Glen Falls Handicap

Keertana excels on step up in trip in Glens Falls

Going into Monday's $100,000 Glens Falls H. (G3) at Saratoga, the focus of attention was champion Forever Together (Belong to Me), who was stretching out to 1 3/8 miles for the first time in hopes of snapping a six-race losing skid. While the change in distance didn't help the 3-5 favorite, it did spark an improved effort from Barbara Hunter's homebred KEERTANA (Johar). In her first attempt beyond 1 1/8 miles, the Tom Proctor trainee powered through along the inside in the stretch, blew past Casablanca Smile (Chi) (Ocean Terrace), and kicked clear to win impressively. Forever Together was along belatedly for third.

As expected, Go Ask Alex (Afleet Alex), the only three-year-old filly in the field, took up the pacesetting role and carved out fractions of :23 4/5, :47 3/5 and 1:12 3/5. Casablanca Smile stalked in second until the final turn, when she crept forward to engage the leader through one mile in 1:37 1/5. Forever Together was still unhurried as she loped along well off the pace, but the late-running Keertana, who had bided her time behind Forever Together, already began to advance up the hedge for Jose Lezcano.

Casablanca Smile put Go Ask Alex away at the top of the stretch and edged clear, only to find Keertana bursting through the opening to her inside. Keertana delivered the coup de grace and left Casablanca Smile well behind, drawing off by 3 1/4 lengths in a final time of 2:12 3/5 on the firm turf. The 5-1 second choice, Keertana returned $12.80, $5.90 and $2.80.

"I love this filly," Lezcano enthused. "We were way back, then I had to check, and after that I lost my whip. I said 'Oh man, I feel so bad; I'm going to lose this race.' I love that my filly was able to win. When I asked her, she kicked it up very well. She had plenty of gas left."

"Her daddy won at a mile and a half, and her mother's father (Storm Cat) wanted to go a mile, so I figured a mile and three eighths would be perfect," Proctor said. "She was back a lot farther (than I expected), but when they went :47 and change, that was pretty good."

The 6-1 Casablanca Smile yielded $6.60 and $3 for finishing 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Forever Together, who paid $2.10 to show after rallying mildly on the outside. The exotics totaled $63.50 (exacta), $122.50 (trifecta) and $558 (3-1-9-7 superfecta) with Striking Dancer (Smart Strike) another neck away in fourth. Sweet and Flawless (Unbridled's Song), Kiawah Cat (Lemon Drop Kid), Go Ask Alex and Beauty O'Gwaun (Ire) (Rainbow Quest) completed the order of finish. Liberally (Ire) (Statue of Liberty) was withdrawn, along with the main-track-only McVictory (Victory Gallop).

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard was nonplussed by Forever Together's trip beneath jockey Julien Leparoux.

"She was sitting perfectly in the first half of the race," Sheppard noted, "but as they went on he let her drop farther and farther back, so then she had too much ground to make up."

"I don't know; that was a weird race," Leparoux said.

Keertana was earning her third stakes victory, having accounted for the 2009 Regret S. (G3) and Indiana Downs Distaff S. as a sophomore. The dark bay also placed in last season's Garden City S. (G1), Lake Placid S. (G2), Mrs. Revere S. (G2) and the second division of the Valley View S. (G3). Keertana kicked off her four-year-old campaign with scores in allowance/optional claiming company at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, but was narrowly beaten in her subsequent three outings in stakes. Third in the Mint Julep H. (G3), she went down by just a half-length when fifth in the Locust Grove H. (G3), and she was a troubled second in the August 4 De La Rose S. over the Spa's inner turf. Her Glens Falls coup advanced her mark to 19-7-5-4, $517,771.

The Kentucky-bred is out of the unraced Storm Cat mare Motokiks, making her a half-sister to current sophomore Snow Top Mountain (Najran). Promoted to victory via disqualification in the Arlington Oaks (G3), Snow Top Mountain has finished runner-up in the Hattie Moseley S. and Riskaverse S. in her past two at Saratoga. Motokiks has since produced a yearling colt named Moe Moes Rock Ten (Rock Hard Ten) and a 2010 colt by Afleet Alex.

Motokiks is herself a full sister to multiple German stakes victor Catoki and a half-sister to two-time Italian highweight and Group 1 hero Knifebox (Diesis [GB]) as well as multiple Grade 3 winner and Grade 1-placed Parochial (Mehmet). This is the family of multiple Grade 1 heroine Spoken Fur (Notebook).

Proctor mentioned that Keertana could start next in the October 2 Flower Bowl Invitational (G1) at Belmont, on the way to a possible tilt at the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Churchill on November 5.



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