I have been following Keen Ice since before he debuted. He finished fourth in his first race, a five and a half furlong maiden race at Ellis. He was well-beaten that day, and starting to run late. I hardly worried, though. Curlin babies tend to develop with age, and five and a half furlongs seemed far too short given both sides of his pedigree.
Keen Ice wowed me on September 6. That day he stretched to a mile, and looked hopeless turning for home. Starbound and Tiznow R J had pulled so far in front that they were in a race of their own. Keen Ice finally figured out that it was time to go — and go, he did! He motored home to nail them just in time. Welcome to my Derby radar, Keen Ice.
He proved in the Breeders’ Futurity (GI) that he could weave through horses and show tenacity late. He fought a wicked speed bias in the Remsen to get home third in his first 1 1/8 mile attempt. Keen Ice’s dead-closing style hardly suited the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, though he actually kept pace with Upstart late. Upstart freaked that day, so that hardly casts aspersion on Keen Ice to say that. He then travelled to a track friendlier to his style, the Fair Grounds, and racked up some more points. He finished a late-running third in the Risen Star, and got ten more Derby points finishing fourth in the Louisiana Derby.
That made his total 22. Team Keen Ice had a bit more confidence in 22 points than I did. I was hoping he would turn up in either the Arkansas Derby or the Lexington, that Dale Romans would pull a Medal Count with him. Instead, they sent him to Churchill and started training him up for the Derby, hoping there would be a few defections.
One Lucky Dane departed the Derby trail on Saturday, having been injured in a work. Fortunately, he is on the road to recovery, but will miss a few months of racing. That put Keen Ice in 21st. Trainer Todd Pletcher had five horses in the top 20 in points, but had only committed Carpe Diem and Materiality to the big race. Itsaknockout, Madefromlucky, and Stanford all remained contingent on their last big blowout.
Those blowouts happened this morning. Itsaknockout worked well, holding his own against Materiality. Stanford worked sharply. Madefromlucky, despite urging, could not keep up with Stanford.
Assuming Keen Ice stays healthy between now and a week from Saturday, this means that Curlin will have a Derby horse in each of his first three crops.
Best of all, this means I will be seeing Keen Ice race — in person — a week from Saturday. I am going to the Derby with Candice, and I am thrilled to be going to my first Derby no matter what. However, the fact that a son of Curlin is in the field? The fact that not just any son of Curlin, but the particular one who I had tabbed as my Derby Horse since last fall, will be in the Derby?
My hair will be Donegal green, and I will be cheering for Keen Ice until I am hoarse.
Congratulations, Keen Ice, and good luck running the distance that you are bred and meant to run.