Tonight is about Keen Ice
by Laura Pugh
The beginning of the Travers was all about American Pharoah, but it ended up being all about Keen Ice…..or at least it should have.
Keen Ice, late maturing son of Curlin, finally put everything together in tonight’s Travers Stakes, earning his first grade one win. He had been knocking on the proverbial door since the beginning of the Triple Crown Trail. Starting with a steadily closing third in the Risen Star to a fast closing rush in the Haskell Invitational, Keen Ice has been one of the steadiest horses in training. Since the Kentucky Derby, his improvement between starts has been obvious, so obvious that several picked him as a longshot play in the Travers.
Keen Ice has never been the flashy type, but he just never stopped running. Like his father Curlin, once he got that big stride of his sorted out, he just keeps on running at you and today that never stop coming mentality earned him the Mid-Summer Derby. Sitting behind a solid pace, that saw Frosted unexpectedly engage American Pharoah in a speed duel, Keen Ice bided his time.
The first half went by in 48.3 and then six furlongs in a testing 1.11.48. American Pharoah and Frosted were locked in battle, and for a brief second it looked as if Frosted might get the better of Pharoah, but Pharoah turned him away. After finally ridding himself of the pestering presence of Frosted, it looked like Pharoah would pull of a feat only completed by Whirlaway, but Keen Ice had other plans. The big colt had finally uncoiled his stride and was gobbling up ground. Pharaoah gave it his all, but in the end Keen Ice would be the one to prevail.
The strong pace, in particular, the taxing internal half of 46.78 set the race up perfectly for the Dale Romans trainee, and like a good horse he capitalized on it. Romans went on to say that the horse underwent a transformation after the Haskell, which gave them the confidence to put him in the race earlier. He was never far out of it, and when they turned for home and he switched leads, I thought he was going to get there.” Well, his thoughts were right, as Keen Ice pulled off one of the largest stunners since Coastal defeated Spectacular Bid in the Belmont Stakes.
Moving forward there is absolutely no reason to believe Keen Ice won’t enjoy more success. He’s been improving with every start and will likely only keep getting better. For now though, let’s just savor the moment. Let us let give the night to Keen Ice in his connections. They earned the right to bask in the moment.
Keen Ice photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography