06/28/2010 11:00PM

Keertana always there at the finish


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - You have to go back a long way to find a poor race for Keertana. In fact, since she finished seventh in her career debut nearly two years ago in a Polytrack sprint at Arlington Park, you can't find one. Keertana has been respectable to brilliant in all 15 subsequent starts, earning more than $440,000 while emerging as a fringe player in the North American filly-mare turf division.

"She's developed into a decent little racehorse," said Tom Proctor, who trains the 4-year-old filly for owner-breeder Barbara Hunter.

Keertana will be back in action Saturday at Churchill Downs when she runs in the Grade 3, $100,000 Locust Grove Handicap at a mile on the turf. Proctor is hoping for a better trip than last time, when Keertana finished third, beaten just three-quarters of a length by the victorious Hot Cha Cha, in the June 5 Mint Julep at Churchill.

"I didn't like how she was kept wide the whole time," he said. "It probably didn't make that much difference, but still, as close as it was, maybe it did."

Hot Cha Cha is skipping the Locust Grove in favor of the July 17 Modesty Handicap at Arlington, but Acoma, who nailed Keertana on the wire for second in the Mint Julep, will return Saturday. Those two appear to tower over what figures to be a short Locust Grove field. Entries for Saturday were to be drawn Wednesday.

The Locust Grove is one of three graded races that close out the spring meet this weekend. The Grade 3, $100,000 Bashford Manor Stakes for 2-year-olds is the Saturday co-feature, while the Grade 2, $175,000 Firecracker for older horses at a mile on turf will bring down the curtain Sunday.

Keertana, Acoma, and Hot Cha Cha all are being pointed to the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington on Aug. 21.

Kenneally busy with shippers

Eddie Kenneally has a busy few weeks ahead of him, aside from the fact that he soon will be shipping about 20 horses to Saratoga for the meet that begins July 23. The 44-year-old trainer said he plans to run Safe Trip on Sunday in the Jersey Shore at Monmouth, Warbling in the July 10 Princess Rooney at Calder, and Asphalt in the July 17 American Derby at Arlington.

"We're also looking at maybe getting a race for Buckleupbuttercup" before she runs in the Aug. 7 Test at Saratoga, Kenneally said.

Another Kenneally-trained standout, Custom for Carlos, is still sidelined by a hoof injury suffered in his stall the night before the June 5 True North at Belmont.

Closing week drawing larger cards

As with most North American tracks these days, field sizes have been less than ideal at Churchill Downs this spring. Still, the 42-day meet is finishing on a positive note in that respect as fields for Thursday and Friday were more plentiful than what has been the norm. Racing secretary Ben Huffman also said he expected races for Saturday and Sunday to be similarly full.

"This has been a very, very difficult meet trying to fill races," said Huffman. "There have been a number of factors that have affected us, but that's just the way it is right now. We're just trying to finish out with some good, solid racing."

Brass Hat back at Churchill Downs

Brass Hat "never picked up the bit" when eighth of nine last weekend in the Grade 2 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows but nonetheless returned to Churchill in good shape, according to trainer Buff Bradley.

"When he doesn't like the track, he just doesn't run, period," Bradley said.

Brass Hat, a 9-year-old gelding who has earned nearly $2.1 million, was making his 37th start in the Cornhusker.

Tamburello gets first win since injury

The victory by jockey Amanda Tamburello in the eighth race Sunday was the first for the 32-year-old apprentice since a serious head injury last fall.

Grace by Design prevailed in a three-horse photo to give Tamburello the second victory of her career. Tamburello won for the first time on Oct. 1, but just two nights later she was at a social gathering when she lost consciousness and fell, hitting her head. She was in intensive care for several days before ultimately making a full recovery.

Until Sunday, Tamburello, who rides with a 10-pound allowance, had gone winless in 33 tries since returning to riding in April.

* The highlight of the final Friday night card of the meet is the $66,000 Roxelana, a seven-furlong race that drew a well-matched field of nine fillies and mares, with Be Fair, Vertical Vision, and My Baby Baby as likely favorites.