Master Of The Seas Set to Sail in MM Mile

April 11, 2024

Master of The Seas prevailed in the Breeders’ Cup Mile under William Buick (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Breeders’ Cup Winner Ready For 2024 Debut In Maker’s Mark Mile

• Shirl’s Speight Returns To Scene Of Biggest Victory
• Didia (ARG) Goes For Grade 1 Glory In Saturday’s Jenny Wiley
• Dilger (IRE) Will Stir Emotions In Stonestreet Lexington
• Stonestreet Lexington Will Determine Kentucky Derby Chances For Hades
• Local Apprentice Bealmear Fulfills Dream Of Riding At Keeneland

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Keeneland Press Release

LEXINGTON, Ky.—Godolphin’s Master of The Seas (IRE), last seen posting a nose victory over fellow Godolphin runner Mawj (IRE) in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) Presented by PDJF at Santa Anita, will make his 2024 debut Friday in the $600,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1).

“He is a worthy favorite,” said trainer Charlie Appleby, who arrived at Keeneland Thursday morning. “He broke his maiden on soft ground, and he’s won a Group 2 on soft.”

Master of The Seas is following the same path that Appleby plotted last year for Modern Games (IRE), who started 2023 in the Maker’s Mark Mile with a runner-up finish.

“At home in England, there are a lot of penalties for top-rated horses and here there are more spots, more opportunities,” Appleby said. “But you have to have the right horse to come here. This gives you the chance to learn the patterns … formats for later on (in North America) and it gives them experience.”

In addition to Master of The Seas, Appleby will saddle Naval Power (GB) for Godolphin. Naval Power has won six of seven career races with his most recent victory coming in the Singspiel (G2) at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai off a 13-month layoff.

“He has won on soft ground, and this will give him a chance to gain experience over here,” Appleby said.

In Saturday’s $600,000 Jenny Wiley (G1) for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles, the lightly raced English Rose (IRE) will represent Godolphin.

“She is dropping down in trip (from 1 1/8 miles), and it will be a little on the sharper side for her,” Appleby said about English Rose, who has won three of four races. “We are looking toward targets like the ($500,000) Diana (G1) at Saratoga (on July 13 going 1 1/8 miles).”

Appleby has seven runners here, two of which already have run. Musical Act (IRE) was fifth in last Friday’s Transylvania (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select, and Mischief Magic (IRE) was second in last Saturday’s Shakertown (G2). Still to come next weekend are Bold Act (IRE) and Silver Knott (GB) in the VisitLEX Elkhorn (G2).

“They are all looking good, and I am happy with them,” Appleby said.

Shirl’s Speight Returns To Scene Of Biggest Victory

Charles Fipke’s homebred Shirl’s Speight can join some select company Friday should he prevail in the 36th running of the $600,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1).

Winner of the 2022 running of the Maker’s Mark Mile by a nose, Shirl’s Speight could join Wise Dan (2013-2014) and Kip Deville (2007-2008) as the two-time winners of the race. In 11 races since that triumph, Shirl’s Speight has not found the winner’s circle.

“Hard to believe, but he has been running in all of the big ones with a couple of seconds,” trainer Roger Attfield said Thursday morning as a steady rain beat down. “He’s been doing well since his last race, which was the Pegasus (World Cup Turf Invitational-G1 on Jan. 27).”

Shirl’s Speight has raced twice at Keeneland with his other start resulting in a runner-up finish at 55-1 odds in the 2022 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) Presented by PDJF. His victory in the Maker’s Mark Mile came over a turf course listed as good; a condition that is possible Friday given two days of rain in Lexington.

“Hopefully the race stays on the grass,” Attfield said. “He has won a couple on ‘good’ courses.”

The goal for Shirl’s Speight this year is a return to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held at Del Mar Nov. 1-2. His schedule will not be anything like 2023 in which he ran in Japan and Dubai.

“Last year his schedule got all messed up with going to Japan, and he had to miss the summer getting over the trip there and to Dubai,” Attfield said.

Attfield said this is the final year of racing for the 7-year-old Shirl’s Speight, but the next generation is ready to get started here Saturday. Ready for Shirl, a 3-year-old half-sister to Shirl’s Speight, is scheduled to make her debut in Saturday’s fifth race going 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

Maker’s Mark Mile Field

Didia (ARG) Goes For Grade 1 Glory In Saturday’s Jenny Wiley Named For Revered Horseman

With a steady rain coming down Wednesday morning and more of the same in the forecast for the next two days, the question posed to trainer Ignacio Correas IV was a pretty easy one.

