Star turf mare Lady Eli, who made a remarkable recovery from laminitis to win once and finish second twice, both times narrowly, in three starts last season, looks to put in a fuller campaign in 2017. That quest begins Friday in the $350,000 Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland, a 1 1/16-miles heat that has attracted a solid group of seven others.
All eyes, however, will be on Lady Eli, who last visited Keeneland two years ago when she won the Appalachian (G3). Diagnosed with laminitis following a win in the 2015 Belmont Oaks (G1), the Chad Brown trainee was back in action by last August, but suffered her first career defeat when second by three parts of a length in the Ballston Spa (G2).
Back in the winner’s circle following the Flower Bowl (G1) in her next start, Lady Eli missed by a nose to European invader Queen’s Trust in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) when last seen in November. Irad Ortiz Jr., who had been aboard for all nine previous starts, has the mount in the Jenny Wiley.
Lady Eli won’t be the only former Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner in the field. Catch a Glimpse, who captured her signature win at Keeneland in October 2015, looks to snap a four-race losing streak on Saturday. Only eighth in the Filly & Mare Turf, the Mark Casse charge was second best to Grade 1 winner Celestine in her March 4 comeback, the $100,000 Sand Springs at Gulfstream.
The Keeneland turf has also been the site of significant victories by Time and Motion and Quidura, who captured the track’s leading three-year-old filly turf stakes last October. Time and Motion was a game winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) in a three-way photo, but has not been out since running sixth in the Matriarch (G1) in December. German import Quidura went two-for-two in the U.S. last fall for Graham Motion, including a triumph in the Valley View (G3) on soft ground.
Illuminant, third to Tepin in last year’s Jenny Wiley, went on to capture the Gamely (G1) at the end of May, but was out of action until March 10 when she rallied to win the $77,000 Wishing Well over the downhill turf course at Santa Anita.
The deep Jenny Wiley field also includes Dickinson, heroine of the Hillsborough (G2) and Suwannee River (G3) in her last two; Goodyearforroses, three-for-three since joining trainer Richard Baltas, including a last-out victory in the Santa Ana (G2); and the Grade 3-placed stakes winner Kitten’s Roar.
Lady Aurelia, an Eclipse Award finalist for champion two-year-old filly last year despite doing all her best work in Europe, could face as many as 11 older rivals in the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway over 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf.
Winner of the Prix Morny (G1) at Deauville and Queen Mary (G2) at Royal Ascot last term, Lady Aurelia is reportedly pointing for the five-furlong King’s Stand (G1) against males at this year’s Royal meeting.
Lady Aurelia’s main rivals Saturday include 2016 Giant’s Causeway winner Exaggerated and Pretty Perfection, a dual stakes winner at Gulfstream over the winter.
A field of eight older horses were entered for the $200,000 Ben Ali (G3) over 1 1/8 miles. Among them is Eagle, who impressively won last year’s renewal but has been winless in five starts since. Eagle returns on relatively short rest after running fourth in the New Orleans H. (G2) two weeks ago.
Eagle’s main rivals figure to be Scuba, who concluded 2016 with three straight wins in the Greenwood Cup (G3), $200,000 Temperence Hill, and Marathon (G2) over distances of 1 1/2 miles and beyond; Bird Song, coming off a win in the Fred W. Hooper (G3); and the Grade 3-placed Watershed, who is a local allowance winner.