January 20, 2022

First turn 10-6

Last updated: 10/22/04 11:46 AM



October means Keeneland

by James Scully

Keeneland is a great place to be in October and the fall meet
begins Friday with a strong opening weekend packed with Breeders’
Cup hopefuls. Tree-lined paddocks and parking lots are part of
the aesthetic beauty at the picturesque track, but first-class
racing is Keeneland’s most endearing trait.

Sunday’s Spinster S. (G1) is one of three Grade 1s and seven
overall graded events during the first three days and will
feature the country’s best distaffer, AZERI (Jade Hunter), in her
first appearance at Keeneland. A dominant performance could send
the six-year-old mare to the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Azeri wants no part of 10 furlongs and the thought of her
ending a distinguished career with an unplaced finish against
males at Lone Star is disgusting. Her last race, a 1 1/4-length
setback to Storm Flag Flying (Storm Cat), came at 1 1/4 miles in
the Personal Ensign H. (G1), and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1)
is the only viable option for the chestnut.

With a small and mostly unaccomplished group of rivals lining
up to challenge, Azeri will be difficult to catch in the Spinster.
Champions Inside Information, Bayakoa (Arg) (twice), Banshee
Breeze, Paseana (Arg) and Princess Rooney have won recent
runnings of the fall meet’s premiere event.

Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally owns four Spinster wins
since 1989 and will seek to upset the heavy favorite on Sunday
with multiple Grade 2 heroine HOUSE OF FORTUNE (Free House).
Winner of the Fantasy S. (G2) earlier this year, the sophomore
filly captured the Hollywood Breeders’ Cup Oaks (G2) two starts
back and comes off a runner-up finish against older rivals in the
Clement L. Hirsch H. (G2) at Del Mar.

Saturday features a pair of Grade 1 events, the Shadwell Turf
Mile and Breeders’ Futurity. The former could send several
contestants to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), with PERFECT SOUL (Ire)
(Sadler’s Wells), NOTHING TO LOSE (Sky Classic), SILVER TREE (Hennessy),
SWEET RETURN (GB) (Elmaamul) and PUPPETEER (GB) (Singspiel [Ire])
among a deep field of nine.

The Breeders’ Futurity has one big draw, undefeated Cradle (G3)
winner BELLAMY ROAD (Concerto), and 11 other juveniles seeking to
break out with a major performance prior to the Breeders’ Cup
Juvenile (G1).

The 1 1/16-mile event has featured many outstanding two-year-olds.
Eurosilver (Unbridled’s Song), who turned in a dynamic run to win
the 2003 edition by 4 3/4 lengths, may have been the best
juvenile last year but didn’t get a chance to prove it when his
connections decided to skip the Breeders’ Cup in favor of the
Kentucky Derby (G1) (which he didn’t make anyway). Other recent
Futurity winners include Horse of the Year Favorite Trick and
champions Forty Niner, Boston Harbor, Tasso and Swale.

Saturday’s Shadwell Turf Mile may be the most competitive
event of the weekend. Nine turf runners will square off,
including European invader Puppeteer. The
French Group 3 winner will have turf specialist Brice Blanc up
for trainer Alain Dupre.

Defending winner Perfect Soul comes off
a close second in the Atto Mile (Can-G1) and loves the turf in
Lexington, Kentucky, winning the Maker’s Mark Mile (G2) in the
spring. Another threat is Grade 1 hero Sweet Return,
who was one of the favorites last time when finishing eighth in the
Arlington Million. The Ron McAnally trainee is much more
effective at a mile.

Past winners of the Shadwell Turf Mile include champion turf
horses Itsallgreektome and Steinlein.

The Alcibiades (G2), which features unbeaten and early
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) favorite SENSE OF STYLE (Thunder
Gulch), drew a large field of 11 on the opening day program. The
1 1/16-mile event owns a tremendous history with past winners
like Silverbulletday, Eliza, Take Charge Lady, Countess Diana,
Optimistic Gal and Moccasin.

The $250,000 Phoenix Breeders’ Cup (G3) is also Friday.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) hopeful CLOCK STOPPER (Gilded Time) is
the 5-2 favorite on the morning line and is looking for his first
stakes victory this season following a pair of runner-up finishes.
A field of 11 is entered for the contentious event, and a
longshot to consider is the speedy three-year-old HOSCO (Honour
and Glory), who could last a long way on the front end for
dangerous trainer Doug O’Neill.

Great racing coupled with a terrific atmosphere makes the
Keeneland experience one of a kind. Good luck this weekend!