May 25, 2019

Keeneland opens 17-day fall meet with Alcibiades, Phoenix

Restless Rider and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. romp home in the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 30, 2018 (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Central Kentucky revels in Keeneland’s fall meet and the fun gets underway Friday with a 10-race card highlighted by the $400,000 Alcibiades (G1) and $250,000 Phoenix (G2). The 17-day meet offers a $5.75 million stakes schedule (record for a non-Breeders’ Cup session) and includes 10 “Win & You’re In” (WAYI) races awarding automatic berths to the Breeders’ Cup.

Keeneland’s signature Fall Stars Weekend features 10 stakes worth a combined $3.95 million on the opening three days of the season. Friday’s program begins at 1:05 p.m. (ET) and at least 10 horses are entered in eight of the opening-day races.

The Alcibiades, a WAYI for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on November 2, has attracted an overflow of 16 including a pair of also-eligibles. A Road to the Kentucky Oaks qualifier, the 1 1/16-mile race awards a total of 17 points (10-4-2-1 scale) to the top four finishers.

Restless Rider looks like the probable favorite following her runner-up finish in the Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga. An impressive 11-length winner of the Debutante at Churchill Downs two back, the Kenny McPeek-trained filly will receive first-time Lasix and breaks from post 3 with regular pilot Brian Hernandez Jr.

Spinaway fourth-placer Bella Ciao also returns along with Catherinethegreat, who will try to rebound from a disappointing ninth. A gray daughter of first-crop stallion Uncaptured, Catherinethegreat posted a 4 ¼-length win in the Schuylerville (G3) two back and the Mark Casse trainee adds blinkers and Julien Leparoux. Casse will also send out Chocolate Kisses, who exits a third in the grassy P.G. Johnson at Saratoga.

Peter Miller has sent a pair from Southern California. Kim K exits a three-length tally in the September 3 Barretts Debutante at Los Alamitos and will keep Heriberto Giguero in the irons. Boujie Girl invades off thirds in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and Sorrento (G2) and Geovanni Franco will ride.

Other runners of interest include Arlington-Washington Lassie winner Into Trouble; Malocchio, second in the grassy Sorority at Monmouth Park; and runaway allowance scorers Lady T N T and Somewhere.

The Phoenix guarantees a spot in the November 3 TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint and a short but stout field of six will contest the six-furlong event.

Promises Fulfilled was unplaced in the Kentucky Derby earlier this year but the Dale Romans-trained son of Shackleford has found his calling at shorter distances, recording strong wins in the Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) and Amsterdam (G3) in the last two appearances. The exciting three-year-old will make his first attempt against older horses with Luis Saez.

He must face a pair of talented foes in Whitmore and Limousine Liberal.

Whitmore is the defending champion, getting up by a nose in last year’s Phoenix, and returns to Keeneland in career-best form for Ron Moquett after notching his first Grade 1 triumph in the Forego (G1) at Saratoga. The five-year-old gelding has posted triple-digit BRIS Speed ratings in his last two outings and loves Friday’s distance (12-9-1-1). Ricardo Santana Jr. guides the surging chestnut.

Limousine Liberal has posted wins in the Churchill Downs S. (G2) and Belmont Sprint (G2) this season, defeating Whitmore by a neck in the latter, and looms as a serious challenger following a fast-closing third in the Forego. Jose Ortiz Jr. will be up on the hard-trying gelding.