October 31, 2020

Venetian Harbor headlines a deep edition of the Raven Run

Venetian Harbor winning the Las Virgenes (G2) © BENOIT PHOTO

Following runner-up finishes in the Test (G1) and Ashland (G1), Grade 2 scorer Venetian Harbor will try to get back into the win column in Saturday’s $200,000 Raven Run (G2) at Keeneland.

A salty field of 10 sophomore fillies, including multiple graded winners Finite and Four Graces, is set for the 7-furlong test.

Trained by Richard Baltas, Venetian Harbor broke her maiden by 10 lengths when making her second start at Santa Anita in late December. She followed with a 9 1/4-length triumph in the one-mile Las Virgenes (G2), stamping herself as a Kentucky Oaks (G1) contender, but the Munnings filly faltered when trying longer distances in the Fantasy (G3) and Ashland, winding up a non-threatening second both times as an odds-on favorite.

She exits a well-beaten second to Gamine in the 7-furlong Test, but received a peculiar ride when Joel Rosario elected to stalk the pace. The front-running filly will switch pilots to Manny Franco, and Venetian Harbor won’t be taken back from post 5 on Saturday.

Winner of the Golden Rod (G2) and Rags to Riches S. at age 2, Finite stretched her stakes-winning streak to four earlier this season. She recorded a smashing 4 1/2-length victory in the Rachel Alexandra S. (G2) in mid-February, but headed to the sidelines after a fourth at odds-on in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) a month later.

Steve Asmussen tried the Munnings filly on turf last time, resulting in a disappointing performance, but we can probably draw a line through that effort. Finite is eligible to rebound while switching back to dirt in the second start back off the layoff, and the chestnut figures to appreciate the 7-furlong trip. Ricardo Santana Jr. guides the stalker.

Four Graces posted back-to-back authoritative wins in the Dogwood (G3) and Beaumont (G3) this summer, the latter coming at Keeneland, but weakened to second after dueling on the early pace as the odds-on choice in the Sept. 4 Eight Belles (G2) at Churchill Downs. With a recent 5-furlong bullet work in preparation, Four Graces is a candidate to bounce back for Ian Wilkes, and it will be interesting to see the early tactics from the speedy Majesticperfection filly, who is drawn in post 2 with Julien Leparoux.

Secret Keeper invades from California for Clifford Sise Jr. The Into Mischief filly exits a runner-up finish to Harvest Moon in the Aug. 22 Torrey Pines (G3) at Del Mar, and that rival is headed to Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) after coming back to win the Zenyatta S. (G1). Secret Keeper didn’t make her racing debut until late May, recording a pair of facile wins over maiden special weight and entry-level allowance foes, and Brian Hernandez Jr. will pick up the mount on the early/presser.

Reagan’s Edge will seek her first stakes win following runner-up finishes to Frank’s Rockette in the Prioress (G2) and Victory Ride (G3). In five career starts, the chestnut Competitive Edge filly has never finished off the board for Cherie DeVaux, and Reagan’s Edge should be prominent from the start under Florent Geroux.

Juvenile turf stakes winner Fair Maiden will stick to the main track after opening her 3-year-old campaign with a convincing allowance win at Churchill Downs on Sept. 19, and Corey Lanerie has the call for Eoin Harty. Grand Cru Chase, unbeaten from three career starts for Bill Mott, will be tested for class after capturing the Sept. 7 Weber City Miss S. at Laurel Park.

Other runners include Tonalist’s Shape, who won the Davona Dale (G2) and Forward Gal (G3) at Gulfstream earlier this year but must turn things around following a fifth as the favorite in the Charles Town Oaks (G3).