Keeneland’s fall meet, which leads into next month’s Breeders’ Cup extravaganza, began with a bang on Friday with two gate-to-wire wins for talented fillies. Wonder Wheel went all the way in the day’s feature, the G1 Alcibiades, and Delight was enormously impressive when a wide-margin winner of the G2 Jessamine. Conversely, Manny Way came right from the back of the pack to score an upset victory in the G2 2022 Phoenix Stakes. All three winners earned a paid berth into the world championships.
G1, $500,000, 1m 1/16, 2yo fillies
Wonder Wheel rolls them over
The 4-1 favorite broke fast from her inside post under Tyler Gaffalione and was in front at the clubhouse turn, and then it was catch-me-if-you-can – and they very nearly did. Wonder Wheel was three clear at the top of the lane but looked weary in the last sixteenth, and the hard-charging fourth-choice Chop Chop would have got there in another two strides. She didn’t have two more strides, and Wonder Wheel’s nose was there when the picture was taken.
Raging Sea was a neck back in third, but was demoted to fourth for interference and Kigera moved up a place. The second-favorite Fun And Feisty made an absolutely no-show, finishing eighth; the time was 1:45 and one-fifth.
“She had a great trip while some of the others might not have,” said trainer Mark Casse, winning his fourth Alcibiades, all since 2012. “Hopefully this will lead us into another big race.”
That will be the G1 BC Juvenile Fillies over course and distance on November 4, in which Wonder Wheel – now three-for-four, and runner-up in the G1 Spinaway at Saratoga – could renew rivalry with Chop Chop, who was having her first start on the main track.
Alcibiades Stakes Horse Race Video
G2, $350,000, 6f, 3yo+
Manny springs a surprise
There was a big upset in the 2022 Phoenix Stakes, the oldest stakes race in the US, when 17-1 poke Manny Wah snapped a ten-race losing streak at the head of a longshot trifecta.
The six-year-old, trained by Wayne Catalano, was claiming his first success at graded level and was plumb last at the top of the stretch, looking cooked. But jockey Corey Lanerie lit a fire under him and when a gap opened on the rail he surged through it, keeping on gamely to get there by a neck from 19-1 chance Long Range Toddy, with another neck back to 14-1 Top Gunner in third. The stopwatch showed 1:10 and two-fifths.
The favorite Sibelius came home fourth, while last year’s winner Special Reserve faded to finish last after setting the early pace.
“Turning for home, I didn’t know if I was going to catch them, but when he saw that last little hole he found another gear,” said Lanerie.
It was only the second win for Manny Wah in his last 22 races, but he picked the perfect time to shine as it earned him a paid berth into the G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint back here next month. It will be his second try at the BC Sprint, after finishing fifth as a longshot when the race was held at this circuit two years ago.
Phoenix Stakes Horse Race Video
G2, $350,000, 1m 1/16 turf, 2yo fillies
Delight a delightful prospect
Well, that was easy. On her first start in stakes company, Delight demonstrated that there would be more days like these when romping in the Jessamine, booking herself a free pass to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in the process.
The 7-2 favorite led just about every step of the way and was headed for a few strides around the clubhouse turn before reasserting and rolling on. She clicked into overdrive in mid-stretch and drew right off to win unchallenged by five lengths, stopping the clock in 1:44 and one-fifth. The third-choice Knockyoursocksoff rallied hard to be runner-up, a neck ahead of Bling.
“The plan was to follow someone and have a target for the lead, but she broke so well and did it on her own,” said jockey Luis Saez. “She relaxed beautifully and when she came to the top of the stretch it was all about her. She had a big turn of foot and I didn’t really have to do anything.”
Delight, a daughter of first-crop sire Mendelssohn and trained by Jonathan Thomas, was beaten in her first two starts before breaking her maiden at Delaware Park, and could renew rivalry with Knockyoursocksoff at next month’s world championships.
Jessamine Stakes Horse Race Video
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