In Italian, who fell a length short of a possible Eclipse Award as champion turf mare last season, returns to action on Saturday in an outstanding renewal of the $600,000 Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland.
Last seen in November finishing second to the European invader Tuesday in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) over the Keeneland grass, In Italian will shorten up a furlong, to 1 1/16 miles, for her season debut. She preceded that Breeders’ Cup effort with back-to-back scores in the Diana (G1) and First Lady (G1), the latter over stablemate Regal Glory, who wound up winning the vote for championship honors.
Owner Peter Brant and trainer Chad Brown will also be represented by Speak of the Devil, who notched the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) over In Italian last May, but has gone unplaced in two starts since, including the March 4 Honey Fox (G3) following a layoff approaching nine months.
Another representative from a powerhouse stable is With the Moonlight, the Godolphin homebred who captured the Saratoga Oaks (G3) last summer and placed in the Belmont Oaks (G1) and Lake Placid (G2). With the Moonlight had a fruitful winter in Dubai, taking the Cape Verdi (G2) and Balanchine (G2) at Meydan.
Queen Goddess enters the Jenny Wiley having won three of her last four, including a 1 1/2-length decision in the Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G3) in late January. The Michael McCarthy trainee has run at Keeneland once before, finishing unplaced in the 2021 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) over yielding ground.
White Frost was a neck second in the Honey Fox, her second start back from an extended layoff. Pizza Bianca and Skims are other notables in the field of nine, though both will have class and form to find against the top players.
With Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) heroine Caravel having faced and beaten the boys in last week’s Shakertown (G2), the $250,000 Giant’s Causeway S. for fillies and mares looms as a more competitive showdown.
Twilight Gleaming, herself a former Breeders’ Cup winner of the Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2), looks well spotted for her season debut. Among the 11 rivals lining up against her are the California shipper Amy C, winner of the Las Cienegas (G3) and Senator Ken Maddy S. in her last two, and Oeuvre, who has won nine of her 10 starts in 2022-23, including a pair of turf sprints at Fair Grounds over the winter.