Two horses set to join the festivities at Royal Ascot in blazing June lit up the undercard at a chilly Keeneland on Saturday, with the outstanding sprinter Golden Pal (G2 Shakertown) and unbeaten filly Spendarella (G2 Appalachian) booking their transatlantic tickets with impressive victories on turf. The other two Graded winners will stay closer to home, with Just One Time (G1 Madison) and Prevalence (G3 Commonwealth) heading next to Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby weekend. Here is our Keeneland Weekend Stakes Recap.
One Time thing works out
Madison – Grade 1
Old rivals Kimari and Bell’s The One were fancied to repeat their one-two of last year in the Madison, the highlight of the undercard at Keeneland on Saturday, but they were swept aside by the new kid on the block as Just One Time went back-to-front in the final quarter to claim her first G1 success.
The four-year-old filly was kept well away from the speed duel between her barnmate Lady Rocket and Kimari, and the 2-1 favourite had nothing behind her as the field moved to the top of the stretch. However, they had gone too fast in front and the leaders quickly began to flatten out.
That enabled Bell’s The One to kick to the lead and she seemed to have things under control before Just One Time ran her down in the last sixteenth, getting home by three-quarters of a length in a time of 1:22 and four-fifths. Kimari dug in bravely, despite the effects of those early fractions, to keep third, three lengths further back.
“I was hoping to get a good break,” said jockey Flavien Prat, who claimed both G1s on the card. “Unfortunately she broke a bit flat-footed, so we went to Plan B, and she ran really well in the stretch.”
Just One Time, who came here off the back of victory in the G2 Inside Information at Gulfstream Park in January, now has a six-for-seven record and is unbeaten in two for Brad Cox, who advised that she will likely be pointed to the G1 Derby City Distaff at Churchill Downs on May 7, and a potential rematch with Bell’s The One.
Spendarella right on the money
Appalachian Stakes – Grade 2
The sky is the limit for the progressive Spendarella, who is climbing the ladder step by step and stretched her unbeaten sequence to three with victory in the Appalachian.
The 3-5 favourite had led all the way in the G3 Herecomesthebride on her previous start, but demonstrated her tactical versatility here when rating handily behind the front-running Glenall, who was hustled into the lead around the clubhouse turn and then set only steady fractions.
It seemed only a matter of time before Spendarella put her stamp on the race and she went to the front at the eighth-pole, surging clear to win with plenty in hand by a length and three-quarters from Dolce Zel, stopping the clock in 1:37 and two-fifths, with the late-running Skims three-quarters of a length back in third.
“She relaxed beautifully behind the leader,” said jockey Tyler Gaffalione. “She really quickened off the turn and into the stretch, then she idled a little bit at the sixteenth-pole, but she put it away nicely.”
Spendarella has now gone maiden, G3, G2 in three steps, and will get her chance at the top level on a foreign field, as the initial plan is to ship her to Britain for the G1 Coronation over a mile at Royal Ascot in June. Trainer Graham Motion sent over Miss Temple City – runner-up in the 2015 Appalachian – to finish fourth in that race and is keen for a second bite at the cherry.
Golden gleams in 24-carat display
Shakertown Stakes – Grade 2
It looked straightforward on paper and it turned out that way on turf, as the brilliantly fast Golden Pal began his campaign with an utterly dominant performance in the Shakertown.
The four-year-old Uncle Mo colt, described by trainer Wesley Ward as the best he’d ever had, did nothing to dent that opinion here, breaking on top as usual and setting a fearsome gallop that his rivals could not contend with, blitzing the first quarter in 20.94.
The 3-5 favourite kept barrelling along, widening his advantage in mid-stretch and crossing the line clear by four and three-quarter lengths from boxcar longshot Johnny Unleashed, who was in turn three-quarters of a length ahead of Gear Jockey. The clock showed 1:02 and one-fifth.
“He’s a special horse. I’ve never had anything like him,” said Ward. Winning jockey Irad Ortiz was equally impressed, saying: “He’s the best turf sprinter I’ve ever ridden.”
This took Golden Pal’s record to six-for-nine lifetime, with the long-term plan a third Breeders’ Cup victory to add to his wins in the Juvenile Turf Sprint and the Turf Sprint. Before then, Golden Pal will once again travel to Britain for the G1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, over a straight five furlongs.
Prevalence prevails in style
Commonwealth Stakes – Grade 3
It was a bonanza weekend for Godolphin, spearheaded by Speaker’s Corner in the G1 Carter at Aqueduct and boosted by the continued progress of Prevalence, who made his stakes breakthrough with a convincing win in the Commonwealth.
The Medaglia D’Oro colt sat out most of 2021 but has been making up for lost time, and this was a lifetime best. The 5-2 second-choice pressed the brisk fractions set by favourite Nashville until Tyler Gaffalione moved him up to challenge as they exited the turn, whereupon Nashville quickly threw in his hand to leave Prevalence alone on the lead.
He made the best of the situation, rolling to the line without facing a challenge to win by two and a quarter lengths, stopping the clock in 1:22 and two-fifths on a sloppy, sealed track. Longshot Long Range Toddy held on to the silver medal by a head from the rallying O Besos, while Nashville dropped out to finish last.
“We just gave him a little bit of time last year, there was nothing major wrong with him,” said trainer Brendan Walsh. “It was a tough field today and I think he was impressive.”
Prevalence, whose half-brother Emirates Road won a maiden earlier in the afternoon for the same connections, is now four-for-seven lifetime and is set for a class hike, with his next stop likely to be the G1 Churchill Downs at the Louisville track on May 7.
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