It’s not certain that race horses ‘feel pressure’ in the same way that humans do but if so the poster child might be Keen Ice. He’s by all accounts a very good horse. He’s got a spectacular lineage–he was sired by Curlin who is the reigning all time money winner in the sport ($10.5 million) and has since become the most sought after breeding stallion in the business. He’s got a solid record in stakes races including a win in the 2015 Travers Stakes, a second place finish in the 2015 Haskell Invitational and a third place finish in the Belmont Stakes.
But for whatever reason, when he’s ‘expected’ to do well or in a very high profile race he comes up short. He finished 7th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby and took fourth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, finishing out of the money in a race that many observers felt played strongly to his skills. He’s not off to a great start this year–he finished sixth in February’s Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. At the time, trainer Dale Romans dismissed that race saying that the track had a strong bias to speed.
Today, Keen Ice was entered in his only prep race in advance of the March 26 Dubai World Cup–the richest horse race in the world with a $10 million purse. To be honest, he was in against an overmatched field but finished 7th after a puzzling ride from new jockey Ryan Moore. Moore didn’t go to the front to set the pace, but he also failed to stay off the pace which is most advantageous for a closer like Keen Ice. Moore’s strategy (hard to imagine it coming from trainer Dale Romans) combined the fatigue caused by trying to challenge for the lead throughout with the loss of track position incumbent in coming from off the pace. To the surprise of no one, Keen Ice faded badly when he hit the stretch letting 33-1 longshot Special Fighter grab the wire to wire victory.
At this point, Keen Ice is still penciled in to the Dubai World Classic assuming that he comes out of this race without injury or other issue. It’s hard to believe that this is the same horse that gave American Pharoah the only loss of his Triple Crown season.