With all due respect for the five other contenders in the Grade I Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland, the two standouts are painfully obvious — and not just because of their blatant good looks.
One of the great rivalries in the turf division is set for its first installment of 2012 on Friday when Grade I winners Get Stormy and Turallure match strides in the $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile.
The two grass standouts met for the first time in last year's Maker's Mark, with Get Stormy earning his first Grade I win and a then-unproven Turallure finishing last in the eight-horse field.
Since that inauspicious opening clash, Turallure has come up to his budding rival's level and then some. While at Saratoga in the summer, the gray son of Wando turned a corner in his form, winning the Grade II Bernard Baruch Handicap by 21/4 lengths over Get Stormy last August and then heading to Canada to notch his first Grade I triumph in the Woodbine Mile.
The last time the racing world saw Turallure in action, he ran second, beaten by inches by Court Vision in the Breeders' Cup Mile. The 5-year-old horse is wading into deep waters in his season debut, but trainer Charlie Lopresti is hoping the Turallure that showed up in the second half of 2011 is the one that will stick around for the entirety of this season.
"Julien (jockey Leparoux) hadn't been on him since the Breeders' Cup and when he breezed him the other day I asked him what he thought and he said he's very, very good," Lopresti said. "I'm realistic to know that those guys (Get Stormy) have been training in Florida all winter and he's had a win and my horse is just coming back. He doesn't have to win Friday as long as he runs good."
After ending his 2011 with an inexplicably poor 12th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile, Get Stormy has looked back to his old, handsome self this year.
The flashy bay son of Stormy Atlantic opened his season with a half-length victory in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 11, an especially impressive outing considering that race's 11⁄8-mile distance is not considered his best.
Though Get Stormy has been a late bloomer, it was still comforting for his connections to see the 6-year-old is still capable of taking care of himself — and the competition — in the afternoons.
"He's one of those special horses that just keeps himself well," trainer Tom Bush said. "We were worried about the 11⁄8 miles off such a long layoff and such a poor race in the Breeders' Cup, but he came to the race the right way. We've had a good preparation for this one ... but you know Turallure's 2011 form is about as good as it gets. He's going to be formidable for sure."
Turallure's and Get Stormy's styles are complete opposites, with the former doing his best running from well off the pace while Get Stormy makes his living exclusively on the front end.
In addition to sharing top-level ability, both Get Stormy and Turallure have growing fan bases. Turallure's distinctive gray coat and docile personality make him a favorite with virtually everyone who comes in contact with him. Get Stormy's markings and physique make him a doppelganger for the Budweiser Clydesdales.
"We're spoiled because he's a big, pretty handsome horse who is running at the very top," Bush said. "There is no bigger thrill than that. He's a great horse to be around because he responds to being spoiled pretty well."