May 29, 2023

Nashville the marquee name early on Breeders’ Cup Saturday

Nashville at Keeneland for 2020 Breeders' Cup
Nashville at Keeneland for 2020 Breeders' Cup (Coady Photo/Keeneland)

So impressive has Nashville been since commencing his career on Sept. 2 that the son of Speightstown was pre-entered in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). In deference to his relative lack of experience, and the hopes he’ll eventually have a legitimate shot at the Sprint in the future taking a more conservative route, Nashville will instead open Breeders’ Cup Saturday at Keeneland as a strong favorite to win the $125,000 Perryville Stakes.

Although listed at 4-5 on the morning line for the 6-furlong Perryville, Nashville figures as even heavier favorite against six rivals. The Steve Asmussen trainee is 2-for-2, graduating at Saratoga and then winning an allowance at Keeneland on Oct. 10. The combined margin of victory for both runs was 21 1/4 lengths.

The most accomplished of Nashville’s rivals is Fore Left, who’s placed once in three starts since taking the UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) in February for trainer Doug O’Neill.

Lafayette Stakes

Another Asmussen trainee, Engage, bears watching in the $150,000 Lafayette Stakes for older horses over 7 furlongs. Last year’s Phoenix (G2) winner and Breeders’ Cup Sprint fourth trailed a field of five in the Vosburgh (G2) last time, but it was the son of Into Mischief’s first run since the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita last November.

Returning from a longer break is Phat Man, who last winter at Gulfstream captured the Fred W. Hooper (G3) and finished second in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2). Mind Control is a two-time Grade 1 winner, though his best has tended to come at Aqueduct and Saratoga. Former claimer Strike That enters off a narrow allowance win over the Lafayette track and distance on Oct. 9.

Fort Springs Stakes

The final appetizer before the Breeders’ Cup action starts Saturday is this 6-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies. Grade 1 veteran Wicked Whisper will look to follow up on her recent victory in the Miss Preakness (G3) over Ain’t No Elmers, while recent allowance winners Miss T Too and Motivated Seller appear serious threats to notch their first stakes wins.