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11th-KEE, $79K, Msw, 3yo, 7f, 6:38 p.m. ET
A pair of Pioneerof the Nile brothers to high-profile champions look to go one better off of runner-up debuts to close out the Keeneland card Saturday. John Gunther homebred Stage Raider (Pioneerof the Nile) is half to none other than Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy) as well as the ill-fated GSW The Lieutenant (Street Sense). A $950,000 Keeneland September RNA, the Chad Brown trainee was beaten 8 1/2 lengths by super impressive 'TDN Rising Star' Prevalence (Medaglia d'Oro) going this distance at Gulfstream Jan. 23. Prevalence came back and did what he had to do to take an optional claimer next out, but he settled for sixth in last Saturday's GII Wood Memorial S.
WinStar Farm and CHC Inc.'s Harvard (Pioneerof the Nile), meanwhile, was second going a furlong shorter at Gulfstream Feb. 28, good for a field's-best last-out Beyer Speed Figure of 75. Bred by China Horse Club, the Rodolphe Brisset pupil is a full to 2016 champion juvenile and 2017 GI Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire, who has first 2-year-olds himself this season. TJCIS PPs
4th-OP, $93K, Msw, 3yo, 6f, 2:42 p.m. ET
Bob Baffert brings in Following Sea (Runhappy) for a lucrative maiden special weight try a few races before he'll be represented by the two expected favorites in the GI Arkansas Derby. Spendthrift homebred Following Sea crossed the wire second on debut behind stablemate and subsequent GI Runhappy Santa Anita fourth Defunded (Dialed In) at Santa Anita Mar. 6, but he was moved back to third by the stewards for interference. The bay was a $230,000 in utero purchase at the 2017 Keeneland November sale. His stakes-winning dam has already produced one stakes horse and is half to SW and MGSP Qahira (Cairo Prince), who is also conditioned by Baffert.
Frank Fletcher Racing and Ten Strike Racing will be represented by Brad Cox-trained firster Amazing Rocket (Into Mischief). The $500,000 KEESEP buy is a grandson of MSW Amazing Buy (High Yield). Happymac (Runhappy) was a $360,000 KEESEP yearling who RNA'd last year at OBSAPR for $800,000 following a :20 3/5 bullet breeze. The half-brother to speedy GSW/MGISP Shancelot (Shanghai Bobby) was fourth in the Saratoga mud last August–two slots behind recent GII Toyota Blue Grass runner-up Highly Motivated (Into Mischief)–and was beaten a neck after setting the pace at Keeneland in October. He's one of two to be saddled by Steve Asmussen, along with $170,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred Arms an Armor (Laoban).
Rising Empire (Empire Maker) earned the same Beyer Speed Figure–64–when finishing fourth on debut that Happymac did at Keeneland one day earlier. The half-brother to MGSW marathoner and 'TDN Rising Star' Rocketry (Hard Spun) was a $275,000 KEESEP yearling turned $700,000 OBSAPR grad off a :10 1/5 move. Terawatt (Nyquist) was a $200,000 KEENOV weanling, $300,000 FTSAUG yearling and $295,000 FTMMAY RNA (:10 1/5). He's a half to GSW Native Bombshell (War Front). TJCIS PPs