June 19, 2024

Vahva, Alva Starr renew rivalry in Madison

Vahva in the Lexus Raven Run (G2) at Keeneland
Vahva wins the Raven Run (G2) at Keeneland (Photo by Coady Photography / Credit to John Gallagher)

Following the recent retirement of two-time champion Goodnight Olive, a new division leader among female sprinters must be found. Saturday’s $600,000 Madison (G1) at Keeneland, a race Goodnight Olive won last year, might yield a candidate.

Betting is likely to center on a group of four-year-olds. One is Vahva, who edged odds-on favorite Alva Starr by a half-length over the track and distance last fall in the Raven Run (G2) while earning a 102 Brisnet speed rating.

Although Vahva has not run since, Alva Starr earned her third career stakes win by taking the Feb. 3 American Beauty S. at Oaklawn as a heavy favorite. Her signature victory came last summer at Saratoga, when she captured the Prioress (G2) by 8 3/4 lengths.

Big Pond has a pair of stakes wins in California-bred company to her credit, but also missed winning the La Brea (G1) by a nose two back. Red Carpet Ready, a three-time graded winner, recently returned from an eight-month layoff to win the Hurricane Bertie (G3) at Gulfstream.

Among the older mares competing in the seven-furlong Madison are last year’s Gallant Bloom (G2) heroine Sterling Silver and Maryquitecontrary, the Grade 2-winning runner-up to Goodnight Olive in this event 12 months ago.

The corresponding sprint for older males on Saturday’s card, the $300,000 Commonwealth (G3), is led by graded veterans Raise Cain and Manny Wah, with the improving Minnesota Ready a likely factor off a convincing score in the Colonel Power S. at Fair Grounds.

A full field of turf sprinters will dash 5 1/2 furlongs in the $350,000 Shakertown (G2). Leading the field is Mischief Magic, who landed the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) over the course and distance, and Arzak, upset winner of the Woodford (G2) here last October.

A dozen three-year-old fillies will line up in the $400,000 Appalachian (G2) at one mile on the turf. Notables include Jessamine (G2) winner Buchu, sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) when last seen; stakes winner Austere, who finished one slot ahead of Buchu in the Breeders’ Cup; Herecomesthebride (G3) heroine Pounce; and Irish Group 3 winner Kairyu, who debuts for new trainer Cherie DeVaux.