04/26/2006 12:00AM

Ben Ali stakes preview


Thursday, April 27
Race 8
1 1/8 Miles
Ben Ali (Grade 3)
Four-year-olds and upward
Purse $150,000.

Wanderin Boy figures to be hammered at the windows based on his recent 113 Beyer romp over this track. Trainer Nick Zito is firing on all cylinders at the Keeneland meet, but his charge may have benefited from a loose lead and a golden rail in his local allowance win. He draws the far outside post here, and may face a bit more pressure early in the Ben Ali. He's a logical threat, but won't likely offer much value.

It's No Joke, on the other hand, will offer a square price. The $675,000 yearling purchase whipped Noble Causeway going a one-turn mile under Shaun Bridgmohan at Gulfstream in his seasonal debut, and he's won around two turns at Keeneland in the past. He reunites with Bridgmohan for this race after being stuck in and among horses when finishing sixth in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. It's No Joke has good gate speed, and it will be interesting to see if Bridgmohan takes the race right to Wanderin Boy from the bell.

Cosmonaut only beat four others in winning the off-the-turf Golden Gate Fields Handicap on March 25, but he earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure that day, and has the tactical speed to sit just off the pacesetters. He'll start for high-percentage connections, but must spot weight to all.

Noble Causeway has never lived up to his potential, and all three of his wins have been at Gulfstream Park. He does have the Zito factor working for him along with a good inside post and a sharp recent workout.

Defending champ Alumni Hall is a Keeneland horse for course, but he hasn't shown much life in his last three races, and will have to deal with another layoff today. He obviously has the back class, and should get some pace to attack, but others do look sharper on current form.

Palladio enjoys this distance, but the late-runner will need pace and race luck making his first start of the year.

1. It's No Joke
2. Wanderin Boy
3. Cosmonaut