03/23/2016 2:30PM

Will addition of blinkers pay off with Keen Ice?

Barbara D. Livingston
Keen Ice will race in blinkers for the first time Saturday in the Dubai World Cup.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – On the bare face of things, the decision to use blinkers on Dubai World Cup starter Keen Ice is unusual. The 4-year-old has made 15 starts, none in blinkers, and the equipment change comes as Keen Ice gets set to line up in the richest race of his life, and while he is stabled and training thousands of miles from trainer Dale Romans’s winter base in Florida.

But the unusual nature of the change runs still deeper: Romans is a trainer who does whatever he can to avoid using blinkers under any circumstances.

“He doesn’t like them,” said Tammy Fox, Romans’s longtime companion and one of his stable’s main work riders for years. Fox traveled here with Keen Ice six weeks ago and has ridden him every day, including in his blinkered workout last Saturday, which went in a strong 59.20 seconds for five furlongs. “We have probably 125 horses in training, and I’d say now, counting him, maybe three wear them.”

Daily Racing Form’s Formulator shows that Romans over the last five years has never added blinkers to a horse in a graded stakes. Only a handful of his graded-stakes starters during that span have raced in blinkers, and only two have won, Afleeting Lady, whom Romans developed himself, and Court Vision, who came to Romans late in his career already racing in blinkers and upset the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Mile while wearing the hood.

The impetus for trying blinkers came from Ryan Moore – widely considered the world’s best jockey – who after riding Keen Ice to a seventh-place finish March 5 in Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge suggested experimenting.

“Ryan said that he thought he lost focus a couple times, and it’d be worth breezing him once in them and seeing how he liked it,” said Jerry Crawford, president of Donegal Racing, Keen Ice’s owner.

“The horse clearly hates them. He breezed in 59 and 1,” Crawford added sarcastically.

“I think it helped him,” said Fox. “He got into the work quicker. He didn’t dislike them. It’s not like he backed up in the work. Like I said to Jerry earlier today, you never know if it’s really going to help them until they run.”

Equipment aside, Keen Ice has looked as well this week as any horse training for the $10 million World Cup. He was the only horse to beat American Pharoah in 2015, and while he had pace help in taking down the champion in the Travers Stakes, a swift pace also seems plausible Saturday night. The front-runners might be backing up, and, hooded, Keen Ice might be more focused this time on catching them.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keen Ice a overrated money burning bum, I have never bet a dime on him. Why did they even ship him over there?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
money burning bum ? He beat AP in a race that was run fair and square -- so what does that make AP?
Steve Wise More than 1 year ago
Seems kind of Odd that Dale,Tammy,Javier never mentioned "The Hood' for Keen Ice???.....Ryan Moore runs 7th on Him and Now his is knows more than they Do????
FrostyFeast More than 1 year ago
Can you read? I mean it's pretty much laid out there in the article. Doesn't "seem odd" at all. Dale hates blinkers. How do you now Javier or Tammy never mentioned them? Dale just doesn't like using blinkers if he can avoid it. Ryan Moore kinda *does* know more than a lot of folks if he's widely considered the world's best jockey, so people are gonna listen if he pipes up about it. He may not be the trainer, but he has an opinion worth taking into consideration. Hard for Dale to get around the president of Donegal telling him to use blinkers because Ryan (whose judgment is kind of important, yes) thought it would help.
john g More than 1 year ago
Let me guess Frosty, your for Frosted? lol Actually, I like Frosted and Mshawish both.
gallopingtom More than 1 year ago
Total throwout.
AzHorsePlayer More than 1 year ago
Couldn't agree more...horse wouldn't even win the godolphin mile
Christy Rothwell More than 1 year ago
I have a couple of suggestions for all american trainers. Take a couple hints from the rest of the world. Try using winkers, the sheepskin rolls on the cheekpieces of the bridle; the thickness is adjustable. Also, I've seen a very few folks using the earmuffs so commonly seen in Asia and somewhat in the UK. Granted, you can just stuff cotton in their ears, bu,t it seems to my eye, the the mask works better. Blinkers can also be attached if needed. There are ways to deal with horses that don't like blinkers - just look aroung - they're out there.