It would be more than fair to characterize Friday’s $300,000 Sycamore S. (G3) at Keeneland as a Grade 3 event in name only. Indeed, the 1 1/2-mile grass test for older horses has come up a race worthy of a much higher grade.
Red Knight, who prevailed in a photo in last month’s Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) over multiple Grade 1 winner Gufo and returning rival Another Mystery, will look to win the Sycamore for a second time following a two-length success in the 2020 edition.
Others wheeling back from that Kentucky Downs feature are also-rans Highest Honors, currently at the top of the Sycamore also-eligible list; multiple graded stakes winner Admission Office; Grade 1 veteran Arklow, who ran well below par in the Turf Cup; and Temple, whose signature victory occurred in the Mac Diarmida (G2) in March.
Also bringing Grade 1 credentials to the Sycamore are Channel Maker, the 2020 champion turf male who captured the Elkhorn (G2) over this course and distance in April, and Highland Chief, who upset the Man o’ War (G1) in May and was subsequently fourth in both the Manhattan (G1) and Bowling Green (G2).
Mira Mission, who landed the Canadian Turf (G3) in March, has twice finished a close second at the highest level since then. A neck second to Santin in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs in May, the Noble Mission gelding was most recently a half-length behind Gufo in the Sword Dancer.
Even with all these back-class contenders entered in the Sycamore, the horse to fear might be stakes newcomer Balthus. The lightly-raced four-year-old, from the powerhouse connections of owner Peter Brant and trainer Chad Brown, enters on a three-race win streak, including back-to-back allowance wins in New York. Balthus is a son of Galileo and French Group 3 winner Forces of Darkness.