Keen Ice, who famously defeated Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 2015 Grade I Travers Stakes, has been transferred from the barn of trainer Dale Romans to seven-time Eclipse Award-winner Todd Pletcher.
Jerry Crawford, president of owner Donegal Racing, confirmed the news on Tuesday and added that the move did not signify any rift between his operation and Romans - who has conditioned some of Donegal’s top runners including Grade I winners Dullahan and Paddy O’Prado.
“To us, it’s not a big deal,” Crawford said. “We do this all the time, we move horses to and from trainers and we certainly have moved horses from other trainers to Dale. It’s as simple as different athletes can prosper in different systems and we would hope that (Keen Ice) gets back to his level of the summer of 2015 and we’re going to give him a shot in a different system to see if we can make that happen. If it does, great. And if it doesn’t, at least we tried.”
Keen Ice is currently at Pletcher’s barn at Keeneland but Crawford added he expected the son of Curlin to get some turn out time before any races are targeted for his return.
Since putting himself in the history books with his Travers upset, Keen Ice has lost five straight races and was most recently eighth in the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse on March 26. The 4-year-old bay colt finished fourth in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic and followed that up with another fourth-place run in the Grade I Clark Handicap last November. Keen Ice finished sixth during his seasonal bow in the Grade I Donn Handicap before heading to Dubai where he ran seventh in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 in his prep for the World Cup.
“Even if we get him back to the top, we won’t know what caused it or what the key thing was (that caused his drop in form),” Crawford said. “Obviously, Dale had him at a very high level and hopefully Todd can get him back to that level.”
Bred by Glencrest Farm, Keen Ice has won two of 16 starts and finished third to American Pharoah in the 2015 Belmont Stakes.
Donegal Racing also has Donegal Moon in training with Pletcher with that one slated to run in Saturday’s Grade I, $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Ironically, one of the top contenders Donegal Moon will have to face is Grade I winner Brody’s Cause, who is trained by Romans.
“Dale’s daughter has worked for me, my son has worked for him,” Crawford said. “So on the outside, this looks different than I think people who are closer on the inside realize. But I suspect Dale would love to beat us this weekend in the Blue Grass.”