04/06/2011 12:56PM

Keeneland: Which version of Pluck will show up in Transylvania?


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The colt who won the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall sure didn’t look like the one finishing fourth in a $27,000 turf allowance at Tampa Bay Downs last month. So when the opening-day feature, the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes, is run Friday over the Keeneland turf course, horseplayers will have to decide which Pluck will emerge from the starting gate.

Barry Irwin, whose Team Valor International group owns Pluck, said he is as interested as anyone to see which one shows up Friday.

KEENELAND LIVE: Watch the opening-day card and Ashland Stakes on DRF.com

“When he won the Breeders’ Cup and in his win at Woodbine, he just laid his body down,” said Irwin, referring to last September’s Summer Stakes. “He was incredible. Those were over softer courses, though, and unlike what he had at Belmont and Tampa. He does like some give to the ground, and I’m going to guess he could like this course at Keeneland.”

Therein lies perhaps the most critical handicapping variable to the 23rd running of the $100,000 Transylvania, a 1 1/16-mile race that drew 10 3-year-olds. Pluck was so impressive in winning the BC Juvenile Turf that he earned a smattering of votes in divisional Eclipse Award balloting, but his recency comes into question with his return at Tampa.

Garrett Gomez has the call on Pluck, who will break from the far outside post.

If Pluck doesn’t return to form, the race could fall any number of ways. Adirondack Summer and Great Mills both won ungraded turf stakes in their last starts. Stormy Rush, third to Pluck in the Summer, returns from a layoff with bullet workouts for Roger Attfield. Powhatan County was good enough to defeat Animal Kingdom in a recent turf race at Gulfstream. And Lil Bit of Fun won the March 12 Tampa race in which Pluck was fourth.

The Transylvania, named for the Lexington university founded in 1780, is the ninth of 10 races. First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern, with the feature at 5:23.

The first race of the meet is the first for 2-year-olds in Kentucky this year, and trainer Wesley Ward, as usual, figures as a major force with the coupled entry of Gentlemans Code and Everyday Dave. Three allowances (races 5, 7, 8) also are on tap.

DRF MORNING LINE: Get out of the gate fast every day - sign up for DRF's free newsletter