Raven Run lures three graded winners
LEXINGTON, Ky. – There are three graded stakes winners among a field of 12 3-year-old fillies in the Raven Run Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland.
Two of them, Lucy N Ethel and Lightstream, figure among the favorites in a well-matched 18th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Raven Run. The other, Covey Trace, does not.
“I love it,” said Brook Smith, who co-owns Covey Trace with trainer Billy Denzik. “There are some pretty classy fillies in there. If we hit the board, I think we’ll be happy.”
Covey Trace won the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks, in which Sophia’s Song, the 1-5 favorite, finished third. Making her first start since that Sept. 17 race, Covey Trace was assigned post 1 for the seven-furlong Raven Run, the ninth of 10 Saturday races. Brian Hernandez Jr. has the call.
“The rail makes it tough, but if we get the trip, we’ll have the horse,” said Smith. “She’s training like never before and is completely coming into her own. Maybe we’ll run our best race and only get fourth, but our form is respectable enough. We feel like we’ve got nothing to lose.”
Lucy N Ethel (post 4, Corey Lanerie), the winner of the Grade 2 Prioress in her last start, will be putting her 4-for-4 record at risk when making her first start for trainer Tom Amoss.
Lightstream (post 12, Julien Leparoux), trained by Brian Lynch, won the Grade 3 Beaumont here in April and most recently was second to longshot winner Paola Queen in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga on Aug. 6.
From the rail, the Raven Run field is Covey Trace, Ma Can Do It, Grace’s Treasure, Lucy N Ethel, Southern Girl, Bellamentary, Malibu Stacy, Curlin’s Approval, Coniah, Sophia’s Song, Takrees, and Lightstream.
The Raven Run lost a couple of contenders when Bendable was taken out of training because of a minor splint injury and Chad Brown decided against sending Lewis Bay here from New York.
Three allowances (races 7, 8, 10) help conclude a back-loaded Saturday card that starts at 1:05 p.m. Eastern. Attendance surely will be padded by thousands of college football fans making a Blue Grass doubleheader out of the day. Kentucky hosts Mississippi State at 7:30 p.m. at nearby Commonwealth Stadium.
Belmont: Empire Showcase Day
ELMONT, N.Y. – If Empire Dreams can finish 2016 like he did 2015, he certainly will have made up for lost time.
Over the last 10 weeks of 2015, Empire Dreams won the $300,000 Empire Classic and the $100,000 Alex M. Robb Handicap, and in between those starts, he narrowly missed a third victory in a division of the New York Stallion Stakes.
A planned layoff followed by a splint-bone injury has limited Empire Dreams to only one start this year. On Saturday, he will make the second start of his 5-year-old season when he seeks a repeat in the Empire Classic, the richest event on the Empire Showcase Day program at Belmont Park. The 11-race card, which commences at 12:25 p.m. Eastern, comprises races restricted to New York-breds, including eight stakes with purses totaling $1.75 million.
Empire Dreams finished last of nine in the 2014 Empire Classic, after which he was gelded. In 2015, he went 3-2-2 and earned $422,834 for owner West Point Thoroughbreds. Following his victory in the Alex Robb on Dec. 31, he was given a freshening. Trainer Tom Albertrani said Empire Dreams was ready to return in the spring but
developed a splint-bone injury that needed some attention.
Empire Dreams made his seasonal debut in the Genesee Valley Breeders’ Stakes at Finger Lakes, where he rallied widest of all and just lost the bob to Fox Rules.
“I thought he ran pretty well and was a little bit unlucky to get beat a short nose,” Albertrani said. “But he came back well and should benefit from that race.”
Empire Dreams drew post 9 in a nine-horse Empire Classic field that, from the rail out, also includes Wake Up in Malibu, Governor Malibu, Pax in Terra, Good Luck Gus, Hit It Once More, Royal Posse, Sea Raven, and Clifton Pleasure.
Last year, Wonder Gal came off an eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Test at seven furlongs to win the Empire Distaff at Belmont Park by a convincing 2 1/2 lengths. On Saturday, she will try to bounce back off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom at 6 1/2 furlongs in the $250,000 Distaff at 1 1/16 miles.
Trainer Leah Gyarmati said she and owner Jeff Treadway chose the Distaff over the $150,000 Iroquois at 6 1/2 furlongs because they felt the race would be “a little bit softer, and she won’t have to run off her feet,” Gyarmati said.
Distaff contender Bar of Gold, who beat Haveyougoneaway in the Critical Eye going a mile in the spring, is 4 for 4 against New York-bred competition. She is coming off a thirdplace finish in the Presque Isle Masters.
