Pan Am winner Kaigun seeks to double up in Elkhorn

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

April 20th, 2016

In two prior trips over Keeneland's turf course, in 2014, Kaigun had the unfortunate experience of running into dual grass champion and Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Maker's 46 Mile (G1) and Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). Now established at longer distances, Kaigun hopes to reach the Keeneland winner's circle Saturday following the $250,000 Elkhorn (G2) at 1 1/2 miles.

Having dabbled in marathon events earlier in his career, Kaigun has now fully embraced the long game. A solid fourth in the Canadian International (G1) in October, Kaigun followed with runner-up finishes in the Red Smith H. (G3), W.L. McKnight H. (G3), John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3), and Mac Diarmida (G2). He finally snapped a nine-race losing streak last out in the Pan American (G2) at Gulfstream, edging Wake Forest by a head.

The Elkhorn marks the fourth meeting between Kaigun and Da Big Hoss. Claimed for $50,000 last June, Da Big Hoss has subsequently won three times, including Grade 3 scores in the Kentucky Turf Cup and Connally Turf Cup, the later by 4 3/4 lengths. However, the son of Lemon Drop Kid finished behind Kaigun in the McKnight and Mac Diarmida, the latter an unexpected dull performance following that sharp Sam Houston score.

Up With Birds, Canada's Horse of the Year in 2013, is seeking his first victory since the 2014 Nijinsky (G2) at Woodbine. The Graham Motion charge had a brief campaign of six starts last season, the best of his three placings coming in the Canadian International when second best.

Grade 1 veteran Twilight Eclipse is also looking to find his old form. Winner of the Man o' War (G1) and a rough-trip third in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) last season, Twilight Eclipse was empty in both the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) on softish ground and last time in the Mac Diarmida, an effort trainer Tom Albertrani reportedly blamed on the seven-year-old's dislike of the Gulfstream turf.

The field of eight also includes Idolo Porteno, who captured South America's most prestigious event, the Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini (G1) in Argentina, back in 2014 over the Elkhorn distance. Idolo Porteno made his U.S. debut in last month's Razorback H. (G2) at Oaklawn, finishing a solid third behind Upstart.

(Adam Coglianese Photography)