dropped away. This left Green Up and Hidden Connection battling it out.

With the two neck and neck, Frost Point began making her surge from the back of the pack. Clearly full of running, she looked to have found an extra gear and began rapidly closing. With the posts looming, Frost Point’s jockey Flavian Prat had timed his surge to perfection, sweeping to the front with just yards to go.

The win was Frost Point’s third successive win, but first at this level. Clearly full of running at the line, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her upped in trip in the future. She could be one to keep an eye on as the season develops.

Doubledogdare Stakes Payouts

PositionHorseWinShowPlace
1Frost Point$11.06$5.86$3.76
2Hidden Connection $8.46$4.40
3Green Up  $3.44

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