02/01/2016 3:40PM

Keen Ice using Donn Handicap as prep for Dubai World Cup

Barbara D. Livingston
Keen Ice, shown training on Jan. 3 at Gulfstream, will use Saturday's Donn Handicap as a prep for the Dubai World Cup in March.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The connections of Keen Ice seriously considered scratching the colt from the Clark Handicap in November, saying the conditions were not ideal, most notably the shorter-than-preferred distance of 1 1/8 miles.

Keen Ice ultimately started in the Clark at Churchill Downs, and although he did run out of ground while finishing a late-closing fourth, the race served as fair warning that the best may still lay ahead for a colt who will always be remembered as the only horse to defeat American Pharoah as a 3-year-old.

“He ran one heck of a race,” said Dale Romans, who trains Keen Ice for Donegal Racing. “He was absolutely flying late. Three horses beat him, and he was ahead of all of them just a few yards after the wire.”

With the 2,000-meter (about 1 1/4 miles) Dubai World Cup on March 26 as the early-season goal, Keen Ice once again will race at 1 1/8 miles when making his 4-year-old debut Saturday at Gulfstream Park in the Donn Handicap, the first Grade 1 handicap of the year in North America.

Keen Ice, who blew out for the Donn here last Saturday by going five furlongs in 1:00.20, will carry the high weight of 121 pounds.

“We’d love to win, but this is a means to an end,” said Romans. “The distance is shorter than he likes, but he’ll be sharp off a layoff, and he’s obviously all class. We’re excited about getting started.”

Keen Ice was one of seven or eight older horses expected when entries were drawn Wednesday for the $500,000 Donn, one of six stakes to be run here Saturday, all for older horses.

The Pizza Man gets new rider

Perennial leading jockey Javier Castellano has picked up the mount on The Pizza Man, the likely favorite for the other Grade 1 race here Saturday, the $350,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.

Mike Smith was aboard The Pizza Man when the Illinois-bred gelding shipped to Del Mar to win his most recent race, the Nov. 26 Hollywood Turf Cup, but Smith is otherwise committed Saturday at Santa Anita, where four graded stakes will be run. Smith replaced Florent Geroux, who had ridden The Pizza Man in 10 straight prior races.

The Pizza Man is scheduled to arrive here Friday after leaving his New Orleans base by van the previous day and stopping overnight at owner and breeder Richard Papiese’s farm in Anthony, Fla., some five hours north of Gulfstream. He had his final pre-race drill last Saturday, going five furlongs in 1:01.40 at Fair Grounds.

A field of maybe eight older turf horses is expected for the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, including Heart to Heart, Legendary, Takeover Target, and Triple Threat.

The other Saturday stakes are the Fred Hooper, Suwannee River, Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint, and Ladies Turf Sprint.