Cloudy's Knight, Winchester vie for favoritism in Sycamore
CLOUDY'S KNIGHT (Lord Avie), who overcame a year-long layoff to take the Kentucky Cup Turf (G3) last month, will seek to make it two in a row when he heads a large cast to post in Thursday's $125,000 Sycamore S. (G3) at Keeneland. The 1 1/2-mile turf feature attracted 15 entrants, only 12 of which will be allowed to start.
Named Canada's champion turf horse following a score in the 2007 Canadian International (Can-G1), Cloudy's Knight was uncompetitive in four starts last season, his last under the tutelage of Chicago-based conditioner Frank Kirby. Eventually transferred to Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, the now nine-year-old gelding showed signs of his old self when returning from a lengthy spell at Kentucky Downs September 19. Conceding 10 lengths early, Cloudy's Knight gradually made up ground and opened up a commanding lead in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths under Rosemary Homeister Jr., who is back in the saddle for the Sycamore.
This will mark Cloudy Knight's first start in Lexington in more than two years. He was a close fifth in the 2007 Elkhorn S. (G3) when last trying the local turf.
WINCHESTER (Theatrical [Ire]), who earned his signature win in the Secretariat S. (G1) last year, is another who has begun to regain better form of late. Far back in three starts following the Secretariat, Winchester was a much-improved second in the Bowling Green H. (G2) at Belmont Park last time. This marks his third start for trainer Christophe Clement.
Another aging veteran in the Sycamore is the eight-year-old ALWAYS FIRST (GB) (Barathea [Ire]), who won the 2008 edition of the Sycamore by three parts of a length. The Tom Voss charge has managed just one win in seven subsequent outings, however, and has been unplaced in five of those.
AMERICAIN (Dynaformer), who departed France for America after a score in the Prix Vicomtesse Vigier (Fr-G2) in May, was crushed in both the Sword Dancer Invitational (G1) and Bowling Green in his first two U.S. appearances, but might be due to wake up. GENTLEMAN CHESTER (Chester House) was a solid second to subsequent Grade 1 winner Just As Well (A.P. Indy) in the Arlington H. (G3), was not embarrassed when fourth in the Sword Dancer, and might not have handled the soft going when a distant fifth in the Bowling Green last time.
FREE FIGHTER (Out of Place) and CABERNEIGH (E Dubai), the one-three finishers in the Starts and Stripes Turf H. (G3) at Arlington on Labor Day, have the credentials to do well. Horses for the course that might outrun their odds are the speedy and ultra-consistent TIMELESS FASHION (Sky Classic) and TIGER WOODMAN (Woodman), who has taken allowances in his last two trips over the Keeneland turf for the hot Rusty Arnold barn.
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