If the Keeneland fall meet is here, the Breeders’ Cup can’t be far away, and Friday’s card hosts three win-and-in qualifiers for the world championships. G1 runner-up and third Wonder Wheel and Kaling take on G3 winner Fun And Feisty in the feature G1 2022 Alcibiades Stakes, last year’s winner Special Reserve bids to go back-to-back in the G2 Phoenix, and a big field of unexposed turf fillies vie for that precious Breeders’ Cup golden ticket in the G2 Jessamine.
Grade 1, $500,000, 1m 1/16, 2yo fillies
The Keeneland fall meet that stretches into next month’s Breeders’ Cup world championships starts here, with the Alcibiades as the marquee event on opening day, a win-and-in for the G1 BC Juvenile Fillies back here on November 4.
There’s certainly no shortage of promising types bidding for that paid berth into the big one, with a full field in place and an intriguing mix of Graded performers and upgrading maiden winners. There’ll be plenty of interest in Wonder Wheel, a stakes winner at Churchill Downs Track, beating Sabra Tuff by six and three-quarter lengths, before moving up to the G1 Spinaway at Saratoga Race Course over seven furlongs.
She was favored at the Spa but was pushed into second by the outsider Leave No Trace, although behind her were Kaling, a length and a quarter back in third, fifth-placed Sabra Tuff again, and the disappointing Just Cindy, winner of the G3 Schuylerville on her previous start but who dropped the ball leaving the gate and could never get competitive, finishing a distant sixth.
Leave No Trace did something for the form when a fair third behind Chocolate Gelato in last Sunday’s G1 Frizette at Aqueduct, and Wonder Wheel, Kaling, and Just Cindy all have solid credentials if continuing to progress.
Local boy Kenny McPeek has won the Alcibiades five times and has a strong contender in Fun And Feisty, a winner on her stakes debut in the G3 Pocahontas at Churchill Downs over this mile-sixteenth when drawing off to win by three and a half lengths, relishing the yardage and putting almost six lengths between her and fourth-placed Boss Lady Bailey, who won’t be helped by her outside post today.
McPeek’s second-string Stellar Lady switches back to the main track after breaking her maiden by a nose at Kentucky Downs and is one of a number of interesting maiden winners in the field, a group led by Raging Sea, who got it done the first time at Saratoga over seven furlongs and is bred to appreciate stretching out.
Other Spa maiden winners are Take Charge Briana, third time lucky over seven furlongs a month ago, and Xigera, who romped by five and a quarter lengths over a mile-sixteenth.
The best visual impression was left by Infinite Diamond, who crushed her Gulfstream Park maiden rivals by 14 and a half lengths over a mile last month, but it was a poor short field there and she comes back off just three weeks’ rest. A similar case is Essaouira, who scored by four and a half lengths in a short-field Delaware Park mile maiden.
Last year’s winning trainer Brad Cox sends the unbeaten Chop Chop, winner of a mile stakes on turf at Kentucky Downs when the first two drew well clear. That’s usually a good sign, but she makes her main-track debut here so comes with the usual caveat about form holding up on a different surface. Mustang Lady was a well-beaten fifth, but won on the main track on debut and may well appreciate the return.
2022 Alcibiades Stakes Odds & Prediction
Trainer form in this contest and proven stamina tip the scales in favor of easy G3 winner FUN AND FEISTY.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|Wonder Wheel||Tyler Gaffalione||+450|
|Chop Chop||Joel Rosario||+1200|
|Stellar Lady||Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.||+3000|
|Raging Sea||Jose L. Ortiz||+600|
|Mustang Lady||Rafael Bejarano||+5000|
|Essaouira||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||+1500|
|Infinite Diamond||Florent Geroux||+1000|
|Fun and Feisty||Julien R. Leparoux||+350|
|Kaling||John R. Velazquez||+600|
|Just Cindy||Luis Saez||+2000|
|Take Charge Briana||Flavien Prat||+1500|
|Sabra Tuff||Paco Lopez||+5000|
|Boss Lady Bailey||Reylu Gutierrez||+5000|
Grade 2, $350,000, 6f, 3yo+
The Phoenix offers a paid berth into the G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint here on November 5, and Special Reserve is bidding to snap up that golden ticket once again after his narrow success in this race 12 months ago.
He made pretty much all the running that day and had just enough in reserve to hold off the late thrust of Aloha West by a neck, although it was a different story in the BC Sprint at Del Mar, when he could never get to the lead and found nothing extra in the closing stages, finishing fourth behind surprise package Aloha West.
Special Reserve hasn’t been in the same ripsnorting form as last year, but he’s had a much lighter campaign after sustaining a knee chip in the Breeders’ Cup – just two starts – and tuned up for this when going gate-to-wire in a six-furlong stakes at Mountaineer in August, beating longshot Baytown Bear by a comfortable three and a half lengths. The pace is important to him and if he gets out there he could be tough to peg back.
