In its 15 previous runnings the Jim Beam Stakes has showcased many serious 3-year-olds who went on to success in the Triple Crown. Summer Squall, Hansel, Lil E. Tee and Prairie Bayou won it from 1990-93, and they totaled three Preaknesses, a Kentucky Derby and a Belmont among them.
This year's renewal, to be run Saturday at Turfway Park, may include some future standouts, too, but none has gotten much attention in the run-up to the May 3 Run for the Roses.
Concerto looks like a deserving favorite in a field packed with early speed, which usually is successful at Turfway. But this time it looks as if a stalker or even a closer could get the job done if many of the pacesetters burn each other out. Beam 16 may not have a great deal of significance for the 3-year-old classics, but at the very least it looks like an intriguing betting event.
ESPN will televise the Jim Beam live, with coverage from 6-7 p.m. ET.
All horses carry 121 pounds. The field from the rail out, with riders in parentheses:
CELTIC WARRIOR (Torres): Has been way up the track in his first three starts as a 3-year-old and hasn't won beyond 6 1/2 furlongs. No chance.
HOXIE (Arguello): On the surface he looks like another wild stab from owner Robert Perez, who loves to send overmatched runners into major stakes. Might be a bit better than that. His speed figures aren't much but he has won twice at the distance and he's working well. If he could rate, he might have a shot at hitting the board in a speed-loaded field, but both his route wins were on the lead. Not likely.
TWIN SPIRES (Barton): Colt with a tremendous name and a pedigree to match. Too bad he can't run much. Speed figures are dismal and he looks like a well-bred, expensive dud for D. Wayne Lukas.
AIR COOL (Platts): Canada-based shipper gets a wildly ambitious spot for his 3-year-old debut. He trained impressively at Hialeah but he's another need-to-lead type who isn't quick enough to handle a pressured pace in this company.
FUNONTHERUN (Almeida): Looks like the fastest horse in the race after his frontrunning win in the San Rafael, but he's almost certain to meet heavy pressure early. Don't know whether he'll last on the lead for 9 furlongs, so the probable second choice behind Concerto looks like a bet-against.
CONCERTO (Marquez): Bad news, longshot fans. It looks like the 8-5 or 9-5 chalk might be able to sit off a hot pace and make his move late. Has won on or near the pace, but he's won twice with a close-up stalking trip, which is what he should get here unless he's rank. Dangerous favorite for George Steinbrenner and his Kinsman Stable.
JACK FLASH (Perret): Showed little in 0-for-6 2-year-old season but woke up with two wins from off the pace in routes at Gulfstream. Wasn't disgraced while trailing home Pulpit and Captain Bodgit in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, respectively, and if all the speed collapses at once and he's running late... Well, much stranger things happen every day. Worth a small play for win and place if he's 15-1 or higher.
SHAMMY DAVIS (McCauley): Stablemate of Jack Flash in Nick Zito's barn is working out well and is eligible to improve in third race off a layoff. Has shown some willingness to rate, and if he's willing to relax early he could be in the mix at the eighth pole. A longshot with some resources.
MERCER MILL (Martinez): Another major-league pedigree with Double-A talent for Lukas. He's 2-for-12 and only wins have been on the lead. Shows no workouts and hasn't run for five weeks. What gives? A big race would be a major stunner.
INEXCESSIVELYGOOD (McCarron): California-bred from barn of hot Bob Baffert ran a close second to Funontherun at Santa Anita while showing the ability to track the leader. If he can do that again, he can win despite disadvantageous outside post. Usually close but only one win in eight career starts. Can he rate and win a fight at the finish? Maybe, but you'd need odds of 6-1 or better for a value play, and he'll be a shorter price than that.
JULES (Santos): Has the requisite distance pedigree and back figures, and may be sitting on a huge effort in his third race off a layoff and second time on Lasix. Showed fight in close second last time at Gulfstream, and if he's able to settle he might be able to overcome the outside post, which usually is the death seat at inside-speed-biased Turfway. At least the odds will be right, and he was highly regarded as a 2-year-old. This is the time of year that good 3-year-olds often produce breakthrough races, so maybe it's his time.
Eddie Mac at the Track's picks:
1. JULES. 2. JACK FLASH. 3. CONCERTO.