February 22, 2024

First Lady and Shadwell Turf Mile: full fields, competitive racing

Keeneland (Coady Photography)
Keeneland (Coady Photography)

Nothing like big fields going a mile in Grade 1s on the turf at Keeneland. Both the $400,000 First Lady Stakes (G1) and #1 million Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) are “Win & You’re In” events where the winner is guaranteed a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Mile G1, respectively.

The First Lady has some legitimate speed horses who will probably gun from the gate. QUIDURA (#3) (2-1) and LA SARDANE (#9) (15-1) are both very fast and have won graded races on the front end. Quidura is one of three Chad Brown trainees, and from post 3 it looks like Javier Castellano will put the pedal down coming out of the gate.

A RAVING BEAUTY (#2) (3-1) won on good turf in her American debut against Grade 3 company back in May and captured a Grade 2 in very fast time on firm turf at Saratoga. Brown is always at his best off rest and this filly has been off for seven weeks. OFF LIMITS (#10) (6-1) was third here back in April in the Jenny Wiley (G1) for Brown and has raced evenly since then. From post 10, Julien Leparoux will probably take her back and make one run. She won a Grade 1 going this distance at Del Mar last November.

CROWN WALK (#4) (4-1) ships in from France for Godolphin where she showed some speed two starts back winning a Group 3 at Chantilly, then was second last out on soft turf at Deauville against Group 1 foes when she could not hold off the very classy With You. The daughter of Dubawi is a half-sister to a pair of group winners on the turf and adds Mike Smith and first-time Lasix.

INDIAN BLESSING (#5) (12-1) was a Group 3 winner in Germany going this distance then just missed in a seven-furlong Group 3 in England. She shipped to America and rallied for third in the Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) off only three week’s rest. The two horses who went to the front stayed there and Indian Blessing, despite being rank in the first half-mile, was the only one who made up any ground from behind. It will be interesting to see how she responds since there is a theory that it’s best to bet Euro shippers first start off the plane and not the second.

DONA BRUJA (#7) (6-1) ran fourth in this race last year when beaten by only two lengths. She romped by four lengths in her seasonal debut in the Endeavour Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs when she went gate to wire, then came back 10 weeks later and could not hold off Sistercharlie, who would be heavily favored in here if entered. Last out in the Beverly D. (G1), Dona Bruja had trouble early and was never up near the early pace. She returned to her Keeneland home base and gets Declan Cannon, who piloted her two a pair of Grade 3 wins last year.

The Shadwell Turf Mile has the automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and a $1 million purse. That enticement attracted 14 runners and two on the also-eligible list.

NEXT SHARES (#1) (15-1) just missed in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park in May and won a stakes at Kentucky Downs last out. He will run in the infamous IEAH silks that were worn when Court Vision won this race. DIVISIDERO (#2) (15-1) rallies from way back and has kept company with the best middle-distance turf horses in America. Wins have been sporadic since then, but if he finds running room on the inside he’ll have a shot. GREAT WIDE OPEN (#3) (50-1) gets a big class test here and has to pick up weight. IMPERATIVE (#4) (30-1) has never won in seven tries on the turf but has banked close to $3 million in lifetime earnings. HEART TO HEART (#5) (7-2) is a speedball who just missed winning this last year from post 10 and disliked the slippery going at Saratoga last out.

SYNCHRONY (#6) (8-1) comes in here off two easy wins at Monmouth Park in the Red Bank Stakes (G3) and Oceanport Stakes (G3), and ran well this winter on the turf course at Fair Grounds, which is similar to Keeneland’s. He has a big late kick and prepared for this with two straight bullet workouts on the Tapeta at Fair Hills Training Center. With $1 million on the line, it looks like Mike Stidham has brought him to a boil perfectly. QURBAAN (#7) (5-1) was an upset winner of the Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2) last out at Saratoga when he got up in time and gets Mike Smith. MULTIPLIER (#8) (30-1) won his turf debut but has not been able to handle marathon turf races. A mile might be right in his wheelhouse. ANALYZE IT (#9) (9-2) takes on older rivals for the first time for Chad Brown. He looked like a winner twice but Catholic Boy came back on again to beat him at Belmont Park in the Pennine Ridge (G3) and Belmont Derby (G1). Last out, he missed in the Secretariat Stakes (G1) after taking the lead in the deep stretch. You could question his heart but you could also question those races were too far for him and a mile might be perfect.

VOODOO SONG (#10) (6-1) is a Saratoga horse-for-the-course who won the Fourstardave Handicap (G1) there two starts back going this distance but then disappointed last out in the Bernard Baruch. ALMANAAR (#11) (9-2) won the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) in February 2017, then was off for 16 months before beating allowance foes. Chad Brown took him right to the Arlington Million (G1) and the six-year-old gelding missed by only a half-length to another Brown runner. MR. MISUNDERSTOOD (#12) (12-1) won the Wise Dan Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs three starts back then won at Ellis Park going this distance in fast time. Last out, he could not overcome a rail trip at Kentucky Downs as the 6-5 favorite. BIG SCORE (#13) (30-1) won the Transylvania Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in April 2017 for his last win and has been falling far behind in his recent races. Finally, BOUND FOR NOWHERE (#14) (15-1) has two turf sprint wins on this turf course. He ran well going six furlongs at Royal Ascot in the Diamond Jubilee (Eng-G1) then came back and won the Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs last out for Wesley Ward.

Synchrony should get a decent trip from post 6 and not get shuffled too far back. I like that he wins races and I regard a win over Grade 2 or 3 foes better than a second or third against Grade 1 foes.