08/10/2017 10:46AM

Maker sends horses to beat in European-less American St. Leger

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Debra A. Roma
Taghleeb (right) defeats Sadler's Joy to win the W.L. McKnight at Gulfstream. Trained by Mike Maker, Taghleeb will be joined in the gate for the American St. Leger by stablemate Keystoneforvictory.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – The $250,000 American St. Leger, first run five years ago at Arlington Park, was expressly designed to attract overseas runners well suited to longer turf races as well as horses from American trainers who specialize in those races.

No one fits that profile better than Mike Maker. Since winning the American St. Leger here last August with Da Big Hoss, Maker has won 25 turf stakes around two turns (or longer) with 16 different horses.

It’s a remarkable record that figures to take some padding Saturday, especially with this sixth running of the St. Leger lacking so much as a single European entrant. The two favorites in a field of eight older horses both hail from the Maker stable, with Keystoneforvictory (post 1, Julien Leparoux) and Taghleeb (post 2, Jose Ortiz) starting right alongside each other in a three-turn turf race contested at the highly irregular distance of 1 11/16 miles.

It’s difficult to split the Maker duo because both are multiple stakes winners adept at marathon distances. Keystoneforvictory, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, is more accustomed to winning, having captured four of his last five starts and eight of 15 overall, but Taghleeb, owned by Michael Hui, has kept classier company while amassing a field-high bankroll of $542,273.

The top threats are Applicator (post 6), who gets the dominant jockey at the Arlington meet, Jose Valdivia Jr.; Postulation (post 7, Jorge Vargas Jr.), in off a six-length victory in the Cape Henlopen at Delaware Park; and Bullards Alley (post 8, Irad Ortiz Jr.), a consummate grinder in from Kentucky for Tim Glyshaw.

Three longshots round out the lineup: Crewman (post 3, Carlos Marquez Jr.), Alpha Warrior (post 4, Mitchell Murrill), and Tobias (post 5, James Graham).

KEY CONTENDERS

Keystoneforvictory, by Shakespeare

Last 3 Beyers: 95-91-94

◗ This 4-year-old colt has risen steadily through the class ranks, having accounted for the Claiming Crown Emerald in December on his way to winning the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes under Leparoux here last month.

Taghleeb, by Hard Spun

Last 3 Beyers: 94-89-98

◗ Winner of back-to-back turf stakes at the championship meet at Gulfstream last winter, this 6-year-old horse has become a mainstay in this niche and is deserving of his 2-1 morning-line favoritism.

Postulation, by Harlan’s Holiday

Last 3 Beyers: 97-90-89

◗ Trainer Eddie Graham pulled a stunning upset in the 2014 Million with Cape Henlopen winner Hardest Core in what remains the lone graded victory for the Pennsylvania-based horseman.

Bullards Alley, by Flower Alley

Last 3 Beyers: 94-94-94

◗ His 13-race losing skein dates to the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap in May 2016, but there’s never a lack of trying from a 5-year-old gelding who has earned $443,631.

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