The big news with Curlin babies today involves one who hasn’t run in a week and a half: Keen Ice has been transferred to the barn of Todd Pletcher. Plans have not been solidified, but quotes from today suggest that Saratoga and (eventually) the Breeders’ Cup Classic are on the radar.
Crawford stated that this was a move that Donegal had done before, moving a horse in order to try something different. Donegal has done it — it was a move they did very successfully in 2014 with Finnegans Wake.
He was in the Romans barn for much of his career. He was solid enough: he won the 2014 Arlington Handicap, and placed in a host of graded stakes races for Romans. However, after a fifth-place finish in the 2014 Arlington Million, they moved him out west to trainer Peter Miller. The move worked. He was second in the John Henry Turf Classic, and though the Breeders’ Cup Turf proved a bit too far, he then rattled off three straight graded stakes wins out west. He later shipped to Kentucky, and annexed the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic last May, his first Grade I triumph.
Of course, the turf division out west during Finnegans Wake’s run was not the deepest it has ever been. That said, it was the right circuit for Finnegans Wake at the time. He moved there, he was competitive, and he was exactly in the place where he needed to be to shift from a typical undersides type to a frequent winner.
Will this work for Keen Ice? Who knows?
Keen Ice will likely always need pace to chase, no matter who trains him, where he runs, or what class he runs against. After the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 I would have unequivocally made that statement that he needs pace — though after his disappointing performance in the World Cup from farther off the pace, perhaps an experiment closer to the pace may make sense over a track he does not hate.
That is the mystique and yet also the frustration of horse racing: you can never know that for sure, since you cannot just ask a horse.
No one can tell for sure whether the move to Todd Pletcher’s barn will wake Keen Ice up in the same way the move to Peter Miller’s barn will wake Finnegans Wake up. But, what does Keen Ice have to lose in moving from one quality trainer to another? What does Donegal Racing have to lose in making that move?
Not a thing.
The move is worth trying. Best case scenario, we see Keen Ice back in the winners’ circle later this year. Worst case scenario, we don’t, but his connections will not have to wonder what would have happened had they made this change.