Renown‘s victory in the 2016 Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland keeps looking better and better. A 9-1 upset winner of the 1 1/2-mile grass stakes for older horses, the two horses immediately behind him were Bigger Picture, winner this year of the United Nations (G1), and Bullards Alley, a hugely impressive winner of last Sunday’s Canadian International (G1).
On Thursday, Renown will look to repeat in the $150,000 event, a feat previously accomplished by Gleaming Key (1996-97), Royal Strand (1998-99), Rochester (2001-02, 2005), and Holiday Star (2014-15).
Renown won his season-opener, the $50,000 Secretariat at Great Meadow, Virginia, but has dropped his last four. The latest was a pace-setting third behind Canessar and Infinite Wisdom in the $100,000 Laurel Turf Cup. A stakes winner in France, Canessar was making his U.S. debut in the Turf Cup for trainer Arnaud Delacour.
“We were excited to get him,” Delacour said. I had seen his races in France and he is a good long-distance horse.
“The only question was how he would handle the firm turf. It is a different kind of firm over there, but he handled the course at Laurel well.”
Infinite Wisdom, the beaten favorite at Laurel, had previously taken the $100,000 John’s Call at Saratoga, and rated in second most of the way behind Renown, who showed unexpected speed.
The highest profile of the Sycamore entries belongs to Hardest Core, the 2014 Arlington Million (G1) winner. The seven-year-old has spent two year-long stints on the sidelines since that season, most recently returning from a near 15-month absence on September 23 at Woodbine, where he finished sixth in a 1 1/16-mile allowance after troubled start.
Some in Tieme, three-length hero of the May 20 Louisville H. (G3) when last seen for Ken McPeek, just missed against third-level allowance foes in his only prior start at Keeneland. He was a Group 1 winner in Brazil prior to his importation last year.
Manitoulin, a last-out allowance winner at Belmont for Jimmy Toner, has won or placed in both previous tries on the Lexington turf, while three-year-olds Big Bend, the Dueling Grounds Derby winner, and stakes winner Final Copy look to step up against their older rivals.