Race #9 Post Time: 2:30 PM PST
The Lexus Raven Run
Analysis by Michael Patricks
With just two weeks until the 33rd running of the Breeders’ Cup, the most prestigious races of the weekend belong to Belmont Park with their New York-bred stakes program and the racing from closing weekend at Keeneland Race Course. A wonderful spread of 12 3-year-old fillies will do battle in the Raven’s Run on Saturday, providing a true gamblers buffet in terms of seeking out what will undoubtedly be a most savory win mutuel.
For those who may be relatively unaware, Raven Run is a unique, 734-acre nature sanctuary located just outside of Lexington. The park borders the Kentucky River and provides a great place for hiking and wildlife viewing. Ten miles of trails pass through meadows, woodlands and streams characteristic of the inner Bluegrass. Historic remnants of early 19th century settlers can also be found throughout the park. (Lexingtonky.gov) So, which filly will greet the camera man and have their picture taken? Let’s break down this salty group of contenders:
1-Covey Trace 15/1 ML- Hailing from a relatively obscure outfit, this $10,000 Keeneland September yearling has banged out over $300,000 from only 11 starts and has won four races in the process. Her connections weren’t afraid to bend her last time out over the Charles Town bull ring and she rewarded them with the most narrow of victories and upsetting the 1/5 Sophia’s Song in the process. Today, she takes on a full field of Grade-2 types and this will undoubtedly be the biggest mountain she’ll have to climb. Her pilot knows her well but unfortunately she draws the rail in a race that could easily leave her feeling the pinch leaving the gate and quite frankly way too much to do from the back of the field. Respect that she showed a new dimension in terms of rallying off the pace last time, and even though she’s looking for four in a row while sprinting on the dirt, she’s most likely best used underneath, if at all; happy to sing backup vocals to the great Elvis Presley when I say I’m viewing her with suspicious eyes.
2-Ma Can Do It 12/1 ML- Grabbed her diploma in start number 10 in the Louisville slop, drawing off at will and rewarding chalk players in the process. This one’s most important race in her past came in the Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan when she came up the fence for a second place finish behind Go Maggie Go. It’s possible that the light bulb went off last time on graduation day, and it appears that she runs to the level of her competition in each start, thus possibly leading to a favorable performance. Trainer Dale Romans doesn’t run them just to run them and going route-to-sprint you know this filly will have no issues negotiating the final quarter mile. She doesn’t look like much coming off the maiden win, but sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find value where it exists–and it lies underneath with her; must use underneath for vertical players.
3-Grace’s Treasure 15/1 ML- Grey filly had a largely productive summer, rattling off back to back scores at Ellis Park and Indiana Grand before her solid, runner-up performance at Churchill Downs last time out. Always impressive when fillies run their race sprinting from the rail, ‘Grace has started to figure out this game and seems to be on an upswing as she enters the starting gate on Saturday. In addition, this one has been working a hole in the wind at Keeneland and without a doubt isn’t leaving any feed in her tub. On the downside, her debut at Keeneland was underwhelming at best and she’s taking a large step up from Overnight-Stakes into Grade-2 company on Saturday. This horse certainly fits the “big horse-little barn” angle and these types always get the best care possible. However, she’s going to have to take another large step forward in the Raven Run if she’s going to have a say in the outcome; must show she has the class.
4-Lucy N Ethel 9/2 ML- Upset the apple cart last time at Saratoga when she rang the bell at 22/1 and took down Grade 2 runners after bottoming out the field when going 6 furlongs with controlled splits and an open length lead at every call. Saturday figures to be a lot more complicated in terms of pulling off the same caper. First off, everyone knows her game and the dimension she needs to show to be victorious. Secondly, Bellamentary, Curlin’s Approval, and Coniah all figure to be prominent early, making it very difficult for Lucy N Ethel to get a cozy lead that is largely unchallenged. Trainer Tom Amoss does a great job with new shippers into his barn and this one shows a couple nice maintenance drills over the local surface. Missed the party at 22/1 last time and have to accept 9/2 here on Saturday which means I’ll be looking elsewhere; regression to the mean is fully expected.
