Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland
With a break in the Indian summer heat finally expected and with no competing sporting events in town, the opening Saturday of Keeneland’s 2019 fall meet figures to be an aesthetic and financial blockbuster.
Five graded stakes, four of them Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge preps, dot the 11-race card. Richest among them is the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), which has attracted a gate load of 14 entrants plus two also-eligibles.
Admission Office has yet to win a stakes from three attempts, but looked like a horse with considerable upside last spring when running Catholic Boy to a half-length in the Dixie (G2) at Pimlico. A troubled beginning left him another half-length short behind March to the Arch in the Wise Dan (G2) at Churchill, the son of Point of Entry’s most recent start on June 15, but the colt fired fresh over this course in April off a six-month layoff.
Bandua enjoyed a productive summer in Chicago, winning the Arlington H. (G3) and finishing a strong third to Bricks and Mortar in the Arlington Million (G1). Also prominent on Million Day was the three-year-old Valid Point, who remained undefeated from three outings when taking the shortened Secretariat (G1) by one length for Chad Brown.
Van Beethoven, second to Valid Point in the Secretariat, is one of four foreign-based Shadwell entries. The eight-year-old Suedois upset the 2017 Shadwell Turf Mile and has been a mainstay in Group 2 and Group 3 events overseas. His lone victory in his last 13 starts, however, was the August 25 Supreme (G3) at Goodwood. Vintager represents Godolphin for which he’s triumphed in minor group events in France and Germany in his last two, while Robin of Navan has also won at group level in Germany this term.
Next Shares, the 2018 Shadwell Turf Mile winner, has not placed in four starts since a season-opening victory in the San Gabriel (G2). Bowies Hero is a multiple graded stakes winner in California but has won or placed in only two of his past seven starts. The veteran Divisidero has plenty of back class and recently snapped an eight-race losing skid by taking the Red Bank (G3) at Monmouth. The speedy Real Story will have to work out a trip from post 14.
First Lady Stakes at Keeneland
Another popular race on Saturday is the $400,000 First Lady (G1) for fillies and mares at one mile on the turf, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep for the 1 1/4-mile Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Unsurprisingly, Chad Brown has the fillies to beat in the 14-horse field: multiple Grade 1 winner Rushing Fall, who is undefeated in four starts over the Keeneland turf, and 2018 Matriarch (G1) winner Uni. Both are exiting credible losses, Rushing Fall to champion stablemate Sistercharlie in the Diana (G1), and in the case of Uni a third to the filly Got Stormy in the Fourstardave H. (G1), which was open to males.
The star California mare Vasilika, who has won 14 of her past 17 starts, will be tested for class outside of her home region for the first time since leaving the claiming ranks. Awesometank was a solid second to Sistercharlie in the Beverly D. (G1) at Arlington two back, though she flopped against the boys in the Woodbine Mile (G1) last time. The English-bred Indian Blessing has placed in all of her stateside appearances, including a third in the 2018 First Lady, while Juliet Foxtrot ran Vasilika to a nose in the John C. Mabee (G2) at Del Mar most recently.