04/06/2012 2:25PM

Keeneland: Ward takes opening double

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Stanford Dolly, with Kent Desormeaux riding, comes from the back of the pack to win the third race of Keeneland’s opening-day card.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The opening of the Keeneland spring meet went very smoothly, especially if your name is Wesley Ward. The 44-year-old trainer was smiling broadly after the first two races of the meet, which he swept into a $2 daily double worth $17.80 after Skylander and Gentlemans Code reported home easy winners over the neatly groomed Polytrack.

“Undefeated,” proclaimed Ward.

Amid sunshine, a steady breeze, and temperatures that reached the mid-60s, hundreds of fans were still filing in as the 10-race opener was getting under way. Among those happy to be on hand was Michael Straight, who joined a handful of others in the winners’ circle following the nine-length romp by Skylander, a speedy 2-year-old gelding ridden by John Velazquez.

“I used to work for Wesley, so this was fun,” said Straight, a former jockey now bound to a wheelchair after a spill at Arlington Park in August 2009.

A few minor opening-day kinks were still had to be worked out when the infield tote board momentarily displayed the wrong results after each of the first two races. The problem, soon corrected, was blamed on a keyboard malfunction in the placing judges’ booth, and no one seemed much to notice anyway.

Early speed proved victorious in three of the first four races, all on the Polytrack track first used at the 2006 fall meet, while the other race was captured by a far-back closer. Favorites won two of those first four events and were joined by a 7-2 second choice and an 18-1 bomb. The day would unfold with the Transylvania Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf and a $65,000 allowance in which Successful Dan, potentially one of the top older horses in North America this year, was expected to be favored in his first start in nearly 18 months.

The spring meet will run through April 27, with the highlight being the Blue Grass Stakes on April 14.

◗ Keeneland has moved post time for its first race from 1:15 to 1:05 p.m. Eastern in order to coordinate post times with Aqueduct. Earlier this year, Aqueduct changed the time for its first post from 12:30 to 12:50.

◗ Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux has hired J.R. Pegram as his new agent and will ride not only through the May 5 Kentucky Derby, but also through the end of the Churchill Downs spring meet, July 1. Desormeaux, the leading jockey at Keeneland four springs ago, won with his first mount of the meet when Stanford Dolly ($9.40) rolled from far back to win the third race Friday.

◗ Scatman, third in the Rebel Stakes last out, worked six furlongs Friday morning in 1:13.20 at Churchill and will run next in the Blue Grass or April 21 Lexington Stakes, according to trainer Mike Lauer. A slew of final prerace workouts for Blue Grass hopefuls were on tap for this weekend.

◗ The Blue Grass draw will be held as usual Wednesday morning, with onsite festivities being hosted by local radio personality Tom Leach. TVG had played a prominent role in prior years but will keep abreast of the draw only from its Los Angeles studios.

– additional reporting by Matt Hegarty