LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Exhi furthered his stature as a Polytrack specialist when returning from a layoff of more than six months to lead all the way Saturday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland.
With Javier Castellano carefully measuring out his speed, Exhi set a steady tempo from the start, turning back Dean's Kitten with a furlong to go in the 1 1/8-mile race to post a 1 3/4-length triumph. He finished in 1:48.14 over Polytrack and returned $3.40 as a heavy choice in a field of five older horses.
"It was one of those rare occasions when things worked out the way you want it," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Exhi for the Wertheimer brothers. "The race shaped up just the way it looked on paper.
Dean's Kitten held second, another 1 1/2 lengths before late-running Mister Marti Gras. Researcher and Stay Put rounded out the order.
Exhi, a homebred 4-year-old colt by Maria's Mon, now has won all but one of his six career races over Polytrack, with his most notable victory coming a year ago at nearly 20-1 in the Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland. In all, he is 6 of 14 with earnings of $800,382.
Holiday for Kitten wins off-the-turf Giant's Causeway
Heavy rain Friday and earlier Saturday led the $100,000 Giant's Causeway and one other race scheduled for the turf to be transferred to the main track. The 11-1 winner was 3-year-old Holiday for Kitten ($25.60), who defeated nine older mares when fending off several challenges in making all the pace.
With John Delgado riding for trainer Wesley Ward, Holiday Kitten was sent to the lead between horses down the backstretch, then resisted pressure from both sides to prevail by a half-length, finishing the 5 1/2-furlong distance in 1:02.78. Wild About Marie rallied up the rail to be second, another half-length before Speedacious. Rose Catherine, the 2-1 favorite for Castellano and Pletcher, finished fourth.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey, second in the Ben Ali with Dean's Kitten, bred and own Holiday Kitten, a filly by Kitten's Joy. "We're going to England for the Royal Ascot meet with her," said Ken Ramsey, adding with a laugh: "It'll be the second-biggest thing to happen there after the Royal Wedding."
Delgado said the stakes win was the first of his career. He and Ward also teamed to win the first race of the Saturday card with Easy Ashley ($4.20).