04/05/2013 6:03PM

Keeneland: Jack Milton by a neck in Transylvania Stakes

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Coady Photography/Keeneland
Jack Milton (right) beats Up With the Birds by a neck in the Transylvania Stakes for his second win from three career starts.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Jack Milton passed his first stakes test with flying colors by holding off a fast-closing Up With the Birds for a neck victory Friday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Transylvania Stakes, the traditional opening-day feature at the Keeneland spring meet.

With John Velazquez riding for owner Gary Barber and trainer Todd Pletcher, Jack Milton returned $7.20 as a slight favorite in a field of 10 3-year-olds while making just his third career start. He surged to the lead after turning for home in the 1 1/16-mile turf race before digging in to hold off Up With the Birds.

“I think he started waiting on horses,” Velazquez said, adding with a chuckle: “When he rebroke, he almost dropped me.”

Jack Milton, a Kentucky-bred colt by War Front, easily won a maiden race at Gulfstream Park in January, then was second as the odds-on favorite in a February allowance, with both races on turf.

“Absolutely he has a license to improve,” said Whit Beckman, the Pletcher assistant charged with overseeing the Kentucky string, adding that the American Turf on the May 3 Kentucky Oaks undercard is a possible next start for the colt.

Redwood Kitten set the pace in the 25th Transylvania, with Star Contender giving chase and Jack Milton kept in the clear just behind them. Passing the quarter pole, Redwood Kitten clung grimly to the lead before being overtaken by Jack Milton.

Up With the Birds then came charging under Shaun Bridgmohan before finishing just shy of the winner. It was another two lengths back to Redwood Kitten, with Brown Almighty along in fourth.

Jack Milton completed the distance in 1:41.80 over a firm course.

Ontrack attendance on a mostly sunny, comfortable afternoon was 22,921.

The $2 exacta (6-3) paid $35, the $1 trifecta (6-3-8) returned $100.50, and the 10-cent superfecta (6-3-8-2) was worth $68.94