Sophomore sprinters took to the Keeneland dirt and turf for a pair of Sunday stakes and delivered performances indicative of bright futures.
The star of the afternoon was Key of Life, a Brad Cox trainee who delivered victory as the 0.47-1 favorite in the Beaumont (G2) for three-year-old fillies sprinting seven furlongs and 184 feet on dirt. Serving as the final stop on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, the Beaumont awarded Kentucky Oaks (G1) qualification points on a 10-4-3-2-1 basis to the top five finishers.
However, Key of Life seems destined to keep sprinting for the time being. She entered the Beaumont with four victories from seven starts, all in sprints. At Keeneland last fall, she dominated a $100,000 allowance optional claimer before wiring the Myrtlewood S. by 6 3/4 lengths. And just three weeks prior to the Beaumont, she crushed the Purple Martin S. at Oaklawn Park by 3 1/4 lengths.
The Beaumont marked Key of Life’s longest test to date, and after dashing to the lead through sharp fractions of :22.24 and :44.87, the daughter of Mo Town grew a bit leg-weary down the lane. A late charge from Aqueduct’s Ruthless S. winner Interpolate threatened to produce an upset, but Key of Life dug deep in the final strides to preserve a neck triumph in 1:27.32.
“She jumped pretty well and she has a ton of speed, so I was able to get myself on the lead and from there she got the job done,” winning jockey Flavien Prat told Keeneland. “Brad did a great job getting her ready. She really dug in (when Interpolate came to her outside in the stretch). But as soon as the other horse got close, she really dug in and gave me another gear to get us to the wire.”
Stonewall Star finished a distant third, followed by She’s On the Rocks, Opus Forty Two, Shoplifter, and Fun and Feisty.
“The last eighth of a mile (I was) sweating it out,” said Cox. “I don’t know how much farther she wants to go or if she wants to go any farther at all. I think she’s probably better at three-quarters, 6 1/2 (furlongs), but we’re glad to get the victory today.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Gaslight Dancer returned from a long layoff to win the Palisades S. for three-year-olds dashing 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. Last year’s Futurity (G3) runner-up hadn’t started since recording a sixth-place finish in the one-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) last November, and dropping down in class and distance clearly worked wonders for the son of City of Light.
When the gates opened, longshot Bushido broke like a rocket and carved out fast fractions of :21.12 and :44.43 while stretching out the 12-horse field over nearly a dozen lengths. Gaslight Dancer was content to settle a few lengths off the early tempo before rallying down the homestretch to score by 1 1/2 lengths over stretch runners Two of a Kind and Chiringo.
The final time over a good course was 1:02.71. Tyler Gaffalione guided the winner. Crispy Cat, Private Creed, No Nay Hudson, Fadethenoise, Bushido, Golden Nugget, Storm Daddy, Damon’s Mound, and Olazabal completed the order of finish.
Gaslight Dancer’s neck defeat in the Futurity stands as his only defeat from three starts sprinting on turf, but trainer Mike Maker believes longer distances are within Gaslight Dancer’s wheelhouse.
“I know last year he was pretty headstrong,” Maker said. “(Today) he looked like he settled nice, saved ground and kicked home. Last year, he was all out wanting to go for the lead. I still think he’ll stretch out to a mile.”