How does Didia (ARG) handle a soft turf course?

“Beats me. She’s never run on a soft course,” Correas said of the 6-year-old daughter of Orpen who figures to be one of the main players in Saturday’s $600,000 Jenny Wiley (G1) to be run at 1 1/16 over the Keeneland turf course. “But the Orpens tend to like it.”

Owned by Merriebelle Stable and Resolute Racing, Didia arrived in Correas’ barn in the spring of 2022 following two open-length victories in Group 1 company in Argentina. In those two years, Didia has had all of her timed works at Keeneland save for two last fall at Santa Anita before the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) and one at Gulfstream Park before the TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational (G2).

Didia has compiled an 8-6-1-0 mark in North America with the lone defeats coming in Grade 1 tests with her only off-the-board finish coming in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in November in which she was 10th.

“That was a big race for her (despite the finish),” Correas said. “A very good race to only get beat 4½ lengths by some of the best horses in the world.”

Didia opened her 2024 campaign with a narrow victory as the favorite in a field of 11 in the Pegasus on Jan. 27. Jose Ortiz was aboard that day for the first time and he will have the mount Saturday.

Named For Revered Horseman, Dilger (IRE) Will Stir Emotions In Saturday’s Stonestreet Lexington

Mike Ryan’s Dilger (IRE) will kindle plenty of emotion when he goes to the post for the 42nd running of the $400,000 Stonestreet Lexington (G3) on Saturday. The 3-year-old colt is named for Gerry Dilger, a cherished Central Kentucky breeder, owner and bloodstock agent who died at age 61 in 2020.

“Gerry is in my mind every day,” said Ryan, who bred Dilger under his Demers Bloodstock banner and named him for his close friend. “He was a terrific human being, wonderful friend and great family man. He was respected and admired by everyone. We were friends and business partners for 40 years, and he left a void in my life. I asked the Dilger (family) if I could name him in Gerry’s honor, and they were delighted. I thought it would be appropriate to name a horse that I really liked who would run in our own colors in Gerry’s memory.”

Starting from post 3 under Tyler Gaffalione for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., Dilger enters the Stonestreet Lexington off a nose victory at Gulfstream Park on March 16 in a maiden race. Gaffalione was aboard.

“He has a lot of talent,” Ryan said about Dilger. “We are trying to figure out if he wants to go two turns; he is bred to go two turns. He likes to have a horse (in front) to run at. That is when he is at his best.” 

By leading European-based sire Lope de Vega, Dilger is from the family of 2022 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) winner Zandon. Ryan, as agent, purchased Zandon at Keeneland’s 2020 September Yearling Sale.

Gerry Dilger, a native of County Clare, Ireland, came to the U.S. at 19. In 1994, he established Dromoland Farm in Lexington, which soon evolved into a leading breeder and consignor. In the name of Santa Rosa Partners, he and Ryan bred 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming, sold by Dromoland at Keeneland September.

The following year, Dilger was honored with the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association’s annual Wild Geese Award, presented to an individual who has excelled outside of his or her native Ireland while “flying the Irish flag with pride on a global stage.”

Now he also is remembered through the Gerry Dilger Equine Scholarship, which was established soon after his death for young people interested in careers in the Thoroughbred industry.

On Saturday, Dilger’s widow, Erin, and two of their three children, Claire and Joseph, are expected to be at Keeneland. Ryan and the Dilgers’ other child, Grace, will be unable to attend.

“The Stonestreet is in our hometown,” Ryan said. “My family will be there, and the Dilgers will be there. There will be lots of sentiment and emotion like the day (the colt) won at Gulfstream.”

Stonestreet Lexington Will Determine Kentucky Derby Chances For Hades

Hades scoring the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park. (Lauren King)

Saturday’s Stonestreet Lexington (G3), the final race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, offers a path to Churchill Downs for the first Saturday in May for D. J. Stable and Robert Cotran’s Hades.

The $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve is limited to the top 20-point earners and invitees from the series of races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby that began in September.

Trained by Joe Orseno, Hades sits in 24th place on the leaderboard with 30 points. The Stonestreet Lexington offers 42 points on a 20-10-6-4-2 scale for the first- through fifth-place finishers.

With a victory, Hades would be in the top 20; a runner-up finish would put him just out of the top 20.

“We need the points. I’m not going to go there to be No. 21 (on the also-eligible list),” Orseno said of the decision to run in the Stonestreet Lexington.

