04/26/2007 11:00PM

Ascertain prevails in Elkhorn

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's meet ended on Friday, far too soon for Ascertain. After winning a money allowance race earlier in the meet, Ascertain came back on closing day to capture the Grade 3, $200,000 Elkhorn Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile grass race in which Jazil, last year's Belmont Stakes winner, finished last of 12 in his turf debut.

Ascertain won on a firm course here April 7 going 1 1/8 miles, but had no trouble stretching out and racing over a yielding course on Friday. Under jockey Jamie Theriot, Ascertain bounded to the lead at the top of the stretch, then held off the late runs of Always First and Drilling for Oil to prevail. He won by a neck over Always First, who was three-quarters of a length in front of Drilling for Oil.

Transduction Gold, who set the fractions of 26.18 seconds, 51.36, 1:16.52, 1:41.66, and 2:06.13 through the first 1 1/4 miles, finished fourth, 1o1/2 lengths behind Ascertain.

Ascertain ($17.20) completed 1 1/2 miles on turf in 2:30.40. The victory was the seventh in 23 lifetime starts for Ascertain, 6, a gelding by Intikhab. Niall O'Callaghan trains Ascertain for a partnership that includes Mrs. S.K. Johnston Jr., Gene Voss, and Paul Dixon.

O'Callaghan said Ascertain could make his next start in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park on June 9.

Jazil was sent off the 3-1 second choice behind favored Cloudy's Knight, even though he had never raced on turf and drew the outside post in the field of 12. He never fired at any point while racing wide behind a slow early pace, thus realizing the fears of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. As the horses neared the gate for the race, McLaughlin, standing under a closed-circuit television on the ground level, said, "The turf is a question, and so is the yielding turf."

After the race, McLaughlin shrugged his shoulders. "Well, that didn't work," he said. "We know the rest of the year now he'll run in dirt races. It's too bad he had to try the turf for the first time on that kind of a course."

Business figures should be good

Although final figures were not available at press time, Keeneland officials said the track would show a significant increase in handle for its first spring meeting run on Polytrack.

Although the meet was hampered by cold weather, including on closing day, bettors sent it in on the track's full fields. Even before Friday, Keeneland already had set a single-season record of more than $147 million in handle for its first 14 days, surpassing the previous record of $143,479,802, set last year during a similar 15-day meet.

On the final Saturday of the meet, April 21, Keeneland drew its largest ontrack crowd in history, more than 33,000.