The Grade 1 $104,200 American Paint Classic Futurity, an annual event by the Paint Stallion Breeders Association at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, could very well be completely dominated by one trainer this year.
Trainer Dee Keener will saddle six in the Paint Classic on Saturday, April 30. The race is only designed for 10 qualifiers, meaning there are just four going into the starting gate that Dee won’t put his hands on before they race. The math is easy enough for my first-grader to understand: 6 of 10 = 60%. Those are solid odds that one of the Keener 6 will score the victory. The possibility is even better that he lands multiple runners in the top three positions.
Leading the way in the Paint Classic will be top qualifier DTL Josie Wales. Elizabeth Logan of Haskell, Oklahoma, owns the 2014 sorrel solid gelding along with the third-fastest qualifier, DTL Batter Up, a 2-year-old sorrel solid gelding who is also trained by Dee. Try to keep the DTL horses straight—positioned next to each other in the starting gate, that might be easier said than done.
DTL Josie Wales won his trial, the fourth of four on April 15; three others that trailed him in the 350-yard heat also made the final. PHQ Goodbye Earl (trained and bred in Oklahoma by Dee), Rut Row (trained by Dee) and Truck Yeah all followed DTL Josie Wales at the trial finish. Truck Yeah is the odd-ball in this scenario, as the only one from the DTL Josie Wales trial that doesn’t reside in the Keener barn; he is trained by Cody McCart.
There were only four trials for the Paint Classic this year and three of them produced finalists. The first trial of the night on April 15 also sent four into the big race, with DTL Batter Up winning that heat. The trio that chased him into the big race includes DTL Fast Flyin Tex (you guessed it, trained by Dee), Snooki (another Keener runner) and A Regal Streak, trained by Durk Peery.
The third trial on April 15 put two in the Paint Classic with Fade Shot and Dashin Secret qualifying, trained by Juan Aleman and Todd Lacey respectively.
Only the second of the four trials failed to produce finalists for the Paint Classic. However, that trial winner, KC Texas Lady, did come back nine days later to win the $22,500 Victoria Ennis Memorial Stakes at Remington Park, proving she is a capable athlete. That’s probably not much of a surprise—she is trained by Dee, too.
The Keener reach is all over the Paint Classic. So is the breeding program of Dean and Tonya Lester: their Skiatook, Oklahoma, operation produced all three of the DTL geldings for the race.
Pick a Keener runner, and the percentages are with you. Here are some handicapping observations that might help a betting decision:
- DTL Josie Wales was strong in his trial, striding nicely and doing it without much more than a strong hand-ride from jockey Cody Jensen, who has elected to keep the mount even though he also qualified trial winner DTL Batter Up, who appeared to have plenty left at the end of his run.
- Rut Row overcame some contact at the start and rallied to make the final.
- Truck Yeah was stride-for-stride with DTL Josie Wales before becoming incapable of keeping a straight-line run. He then shied from the whip of jockey Ricky Ramirez who was forced to snatch up the reins and take hold of the gelding as they approached the finish, to avoid drifting in further. Even so, Truck Yeah still made the Paint Classic as the final qualifier.
Having six of 10 in the American Paint Classic in this era is a strong indication of the talented barn of Paints under Dee’s guidance. It is not a regular occurrence anymore, but two decades ago at Remington Park the feat was considered fairly normal, when the legendary Lewis Wartchow made it routine to have the majority of the field for the Paint Classic.
PSBA American Paint Derby
Imahotchicken has been tabbed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite for the 400-yard event, worth $38,600. The filly has danced in most every stakes dance in which she has been nominated to compete in her career.
Owned by Charles Leggett of Muskogee, Oklahoma, and trained by Dee, Imahotchicken is out of the super broodmare Game Chicken and bred by Shirley Wheeler of Boynton, Oklahoma. The connections, the mare’s consistency and the fact that Painted Turnpike is not in the derby make her a strong candidate to win her first stakes final.
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