Hades won his first three races highlighted by a victory in the Holy Bull (G3) over reigning 2-year-old champion Fierceness. In his most recent start, he finished fifth in the Curlin Florida Derby (G1) Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa.

“He didn’t get a chance to run in the Florida Derby,” Orseno said of Hades, who was bumped at the start and finished far behind Fierceness, who won by 13½ lengths.

Orseno will be making an equipment change for Saturday.

“I always thought he would be better with blinkers, but he kept winning and I couldn’t make the change,” Orseno said. “He’ll have blinkers here; little ones.”

Two other entrants Saturday could move onto the Derby bubble with a victory: Encino and Liberal Arts.

Godolphin’s Encino has 20 points, and a victory would boost him to 40 points, good for 21st on the leaderboard. Trained by Brad Cox, Encino has won two of three races, including the John Battaglia Memorial (L) at Turfway Park on March 2.

Stephen and Evan Ferraro’s Liberal Arts has 19 points, and a victory would boost him to 39 points. Trained by Robbie Medina, Liberal Arts was rank going into the first turn of the Arkansas Derby (G1) on March 30 and interfered with two horses. He was subsequently disqualified from sixth and placed eighth.

Local Apprentice Bealmear Fulfills Dream Of Riding At Keeneland

Bealmear winning on Mahomey Feb. 2 at Oaklawn. (Coady Photography)
Bealmear winning on Mahomey Feb. 2 at Oaklawn. (Coady Photography)

Like many kids growing up around horses, Joe Bealmear had visions of being of jockey. But his vision was specific: He wanted to ride races at Keeneland. On Wednesday, Bealmear’s dream came true when he finished second aboard Andrew Ritter’s first-time starter Tuxedo Park in Race 2. 

Bealmear, 19, is the son of former jockeys Laura and Ben Bealmear, who both rode races at Keeneland during their careers. His mother won four races from 98 career mounts as Laura Loveland from 1980-1984 before transitioning to training. His father had 66 wins in 623 races from 1979-1982 before becoming a veterinarian.

Growing up in the Lexington area, Joe Bealmear spent much of his time at Keeneland.

“My first job at the race track was galloping horses here,” he said. “I spent years with the people on the backstretch at Keeneland. So it is just so awesome for it all to pay off and finally get to ride a race.”

Click to watch video on X.

Bealmear, who began his riding career last November at Turfway Park, has 16 wins – all at Oaklawn Park. He plans to divide his time between Oaklawn and Keeneland and then continue his career at Churchill Downs and Horseshoe Indianapolis.

His parents were at Keeneland for his local debut. In a field of a dozen 2-year-olds racing 4½ furlongs on a sloppy track, Tuxedo Park and Bealmear were quickly away from the 7 post and raced just behind the leaders in the early stages. They were second in midstretch but were unable to catch the front-running Raise the Bar, who cruised to a 2¼-length victory. 

“It was awesome,” Bealmear said about the performance. “I felt so familiar with the track. And for the horse to run that good for me was really special. He is a great horse from (trainer) Paul McEntee’s great team. I am thankful to be here and be a part of it.”

Prospective Fields For Upcoming Stakes

Friday, April 19 race. Entries taken Friday, April 12.

$300,000 Baird Doubledogdare (G3) – Loved (trainer Brendan Walsh). Possible: Curl Girl (Phil D’Amato), Heavenly Sunday (Brad Cox).

Saturday, April 20 races. Entries taken Saturday, April 13.

$350,000 VisitLEX Elkhorn (G2) – Bold Act (IRE) (Charlie Appleby), Highland Chief (IRE) (Graham Motion), Silver Knott (GB) (Appleby), Wentru (Will Walden).

$300,000 Ben Ali (G3) – Archie the Giza (Robbie Medina), Dynamic One (Todd Pletcher), Happy American (Neil Pessin), Kingsbarns (Pletcher), War Campaign (Phil Sims).

Spring Meet Leaders

Through April 10 (4 days of 16-day season) 

JockeyStartsWins2nd3rdPurses
Tyler Gaffalione28734$1,415,603
Jose Ortiz23643$693,097
Irad Ortiz Jr.25565$1,090,502
Luis Saez22303$523,556
TrainerStartsWins2nd3rdPurses
Wesley Ward14422$318,270
Chad Brown8300$758,455

Trainers Phil Bauer, Brad Cox, Cherie DeVaux, Kenny McPeek, Bill Mott 
and Todd Pletcher have two wins each.

OwnerWins
Red, White and Blue Racing (Randy Gullat)2
Rigney Racing (Richard Rigney)2

Second Week Special Events

Year-round

Official Keeneland Tours. Click here for availability and to purchase.

