Mike Maker-Trained Runners Loom Large in Elkhorn Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 18th, 2019

Is it possible trainer Mike Maker could sweep the trifecta in Saturday’s $250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes (G2) going 1 1/2 miles at Keeneland? I don’t think it’s a far-fetched notion.

Certainly a victory would come as no surprise. Maker’s former claimer #10 Zulu Alpha seems to have forgotten how to lose, with four wins from his last five starts, including graded stakes triumphs in the Sycamore Stakes (G3), W. L. McKnight Stakes (G3), and Mac Diarmida Stakes (G3). His motto might as well be “the longer the better,” because he’s thrived since stretching out to 1 3/8 miles and beyond.

Course conditions have been no obstacle either—he’s won on firm, yielding and good tracks since September, and arguably his most impressive victory (a two-length win in the Sycamore) came at Keeneland. Eclipse Award-winning rider Jose Ortiz will be in the saddle, and Zulu Alpha should be poised for a clean trip while breaking from post 10.
His stiffest competition could come from his own stablemates. #7 Bigger Picture isn’t the most frequent winner these days, but he’s an experienced veteran with five graded stakes wins under his belt, and he’s never run poorly in three starts over this course and distance. He finished third behind Zulu Alpha in the 2018 Sycamore and won the United Nations Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park a couple years back.

The third and least accomplished Maker representative is #4 Soglio, but even he has fired some big efforts during a consistent career. Two starts back he missed by a half-length against Zulu Alpha in the W. L. McKnight.

Many of the other Elkhorn entrants have questions to answer—some are relatively unaccomplished running 1 1/2 miles, while others have been off their best form as of late. You could technically put #8 Red Knight in the former group, but the lightly-raced son of Pure Prize produced an impressive rally to defeat Soglio in the two-mile H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Gulfstream Park in December, so stamina really isn’t a question mark here.

In terms of betting strategy, I’m going to key Zulu Alpha on top, acknowledging his superiority in terms of recent form, class and consistency. Underneath I’ll emphasize Bigger Picture, Soglio and Red Knight, while going a bit deeper in the third slot of a trifecta:

$1 trifecta: 10 with 4,7,8 with 4,7,8 ($6) $2 trifecta: 10 with 4,7,8 with 1,4,5,7,8 ($24)

Good luck!