04/04/2012 2:39PM

Keeneland: Monastic faces six in Transylvania

Lou Hodges Jr.
Icon Ike, winner of the Black Gold at Fair Grounds, is one of two stakes winners in the Transylvania field.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Tom Proctor likes to think he learned a thing or two from his dad, the late legendary trainer Willard Proctor, and the results often show. The younger Proctor never rushes a good horse, and that helps explain why a big gelding named Monastic has had just one start since an eye-catching victory last fall over the Churchill Downs turf.

“We like to give them a little break over the winter if we can,” said Proctor. “This one is big and immature, still growing into his body. I’ve been tightening the screws on him a little, so I’d have to think he’ll run better than he did down at Tampa.”

Monastic was third at 2-5 in a turf allowance on the March 10 Tampa Bay Derby undercard and will seek to repay his backers nearly four weeks later when he starts as as a top contender in the opening-day feature of the Keeneland spring meet, the 24th running of the $100,000 Transylvania Stakes. Six other 3-year-olds will oppose him in the Grade 3 fixture, which goes as the ninth of 10 Friday races. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the Transylvania going at 5:13.

Monastic, with Julien Leparoux back to ride, will break from post 5 as a lukewarm morning-line favorite in the 1 1/16-mile turf race. There are plenty of viable contenders in against him, including Silver Max, a speedy colt coming off a wire-to-wire triumph over the Gulfstream Park turf. Robby Albarado rides from post 6 for trainer Dale Romans, who noted that several other horses in the race – Wayward Sailor, especially – also have shown speed on prior occasions.

“Robby will just have to take things as they come, and hopefully things will unfold in our favor,” said Romans.

Monastic, a confirmed closer, most likely would benefit from a contested pace on a too-fast pace, as could Travel Advisory, Saturday Launch, or Icon Ike, all of them last-out grass winners.

The only stakes winners in the lineup are State of Play, winner of the With Anticipation at Saratoga at 2 and the Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in his latest start for Graham Motion, and Icon Ike, winner of the recent Black Gold at Fair Grounds for Larry Jones.

The Transylvania, named for the 232-year-old university located in downtown Lexington, dates to 1989, when Shy Tom won for Overbrook Farm and D. Wayne Lukas. The 2011 winner in the final jump was Air Support, with Rajiv Maragh up for Shug McGaughey.