Through Aug. 16

Keeneland Library unveiled the exhibit The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers on Feb. 23, 2023, that was to run through Aug. 31. (Keeneland photo)

Keeneland Library is recognizing this year’s historic running of the Toyota Blue Grass at its free exhibit, A Rite of Spring: The 100th Running of the Blue Grass Stakes. The exhibit features photographs that capture race highlights curated from Keeneland Library collections and public submissions from professional and amateur photographers along with memorabilia from noted jockeys Bill Shoemaker, Mike Manganello and Chris Antley and celebrated runners WhirlawayRiva RidgeSpectacular Bid and Strike the Gold.

Open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Library is located on the Keeneland campus. Enter Keeneland at Gate 1 on Keeneland Blvd. and take the first right on Entertainment Ct. The Library is to the left of the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center.

Click here for the virtual companion to the exhibit.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday

The Hill. Keeneland’s popular tailgating area is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the Spring Meet, weather permitting. NOTE: Due to rain accumulation this week, operations on The Hill will be suspended on Friday, April 12.

No ticket or reservation is required for The Hill, located adjacent to the Keene Barn & Entertainment Center and accessible via Gate 1 (at Man o’ War Blvd.) or Gate 4 (off Van Meter Road on the east side of Keeneland).

Fans on The Hill can watch the racing action via a jumbo TV and place their bets in a wagering tent while they enjoy live music presented by The Burl, food trucks and handicapping assistance from BETologists. Complimentary shuttles to the track are offered.

For fans who want to elevate their experience, Keeneland again is partnering with RevelXP to offer tailgate packages for groups of any size. RevelXP will organize tailgates by furnishing a designated tent, catering, amenities and more. Visit Keeneland.com/tailgating for full details.

The Hill is open from 8 a.m. to 60 minutes after the last race. Amenities are available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

The Keeneland Shop is open from 9 a.m. to 30 minutes following the final race. Milliners Corner, Wagering Central and Finish Line locations also are open on race days.

Friday, April 12

Spring Handicapping Challenge. Available only at the track, the Spring Handicapping Challenge offers one berth to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) in November at Del Mar and as many as four spots to the 2025 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas. Players will wager a live bankroll of $250 on Keeneland races. Click here for more information.

Saturday, April 13

Sunrise Trackside (Keeneland Photo)

Sunrise Trackside. This free Saturday morning program from 8-10 a.m. is geared toward families and offers a unique view of Thoroughbreds during training hours. Fans can enjoy coffee and donuts at the Starting Gate concession stand while watching horses train. Children’s activities on the first floor of the Grandstand will include a visit with Keeneland mascot Buckles, face painting and games. Mini tours will be available at the Welcome Stand near the Paddock.

Every Saturday, the John Deere Tractor Break will take place during the renovation period on the main track from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and include a drawing for a kid’s tractor from John Deere/Meade Tractor. Meet a horse from the Life Adventure Center of Versailles, Kentucky, will be offered in the Walking Ring from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Grade 1 Gamble. The signature handicapping contest of the Spring Meet is the Grade 1 Gamble, which Keeneland is hosting in cooperation with XpressBet, NYRABets, 4NJ Bets, HPI and TVG on the day of the Jenny Wiley (G1), Stonestreet Lexington (G3) and Giant’s Causeway (G3). Entry fee is $3,500 with $2,500 going to a live bankroll and $1,000 to the prize fund. Contestants may play at Keeneland or on one of the aforementioned ADW platforms. Prizes include an estimated $75,000 for first place (based on 300 entries), as many as six berths in the BCBC and 10 spots in the NHC. Click here to register and for more information.

Sunday, April 14

Rolling out the flag on Heroes Day. (Keeneland Photo)

Heroes Day. Event honors members of the military (active duty and veterans), first responders, health care workers and their families. Heroes and their families will receive free general admission, reserved Grandstand seating and a complimentary meal at the North Terrace provided by Marriott Griffin Gate. The day will have special programming on the track, including a flag rollout by the Henry Clay High School Junior ROTC and the singing of “God Bless America” by Dr. Everett McCorvey, and honoree recognitions in the Winner’s Circle.

A POW-MIA Chair of Honor will be displayed near the Paddock to bring awareness to past and current POW-MIA military members through a partnership with The Rolling Thunder Kentucky Chapter 5.

Each hero is eligible to receive up to six complimentary tickets. Visit https://keeneland.com/racing/heroes-dayfor more information and to reserve complimentary tickets.

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