Last month, a jubilant Alberto Figueiredo stood in the Kentucky Downs winner’s circle and tried to articulate what it meant for his operation Bonne Chance Farm to see their horses routinely going head-to-head with some of the best runners in the nation.
“Imagine, we’re bringing three horses and three are stakes winners,” an emotional Figueiredo explained in the moments after watching Imperador (BRZ) carry his farm’s name to victory in $1 million Calumet Turf Cup on Sept. 11. “That’s a huge accomplishment for a South American stable with just a couple handful of mares.”
Two of the color bearers that have helped put Bonne Chance Farm map are Grade 1 winner Ivar (BRZ) and his improving stablemate In Love (BRZ). On Oct. 9, the two Paulo Lobo trainees will aim to showcase just how formidable the program behind their success has become when the pair face off against a loaded field of 11 other challengers in the the 36th running of the $750,000 Keeneland Turf Mile (G1).
The Keeneland Turf Mile, which is a “Win and You’re In” race for the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Del Mar on Nov. 6, is part of a Saturday program at Keeneland that will offer two other Grade 1 tests: the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity for 2-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the main track and the $400,000 First Lady Stakes for fillies and mares going a mile on the turf.
The Bonne Chance team already owns bragging rights in this space as Ivar prevailed in last year’s edition of the Turf Mile, pulling a 14-1 upset to add to a resume that features multiple Group 1 wins in his native Argentina. The son of Agnes Gold would go on to finish fourth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile and will be making his first start since running sixth in the Turf Classic Stakes (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 1.
“He is doing very well,” Lobo said of Ivar. “He had a minor setback after that race, but he has been working steadily (since the end of July) and never has missed a work.”
Campaigned by Bonne Chance and Stud R D I, the 5-year-old Ivar is still lightly raced for his age, earning five wins from nine career starts with $689,413 in earnings.
Where Ivar is trying to get back to his best self, his barn mate In Love comes into Saturday’s test as good as he has been in his 12-race career. Also a son of Agnes Gold, the 5-year-old gelding has won his last two outings including a victory in a division of the $400,000 TVG Stakes at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 8.
“We put blinkers on him and his last race was amazing,” Lobo said of In Love, who owns a win over the Keeneland course having taken an allowance test going 1 1/16-miles there last October.
Among the top contenders the Lobo crew will have to contend with in the Turf Mile is reigning Breeders’ Cup Mile hero, Order of Australia (IRE).
Owned by Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Anne Marie O’Brien, Order of Australia posted a 73-1 upset when he prevailed by a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland last November. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, the son of Australia (GB) has only found the winner’s circle once in six starts since that effort but has been consistent in his form, annexing the Minstrel Stakes (G2) at the Curragh on July 18 and finishing second last time out in the Prix du Moulin (G1) at Longchamp on Sept. 5.
John Velazquez has the mount on Order of Australia on Saturday and will exit post 10.
Though he doesn’t yet have a Grade 1 win to his credit, Godolphin homebred Pixelate has been quietly making his way up the turf ranks and has finished in the top three in all but four of his 20 career starts. Trained by Michael Stidham, Pixelate won the 2020 Del Mar Derby (G2) last September and most recently showcased his kick when he rallied from eighth to prevail in the one-mile, WinStar Mint Million by 2 ½-lengths at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 6.
“We’ve tried to step up to the Grade 1s with him in the past but he just wasn’t quite ready for that competition yet,” Stidham said. “I think he has inched forward now and moved himself forward. He’s over a $1 million in earnings. He’s earned another chance at the Grade 1 so we’ll see if he can get it done this time.”