Keertana Wins The Very One

Keertana quickens best in The Very One

Although Chilean superstar Belle Watling (Chi) (Dushyantor) set snail-like splits in Sunday's $98,000 The Very One S. (G3) at Gulfstream Park, she was unable to punch home in her U.S. debut and wound up fourth behind Barbara Hunter's homebred KEERTANA (Johar). Producing the most potent turn of foot in the mad dash for home, the Tom Proctor mare outkicked 24-1 longshot Zapparition (Ghostzapper) to score by a half-length. Keertana was sent off as the 5-2 third choice in the short field of five, despite her near-miss in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) two back, and returned $7.20, $3.60 and $2.60.

Keertana capitalized on a dream trip engineered by Jose Lezcano, who positioned her just to the outside of Belle Watling through farcical fractions of :26 1/5, :53, 1:20 and 1:45 on the firm turf. In contrast, defending champion and 6-5 favorite Changing Skies (Ire) (Sadler's Wells) was bottled up on the fence, and never saw daylight until it was far too late.

On the final turn, Keertana and Zapparition quickened, and the turf marathon suddenly turned into a furious sprint for home. Belle Watling couldn't keep pace, and Changing Skies was checked hard behind her when attempting to make room on the inside. Meanwhile, Keertana struck the front. Zapparition was moving right along with her, however, and the two drew clear to fight out the finish. The longest shot on the board tried her best to spring the upset, but Keertana was too strong to pass. The winner smoked her final furlong in :10 4/5 to complete 1 3/8 miles in 2:19 1/5.

'I was a little worried that we were going so slow,' Lezcano said. 'I didn't really know how good the horse on the lead was.'

'After the first half-mile,' Proctor said, 'when they went by me, I thought, 'what is this?' It was like a mile race after they warmed up for the first half.'

Another 1 3/4 lengths astern in third came Musical Rain (Ire) (Val Royal [Fr]). Belle Watling was a one-paced fourth, and Changing Skies brought up the rear. The stewards held an inquiry into Changing Skies' woes at the eighth-pole, but allowed the original order of finish to stand.

Belle Watling's connections were not discouraged by her performance, considering that she hadn't raced since October 21. The reigning Chilean Horse of the Year had won 13 of 16, and her last 10 races in a row, before being imported to the United States in December.

'There was not a lot of speed in the race,' jockey Edgar Prado said. 'She was comfortable. Around the turn I got into her and she gave me a run -- she just couldn't sustain it. She hadn't run in a while, so hopefully she'll move forward off this race. I still think she's a really nice horse.'

'She's still coming back,' trainer Patrick Biancone said. 'It's a long process. We didn't bring her here to win a Grade 3, so we'll get her back. We'll make sure she came back OK and see what's in the future.

'We want to keep her running long, so maybe the mile-and-a-half race next month,' Biancone said, alluding to the March 20 Orchid (G3), which could serve up a rematch with Keertana.

'I don't think this race took a whole lot out of her,' Proctor said of the winner. 'I might even run her back in a race (in Tampa) and then maybe come back here for the Orchid. When it starts to get hot, we'll probably give her a little break.'

Keertana, who has amassed $809,371 in earnings from her 23-9-5-5 record, has won or placed in 11 stakes. As a three-year-old in 2009, the dark bay captured the Regret S. (G3) and Indiana Downs Distaff S. and placed in the Garden City S. (G1), Mrs. Revere S. (G2), Lake Placid S. (G2) and Valley View S. (G3). Last season, Keertana placed in the Mint Julep H. (G3) and De La Rose S. over the summer, but showed an entirely new dimension when stepped up in trip for the 1 3/8-mile Glens Falls H. (G3), where she exploded to an impressive 3 1/4-length triumph. She concluded her 2010 campaign with a hard-charging third in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, beaten all of a half-length, and opened 2011 with a dead-heat allowance victory at Tampa Bay Downs on January 23.

The Kentucky-bred was produced by the unraced Storm Cat mare Motokiks, making her a half-sister to last year's Garden City, Regret and Arlington Oaks (G3) runner-up Snow Top Mountain (Najran). She has two other younger half-siblings, a juvenile colt named Moe Moes Rock Ten (Rock Hard Ten) and an unnamed yearling 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).



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