Bar of Gold drew the rail, and Wonder Gal drew post 2 for the Distaff. Outside of them are Isabelle, Mecke’s Madalyn, Jules N Rome, Highway Star, JC’S Shooting Star, Super Surprise, and Literata.
La Verdad won the $150,000 Iroquois in back-to-back years for owner Sheila Rosenblum and trainer Linda Rice. On Saturday, Hot City Girl will try to step in for her retired older sister when she heads a field of six entered in the Iroquois at 6 1/2 furlongs.
Hot City Girl, also owned by Rosenblum and trained by Rice, is coming off a 1 3/4-length victory in the Union Avenue Stakes at Saratoga. Prior to that, she finished third behind Haveyougoneaway and Quezon in the Dancing Renee.
Quezon, second in the Gallant Bloom last out, will be Hot City Girl’s main rival. The field also includes Court Dancer, Wonderment, E Warfare, and Frosty Margarita.
Lubash, Kharafa, and King Kreesa are the last three winners of the Mohawk Stakes, and they reunite in Saturday’s renewal of the $200,000 stakes, which drew a field of nine 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on turf.
Kharafa won the Ashley T. Cole last month, while King Kreesa won the West Point earlier in the year. All the major players in the statebred male turf division are in this field, including Tapitation, who won the Kingston here in May.
Also entered are Brother O’connell, Latigo Trail, Macagone, and Offering Plan. The Crocheron Kid was entered for the main track only.
Twelve were entered in the $150,000 Ticonderoga, but they all have Fourstar Crook to beat in the 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares Saturday. Fourstar Crook, who drew the outside post, has won six straight, including the Yaddo and John Hettinger. Her rivals are Selenite, Flipcup, Mah Jong Maddnes, C D’cat, Neck of the Moon, Invading Humor, Tahoe Tigress (main track only), Feeling Bossy, Carameaway, Old Harbor, and The Tea Cups.
Weekend Hideaway looms the shortest-priced favorite on Saturday’s Empire Showcase card when he meets just four rivals in the $150,000 Hudson Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs. Weekend Hideaway drew post 2 in a field that includes Drama King, Breakin The Fever, Candid Desire, and Ostrolenka.
Runaway Lute, 2 for 2 against statebreds before a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Hopeful, drew post 7 in a field of 10 2-year-olds entered in the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes.
Mo Promise, an eightlength maiden winner in the slop here Sept. 30, and Iron Mizz, the winner of the Seeking the Ante Stakes at Saratoga, head a field of nine 2-year-old fillies entered in the $250,000 Maid of the Mist.
Laurel: Maryland Million card
Phlash Phelps was perfect last year, winning all four of his starts, including the Maryland Million Turf. This season, things haven’t gone as smoothly.
Phlash Phelps is 1 for 4 this year as a 5-year-old, but on Saturday at Laurel Park, he’ll have a chance to get back on track when he seeks a repeat victory on Maryland Million Day. Phlash Phelps will be a top contender in the Turf, as he will be moving back into restricted company after making three of his starts this year against open company.
Phlash Phelps is a gelded son of the Maryland stallion Great Notion, who stands at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City. He was purchased by the Hillwood Stable of Ellen Charles for $85,000 at the FasigTipton eastern fall yearling sale at Timonium and is trained by Rodney Jenkins.
“He’s doing real good,” Jenkins said. “He just hasn’t had a lot of luck this year. Nothing has really gone right for him.”
Phlash Phelps finished third to Rose Brier in the open Henry Clark Stakes at Laurel in April. Rose Brier is 4 for 6 this year, including wins in a pair of Virginia-bred stakes. He was a close third in the Grade 3 Red Bank at Monmouth in June and second in the West Virginia Speaker’s Cup in August.
Phlash Phelps won his second start of the year in an open optional-claiming race at Pimlico. He has had trouble in his two most recent races, the Maryland-bred Find Stakes at Pimlico and the Grade 2, $200,000 Commonwealth Turf Cup at Laurel.
In the Find, Phlash Phelps bobbled at the start and entering the first turn, then was steadied nearing the backstretch. In the Commonwealth Turf Cup, he was rallying in the stretch when he had to be steadied and finished fifth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths.
“He was in the middle of everything in the stretch, and another horse cut him off,” Jenkins said. “It happens.”
The 11-race Maryland Million card will include seven stakes and two starter handicaps for Maryland-sired horses. The nine Maryland Million races will offer total purses of $900,000. If fewer than six Maryland-sired horses are entered in a race, it will be opened up to nominated Maryland-breds.
Charles Town Oaks winner Covey Trace goes in the Raven Run.
Phlash Phelps seeks a repeat in the Maryland Million Turf.