04/06/2017 11:16AM

Mongolian Saturday right at home in Shakertown

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Mongolian Saturday will try to capture his third win in three tries on Keeneland's turf.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – At what point does surface preference override other variables in handicapping a horse race?

That’s a compelling question in regard to the presence of Mongolian Saturday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Shakertown Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland.

Mongolian Saturday is 2 for 2 over the Keeneland turf, with his victories coming in elite company in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and the Grade 3 Woodford last fall. It’s a record that, in spite of his shortcomings elsewhere, will make him one of the wagering favorites among a field of nine in this 21st running of the Shakertown at 5 1/2 furlongs. Jose Lezcano has the mount from post 6 on the 7-year-old gelding.

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The Shakertown drew a handful of hard knockers who rate as contenders, including Rainbow Heir (post 2, Trevor McCarthy), a winner in 10 of 24 lifetime starts; Green Mask (post 3, Robby Albarado), an earner of more than $600,000; and Hogy (post 7, Florent Geroux), first or second in 26 of 41 starts.

Among the longer shots, Shakhimat (post 9, Julien Leparoux) draws the favorable outside post and merits a long look, considering that he won the Grade 3 Transylvania here last spring and figures to fire fresh from a nine-month layoff for Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield.

The Shakertown, named for the small community located 25 miles southwest of Lexington, goes as the seventh of 11 races and starts the late pick four (races 7-10) ending with the Blue Grass Stakes. Post time is 4:28 p.m. Eastern.

KEY CONTENDERS

Mongolian Saturday, by Any Given Saturday

Last 3 Beyers: 89-90-90

◗ Anywhere else, he’s just a mane and a tail, but at Keeneland, he’s been the equine version of Superman, defeating the world’s finest in the Breeders’ Cup before validating that form last October in the Shakertown twin, the Woodford.

Rainbow Heir, by Wildcat Heir

Last 3 Beyers: 102-102-94

◗ Bred and owned in New Jersey by the New Farm of Ebby Novak, this 7-year-old gelding suddenly has become a whiz at turf sprinting, having racked up triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in his last three starts in this niche.

Hogy, by Offlee Wild

Last 3 Beyers: 103-91-96

◗ Few racehorses in recent years have earned the admiration of Midwestern fans and horsemen like this 8-year-old has. His bankroll of nearly $850,000 attests to his gameness and versatility.

Green Mask, by Mizzen Mast

Last 3 Beyers: 100-100-99

◗ Narrowly defeated at odds-on at Fair Grounds by Hogy six weeks ago, this 6-year-old is yet another salty veteran capable of a huge effort and probably just needs the right kind of trip to give one.