04/26/2011 2:54PM

Keeneland: Keertana back to three turns in Bewitch

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Bob Coglianese
Keertana, with Jose Lezcano up, wins The Very One.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – At her lofty level, they don’t come much more consistent than Keertana. While competing primarily in stakes, the 5-year-old mare has been third or better in 20 of 24 starts while amassing nearly $825,000 in earnings and ringing up Beyer Speed Figures in the 90s one after another.

Great training job by Tom Proctor, right?

“What most people don’t realize about training horses,” said Proctor, “is it’s the horse. That’s all a tribute to what a nice mare she is.”

With the $1 million milestone being his primary goal for 2011, Proctor will send out Keertana against nine other fillies and mares Thursday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland. Bred and owned by Barbara Hunter, Keertana will start from post 5 with Jose Lezcano riding in the three-turn, 1 1/2-mile turf race.

Heavy recent rain in the Bluegrass region may be a factor in the Bewitch, which goes as the eighth of nine Thursday races.

“The mare can run on soft turf,” said Proctor, “although she does prefer it firm. She still ought to run okay. What she really likes is the three turns, and coming off the shorter race at Tampa, I think she might be pretty tough in there.”

Keertana most recently was third in the Grade 3 Hillsborough at about 1 1/8 miles at Tampa Bay Downs. Before that, she won the Grade 3 The Very One at Gulfstream around three turns.

La Luna de Miel (post 2, John Velazquez) also won a graded turf marathon, the Grade 3 Orchid, at Gulfstream for trainer Graham Motion this winter, and she figures as a chief rival Thursday. Motion, with 1 win and 8 seconds from his first 26 starters here this spring, will be trying to get a bit of late-meet relief in this spot.

Other major contenders include Persuading, who likely will try to steal off under Jesus Castanon, and Endless Expanse, second as the 6-5 favorite for Christophe Clement and Julien Leparoux in the March 20 Orchid.

This is the 50th running of the Bewitch, which has undergone a number of changes since it was first run for 2-year-old fillies in 1962. The race has been contested on turf since 1986 and was lengthened to its current distance in 1995.

Three allowances (races 4, 6, 7) also are carded for Thursday, the penultimate day of the 15-day spring meet. First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern