06/25/2009 12:00AM

Key's Band comes off key layoff


Key's Band ran the best race of his career off a three-month layoff. Saturday, he will follow that pattern into the $50,000 Sierra Blanca Handicap at Ruidoso Downs. The race will be his first since March, and he is the 119-pound highweight in the 5 1/2-furlong stakes, which is restricted to 3-year-olds and up bred in New Mexico.

Key's Band became a stakes winner in his last start, when he rolled home by five lengths in the $100,000 Mt. Cristo Rey Handicap at 4 1/2 furlongs at Sunland on March 21. He earned a career-best Beyer Figure of 86 in that race, his first since Dec. 23.

Key's Band has been flattered in the months following the Mt. Cristo Rey, with the race's runner-up, Chaco Latte, and its third-place finisher, Z Z Dome, both returning in their next start to win allowance races in New Mexico. Antonio Castanon has the mount on Key's Band, who is trained by Jose R. Gonzalez Jr.

Brax figures to be coming for Key's Band in the late stages. He is cutting back from a mile for the Sierra Blanca, his second straight stakes start following a runner-up finish in the $100,000 Jack Cole Handicap at SunRay Park on May 2.

Brax might get a nice pace to run at as a couple of horses are stretching out from 870-yard races Saturday, while others, like four-time stakes winner Gulchrunssweet, are strong front-runners. Casey Lambert has the mount on Brax for trainer Cliff Lambert.