Al Khali Impresses in U.S. Debut
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Al Khali Gives Pletcher Another Weapon

WinStar Farm’s 3-year-old Al Khali rallied through the stretch for a three-quarter length victory under John Velazquez in a 1 1/8 mile allowance test March 6 at Gulfstream Park, moving him up in trainer Todd Pletcher’s arsenal of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) candidates.
Al Khali is a Kentucky-bred colt by Medaglia d'Oro who was making his first U.S. start. He was originally sold to Dante Zanelli for $15,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sales. He had made his previous three starts under three separate trainers while racing in Peru, where he won his most recent two races after finishing second in his debut.

“We got him in here around the end of November,” Pletcher said. “I think he might have beaten older horses in Peru because he was a Northern Hemisphere 2-year-old, but I’m not 100 percent sure. He was doing well and it looks like there’s still room for improvement. He’s still learning the game, but we saw he could handle a distance of ground today and that was encouraging.

“We were really hoping to get a race into him this weekend because that would put us in a position to go on to whatever the next spot might be. I would say anything from April 4 to 11 would be a possibility right now.

Al Khali paid $6.60 to win as the second choice in the field of six 3-year-olds.

New Life Farm’s Stately Character rallied for second, a nose before Lori and George Hall’s Atomic Rain, who ran an erratic course through the stretch after taking the lead briefly. Stately Character’s performance may have earned him a berth in the March 28, $750,000 Florida Derby (gr. I).

Jayeff B Stable’s 2-1 favorite Chef finished fourth, four lengths further behind. The winner was timed in 1:51:39 over the fast track.
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