Based in Europe but undefeated in North America and already a U.S. champion, Modern Games looms a standout in his four-year-old debut Friday in the $600,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland.
The Godolphin homebred, voted champion turf male last season following tallies in the Woodbine Mile (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Keeneland, will have regular rider William Buick in from Europe to ride for trainer Charlie Appleby.
The son of Dubawi has two other top-level wins to his credit, including the 2021 edition of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Del Mar in his first trip to the U.S. He’s also a classic winner, having notched the French 2000 Guineas (G1) at Longchamp in his season debut last term.
So imposing on paper for the Maker’s Mark Mile is Modern Games, he owns a hefty 196.3 Brisnet Prime Power rating for the feature, nearly 30 points higher than his closest competitor.
While Modern Games’ seven rivals have not reach such lofty heights, there is some substance to them. Emmanuel, for example, is a three-time graded winner who enters off back-to-back scores in the Tampa Bay (G3) and Canadian Turf (G3). Speaking Scout shortens up a furlong after winning the Hollywood Derby (G1) in December and closing for third in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) in late January.
Dr. Zempf, who spent his first two seasons racing in Europe, is Group 1-placed and captured his U.S. debut in a March 10 allowance at Gulfstream. Up to the Mark, who also enjoyed allowance success at Gulfstream over the winter, dives deep for his stakes debut but remains with plenty of upside.
In Love, who captured the Keeneland Turf Mile (G1) back in October 2021, should appreciate the return to turf, though might be well beyond that form now. Chez Pierre impressively won his stakes debut at Laurel last April, but failed to fire in his return from an extended break in the Feb. 4 Tampa Bay won by Emmanuel. The field is rounded out by Grade 2 scorer Cabo Spirit, recently third in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) at Santa Anita.
The $250,000 Limestone S., a 5 1/2-furlong turf dash for three-year-old fillies, is led by the Wesley Ward-trained duo of Love Reigns and Lady Hollywood, both of whom were last seen going unplaced against the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) in November.