He also has a class edge given that the only other Graded winner in the field is Long Range Toddy, and that success came 24 starts ago in the 2019 G2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park. Long Range Toddy knocked on the door when runner-up in the G3 Commonwealth here over seven furlongs in April, but it’s hard to have any faith in a horse with such a profile. Fifth in the Commonwealth was Manny Wah, who has won just once in his last 21 starts and is consequently just as tough to like.
Apart from Special Reserve, the only horse with recent winning form is Sibelius, who blitzed the opposition by seven and a half lengths in a six-furlong stakes at Pimlico last month. That was his first stakes win and he could also be a pace angle, dangerous if knocking Special Reserve off his stride.
Several of today’s runners met in a six-furlong stakes at Churchill Downs last month when Necker Island was a late-closing third, beaten two noses in a frantic finish. Manny Wah was a length and three-quarters away fourth, Top Gunner was another two and a half lengths adrift in fifth, and Baytown Bear was sixth, four and a half lengths further back. Necker Island has been in fine form in 2022, never out of the first four, but this requires much more.
The hard-working Sir Alfred James, making his 16th start of 2022, was fifth in this race a year ago and there’s no obvious reason why he should do better now.
2022 Phoenix Stakes Odds & Prediction
Last year’s winner SPECIAL RESERVE is fresh and ready to rumble and holds a distinct class edge over the opposition.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|Sir Alfred James||Rafael Bejarano||+800|
|Special Reserve||Tyler Gaffalione||+200|
|Top Gunner||Reylu Gutierrez||+1000|
|Baytown Bear||Jack Gilligan||+3000|
|Necker Island||Francisco Arrieta||+350|
|Manny Wah||Corey J. Lanerie||+800|
|Long Range Toddy||Paco Lopez||+2000|
Grade 2, $350,000, 1m 1/16 turf, 2yo fillies
Another full field in the Jessamine, the turf equivalent to the Alcibiades, with four also-eligibles to muddy the water and not quite so many stakes form to offer a potential way through the maze. It’s a win-and-in for the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
The only stakes winner is Blind Spot, who moved up from her maiden win at Gulfstream Park when doing all her best work late over the extended mile at the same track, grinding home to win by three-quarters of a length from Stephanie’s Charm, who had also broken her maiden at the Miami circuit. That was on the all-weather surface, and both fillies switch to the lawn for the first time today.
The outside post could be a disadvantage for Towhead, who is a four-race maiden but missed by only a nose in a mile stakes at Kentucky Downs, losing out in the photo to Chop Chop (runs in the Alcibiades on the same card). There were nine lengths back to C C Cruise Control in third and another three-quarters of a length to fourth-placed Knockyoursocksoff, and – as mentioned before, and almost certainly again in the future – when two horses draw right away from the pack it often means that they are both of some quality.
More form from the idiosyncratic European-style turf circuit at Kentucky Downs comes via Happy Gal, who ran second – beaten just a neck – in an allowance over six and a half furlongs but had her number taken down for interference. A neck was all that separated her from third-placed Promise Of Hope, a Churchill Downs maiden winner making her debut on the weeds and racing as though she would appreciate stretching out a little further.
Then there’s Sabalenka, who broke her maiden over a mile at Kentucky Downs when all out to hang on by a nose, the front two four lengths clear of the third horse, and Dulcia, who got the job done first time over six furlongs at Kentucky Downs, winning by a comfortable length and a quarter.
Easy Saratoga maiden winner Recognize moved up a little when third behind subsequent G2-placed Be Your Best in a stakes at the Spa over a mile-sixteenth, clocking the early fractions before fading. Perhaps the distance asked too much of her given her trailblazing tactics, and that might also be the case for Delight, also beaten over a mile-sixteenth at the Spa but breaking her maiden when cut back to seven and a half furlongs at Delaware Park, the first two drawing 11 lengths clear of the third. She raced positively there and may not want to stretch back out.
2022 Jessamine Stakes Odds & Prediction
A very open contest, but PROMISE OF HOPE took well to the surface on her turf debut and should be suited by stepping up in distance.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|Sabalenka||Jose L. Ortiz||+1000|
|C C Cruise Control||Corey J. Lanerie||+2000|
|Promise of Hope||Edgar Morales||+600|
|Blind Spot||Edgard J. Zayas||+1500|
|Happy Gal||Joel Rosario||+500|
|Stephanie’s Charm||Inoel Beato||+1500|
|Tax Implications (GB)||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||+400|
|Play the Music||Joel Rosario||+1500|
|Aztec Nights||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||+600|
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