04/18/2009 11:00PM

Redemption time in Ben Ali


LEXINGTON, Ky. - But just what have they done for you lately?

Four of the seven older horses in the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes hit career peaks during their 3-year-old years. Monba won the 2008 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. Adriano won the 2008 Lane's End Stakes. Dominican won the 2007 Blue Grass over Street Sense. And Grasshopper was beaten just a half-length by Street Sense in the 2007 Travers.

Since those highlights, however, mostly disappointment has ensued for all four of them. So when the Grade 3 Ben Ali is run Sunday at Keeneland for the 79th time, quite a bit of image restoration will be on order.

Monba and Adriano finished last and second-to-last among the 20-horse field in the Kentucky Derby last year, and between them have won a combined 1 of 8 starts since their greatest career wins. Furthermore, Dominican has won just once in 10 tries since his Blue Grass score, while Grasshopper also is 1 for 10 since narrowly missing in the Travers.

The quartet is joined by three others in the Ben Ali, which goes at 1 1/8 miles over the main Polytrack surface, and two of those appear capable of perpetuating the collective misery: Sterwins, the 2008 Ben Ali winner for trainer Malcolm Pierce, and Parading, a Shug McGaughey-trained 6-year-old who was sharp in his April 4 return from an 11-month layoff.

Your Round, still eligible for first-level allowances, is the rank outsider in the cast.

Of the foursome looking to get back on the beam, Adriano might rate the best chance with leading rider Julien Leparoux aboard. Regrouped by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott since finishing a close fourth as the 1-2 favorite in the Hawthorne Derby last October, Adriano shows a solid workout pattern at Payson Park leading up to a half-mile breeze in 49 seconds Wednesday over the Keeneland Poly.

The Ben Ali goes as the eighth of nine races on a Sunday card that also includes three allowances (races 4, 6, 7). First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

* After Sunday, the final three-day stretch of the 15-day spring meet ends with twin turf marathons: the $150,000 Bewitch on Thursday, and the $200,000 Elkhorn on Friday, closing day. Churchill Downs opens Saturday with the Derby Trial.