04/28/2011 6:31PM

Keeneland: Keertana takes charge in Bewitch


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The betting public had trouble separating the contenders in Thursday's Grade 3, $150,000 Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland - sending La Luna de Miel, Keertana, and Endless Expanse all off at 2-1.

Keertana had little trouble separating herself in the race itself, however, taking command in midstretch under jockey Jose Lezcano and coasting to a 1 1/4-length score over late-running My Baby Baby before a crowd of 10,957.

The Bewitch was the third victory of the year for Keertana, who won an allowance and the Grade 3 Very One this winter before finishing third in the Grade 3 Hillsborough on March 12 at Tampa Bay Downs.

In contrast to the Hillsborough, which came going two turns at 1 1/8 miles on grass, the Bewitch was a three-turn, 1 1/2-mile turf race.

"She probably just likes to have the three turns," winning trainer Tom Proctor said. "She's run some really powerful races when we've run her there."

Although the outcome was not in doubt late, Keertana was certainly well behind early, sixth of seven, as longshots Honimiere and Silver La Belle set a modest pace of 50.25 seconds, 1:15.89, and 1:42.02 over turf course that was upgraded from yielding to good before the Bewitch.

It wasn't until after the mile stage in the race that Keertana made her move, quickly advancing on the leaders. She collared pacesetting Honimiere in midstretch, and then after opening up daylight, seemed to do only what was required late. She raced 1 1/2 miles in 2:33.08.

A length behind runner-up My Baby Baby, Honimiere held third, a half-length ahead of La Luna de Miel in fourth. Endless Expanse, Silver La Belle, and Super Espresso completed the order of finish in a race depleted by the scratches of Persuading, Zapparition, and Silk Route.

The winner, a 5-year-old daughter of Johar owned by bred by Barbara Hunter, improved her record to 10 wins from 25 starts and increased her earnings to over $914,000 in winning the Bewitch. She paid $6.40.

Proctor was noncommittal regarding the mare's next race or long-term goals. Last year she was third behind Shared Account in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf to conclude her 4-year-old campaign.

"I don't think you can look too far ahead with these horses," Proctor said. "She's doing good. I think she's as good this year as any."

McPeek flirting with history

Ken McPeek, who has already sewn up the spring training title at Keeneland, has a shot at matching history Friday, closing day of the Keeneland meet.

After winning two races Thursday, first with Bizzy Caroline in the third race and later with Dark Cove in the seventh - McPeek's spring meet win total reached 14.

The record for spring meet victories by a trainer is 16, established by Todd Pletcher in 2005.

McPeek has three horses entered in two races Friday - Cardsontablefaceup in race one, and an entry of Iwannaiwannaiwanna and Hampton Bays Sun in race five.