First in stakes, finally, for Dubious Miss

Throughout his 19-race career, the 6-year-old gelding Dubious Miss has rarely failed to deliver.

Infrequently out of the money and always battling at the end, the son of E. Dubai is the kind of gritty performer most trainers love to have in their barn.

On Sunday, after years of being just under the radar and out of the spotlight, Dubious Miss finally had a moment all his own.

Under confident handling from jockey Calvin Borel, Dubious Miss wired the field in the Grade III, $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland on Sunday to notch the first stakes win — graded or otherwise — of his career.

David Holloway's homebred gelding previously had three runner-up efforts in graded stakes races, the most recent his seasonal bow when he was beaten 21/4 lengths on the turf by Blues Street in the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap on Feb. 20.

Though he is not normally known as a front-runner, Dubious Miss took full advantage of the lack of pace from his seven competitors on Sunday and the speed-favoring Keeneland track as he shook off early pressure from Timber Reserve to draw clear in the lane for a 11/2-length victory.

"No doubt about it, he doesn't miss the board much," trainer Paul McGee said of Dubious Miss. "He's such a consistent horse, and it's nice to win one instead of running second like he has in a few others."

One of the many consistent aspects of Dubious Miss' career has been his affinity for the Keeneland Polytrack, a surface on which he is now 3-for-3.

Indeed, the dark bay gelding — who was sent off as the 2-to-1 favorite — looked at home clicking off fractions of :24.41 and :48.16, never getting keyed up despite having Timber Reserve at his neck down the backstretch.

"Paul said, 'Ride him like you own him,'" Borel said. "He (Dubious Miss) loves this track, he ran two powerful races here before, and he showed up today."

With Timber Reserve fading out of contention around the turn for home, Dubious Miss opened up a 2-length advantage at the head of the lane and was never challenged as he hit the wire in 1:49.60.

Kiss the Kid, a multiple graded stakes winner himself, advanced after rating just off the leaders to grab second with the 4-year-old Giant Oak 2 lengths farther back in third.

Grade I winner Just as Well, who was making his 2010 debut for trainer/owner Jonathan Sheppard, could only rally for fourth.

As solid as Dubious Miss is over the Polytrack, he has also earned four of his eight career wins over the Churchill Downs surface, where he is likely headed next.

"He runs well there, too, so I'm sure we'll pick something out for him there," McGee said.