The spotlight will be on two-year-old fillies Friday when Keeneland kicks off its 17-day fall meet. Among the trio of Breeders’ Cup Challenge preps on the 10-race card are the $600,000 Alcibiades (G1) on the main track and the $350,000 Jessamine (G2) on the turf, both over 1 1/16 miles.
The Alcibiades, won in recent years by eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winners British Idiom (2019) and Wonder Wheel (2022), is headed by the undefeated Brightwork. The daughter of Outwork enters on a four-race win streak, including scores in the Debutante S., Adirondack (G3), and Spinaway (G1).
Brightwork staved off a challenge from the currently-sidelined Ways and Means to win the Spinaway by a half-length, which followed a five-length romp in the Adirondack. She earned Brisnet speed ratings of 94 and 101 for those two scores.
Trainer Kenny McPeek could earn a record-equaling sixth win in the Alcibiades with V V’s Dream, whose only loss in three outings was by a half-length to Brightwork in the Debutante at Ellis Park. V V’s Dream rebounded to win the Pocahontas (G3) at Churchill Downs by 8 3/4 lengths.
The Alcibiades training record is held by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who last won the fixture in 2003.
Also among the field of nine are several stepping up in class off maiden wins. Emery was a comfortable 5 3/4-length winner on debut for Brad Cox, who also sends out fellow Saratoga grad Alpine Princess. The Todd Pletcher-trained Candied is another hiking in grade following a debut victory at the Spa.
The Jessamine, formerly held on the first Wednesday of the meet, was brought forward on the calendar this year. Those with prior stakes experience includes Crown Imperial, winner of the Untapable S. at Kentucky Downs last month; Toupie, second to the top sprinting colt No Nay Mets in the Rosie’s S. at Colonial Downs; and Bella Haze, second in the Juvenile Fillies S. at Kentucky Downs.
Among the black-type newcomers are Time to Dazzle, who won her Woodbine debut by three lengths for Mark Casse, and the Pletcher-trained maiden Appellate, who lost her first two attempts at Saratoga by a head each time.
The Jessamine is a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Aunt Pearl (2020) was the last filly to sweep both races.
North America’s oldest stakes race, the $350,000 Phoenix (G2) over six furlongs, serves as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). It has yielded recent Sprint winners Whitmore (2020) and Aloha West (2021).
Although Manny Wah is back to defend his Phoenix title after registering a 17-1 upset 12 months ago, bettors are likely to focus on others. The Churchill Downs-loving Bango, for one, has been in excellent form all season, though he failed to place in both previous trips to Lexington.
Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) winner Sibelius and Hoist the Gold were ineffective at Del Mar over the summer, but have both run well at Keeneland before. Nakatomi, likewise, should find the return to the local strip ideal as he’s won three times over it. Ex-claimer Gulfstream Way recently finished a head behind Bango at Churchill.