When you sign-up through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more >
Check out our predictions and odds for the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland!
PIONEER OF MEDINA
CALL ME FAST
I Ortiz Jr
S Joseph Jr
RATTLE N ROLL
B J Hernandez Jr
*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.
A winner of three graded stakes in his last five starts, Skippylongstocking tops a field of seven older males in Saturday’s Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland.
Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., the son of Exaggerator finished a solid third in last summer’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. Since then he added wins in the West Virginia Derby and Harlan’s Holiday to close out his sophomore season.
Most recently, he was a convincing 3 1/4-length winner of the Grade 3 Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs six weeks ago.
Chief among his opposition in the 8 1/2-furlong Ben Ali will be the Todd Pletcher-trained Pioneer of Medina.
A 4-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile, he disappointed last out when sixth in the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic. Before that, he earned his first graded stakes score as a game-winner of the Grade 3 Mineshaft.
Another horse who merits strong consideration on Saturday is Tawny Port. Trained by Brad Cox, he has finished fifth in both starts this year, but was twice a graded stakes winner last year.
In his only previous start at Keeneland, Tawny Port was a rallying winner of the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes one year ago.
While he has not fired in every one of his 16-lifetime races, this son of Exaggerator has run a slew of strong races for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. While he has yet to break through against Grade 1 competition, he has proven to be extremely tough a notch below that level.
In fact, in his last three attempts at the Grade 3 level, he has won all three and has done it at three different tracks.
With the tactical speed to stay close early, and the finishing kick to get the job done, he is clearly the horse to beat in here under Irad Ortiz, Jr. He is the favorite, but I think the odds will be worth the risk. He is the top pick.
After a pretty good second behind Skippylongstocking in the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday on New Year’s Eve, both horses have come back to win graded stakes.
While the top pick tested the waters in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup before winning the Challenger Stakes, this Todd Pletcher trainee ventured to New Orleans where he won a tough battle in the Grade 3 Mineshaft.
Against the tougher competition, though, last time in the New Orleans Classic, he came up well short. He is probably deserving of being the second choice here, but I prefer a couple of others who can rally past him in the lane.
Although he has not done much lately, I believe this son of Pioneerof the Nile still fits in with this group. The winner of the Ohio Derby last year, also was a nice winner of the Lexington Stakes last spring at Keeneland.
Perhaps the return to comfortable surroundings will help him break out of the funk, which has seen him finish fifth in both of his starts this year.
Drawn to the outside, he should get a nice trip watching the early leaders under Flavien Prat and come with a nice run like he did one year ago at Keeneland. I see him as the biggest threat to the top pick.
Another multiple graded stakes winner, this son of Connect also had former success at Keeneland, taking the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity with a strong late run in 2021.
He was able to add three more stakes victories last year, although all came against a little lighter competition than he will find on Saturday.
Having only start this year, a decent fourth in the New Orleans Classic, he could be ready to move forward in his second try as an older horse. He will need to rally to do it, but there should be enough speed to set the table. He is in with a shot.
A few starts back this was one of the hotter older horses in the nation with two consecutive stakes wins at Fair Grounds.
Unfortunately, when the competition got just a little tougher his performance dropped and he did little in the last two.
He is always a threat to regain his best, but off his recent form, it’s tough to love his chances here. Like Tawny Port and Rattle N Roll, he wants to rally, but I like the other two just a bit better in this $300,000 test.
A nice allowance winner at Keeneland last fall, you cannot dismiss this son of Upstart on Saturday. Like the top two favorites, he has tactical speed for trainer Vicki Oliver, and should be involved early.
He faded out in his only start this year and was well beaten by Skippylongstocking at Tampa Bay Downs, but could improve in his second start of the year.
The big negative for him is that in many previous stakes attempts, he was never able to threaten late, other than the one that was taken off the turf. He wouldn’t shock me, but he still needs to prove his class before I bet him against this caliber of field.
The only horse in the field with little stakes experience, this son of Dialed In had won two straight allowance races gate to wire at Oaklawn Park, before his stakes debut last time.
It came in the Grade 3 Essex, where he did absolutely nothing. He did have trouble early, though, so that likely killed any chance he had. Still, I would have liked to see a better effort last time.
He does have the speed to be involved early, but I am not convinced that he wants any part of horses with this class.
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
© Rebel Penguin ApS 2023 (a subsidiary of Gaming Innovation Group Inc.)
We support responsible gambling. 21+ Only. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-Gambler.
WSN.com is run by iGaming Cloud Inc (a Gaming Innovation Group Subsidiary) and is registered with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) under affiliate vendor ID 89744, with the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) under certificate of registration number SWR-000148, approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board as a gaming service provider, under certificate registration number 117656-1, possesses a Vendor Minor sports betting license from the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission (account number 94414163), granted a vendor registration number VR007603-20-001 by the Michigan Gaming Control Board, an interim Sports Wagering Supplier license, under license number SWS 066, issued by the West Virginia Lottery Commission, a sports betting vendor registration, under registration number #100400, issued by the Director of Gaming Licensing and Investigations of the Virginia Lottery to operate in the State of Virginia, and a Vendor Registration issued by the Sports Wagering Committee of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation.
Advertising disclosure: WSN contains links to online retailers on its website. When people click on our affiliate links and make purchases, WSN earns a commission from our partners, including ESPN and various sportsbooks.