5-Southern Girl 12/1 ML- Upstart runner looking for her fifth victory in only six starts, Southern Girl shares the lead with Covey Trace for most wins in the field and that’s worth a mention. She also arrives in Versailles in search of four in a row and to continue her undefeated 2016. Her Beyer Speed Figs appears to be a touch light, yet she’s also been doing her work on the Triple-A circuit of the eastern seaboard at Laurel and Delaware Park. Her style absolutely fits as one you’d want to have in the top spots of your tickets and with so much speed signed on around her. Also, the careful management of this expensive Tapit daughter may come to bear great fruit on Saturday as her confidence is high and her swagger should accompany her out of the paddock and onto the track, as she returns to the site of her only defeat. Southern Girl is in the clever hands of Larry Jones and it’s indeed noteworthy that Florent Geroux climbs aboard in the Raven Run. When these two get together they win 35% of the time. Expect her to be about 8 to 10/1 at post time. No further questions, Your Honor! The Defense of this 12/1 shot rests.
6-Bellamentary 6/1 ML- Steps out of the long California shadow of both Songbird and Belvoir Bay and brings her rider with her to the Midwest for today’s assignment. As mentioned, this chestnut filly has chased some real tough horses and she has shown a fondness for the seven furlong distance, undefeated in both of those efforts. ‘Bella has drilled steadily in California for her return to the races and she’s shown the ability to run well off the bench before. This one likes to be up and on the early gallop and in the Raven Run she’s going to have to show that she can stalk and finish, since a few of these clearly demonstrate more early foot than what she possesses. Off the layoff, she will be forwardly placed for certain, and she showed in her maiden breaker that she has it in her to pass horses if she sets her mind to it. Six out of seven in the exacta and there are no Songbirds or Belvoir Bays in here; including her on Saturday is “Bellamentary”, my Dear Watson.
7-Malibu Stacy 30/1 ML- Pummeled over the Belmont Park turf course, failing to pick up her legs at all in that contest. Before that, ‘Stacy ran three straight bang up efforts, including a close second the Grade 3 Victory Ride at odds of 13/1. Daughter of Tizway has shown she can run on the dirt when she puts her mind to it, but immediately cooling my jets to that notion is the fact this one got manhandled in her two local tries over this surface as a 2 year-old. A couple nice drills over the track may mitigate some of that concern in some player’s eyes, but this barn being 1-for-42 in Graded Stakes events and the listless effort she showed last time is more than enough to get me spooked; much more suspect than prospect.
8-Curlin’s Approval 8/1 ML- Gulfstream Park specialist ships north and brings her rider with her who got the job done with her last time, Tyler Gaffalione. Trainer Marty Wolfson is very well respected in the game and this one sports a very nice bullet in the holster from last Friday at Gulfstream. Her Beyers continue to climb and many will latch on to that, but another question to ask is just who has this one been beating at Gulfstream? The talent and upside is undeniable, but this one is going to have to take her racetrack with her and show that she can pass tougher foes to earn her fourth victory in five tries. Get the feeling that the ship may take some of the starch out of her when it matters most, but you simply can’t play them all. She’s by no means the impossible dream, but tab tote for more clues.
9-Coniah 10/1 ML- Perhaps the quickest of the quick, she’s one of two here for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and this one figures to be on the engine, cutting out very strong fractions and making sure there is plenty of pace to this affair. Coniah has shown that she will not run a step if she doesn’t get her head in front early and as a result these all or nothing types are huge stands against in this author’s eyes. Adding to that, is the insufferable reality that she’s being asked to taken on added distance that will no doubt have her breathing fire around the turn and hitting the wall in deep stretch. There will be no easy leads on Saturday, and the first to crack is likely going to be this one right here; drawing a line right through her as she serves as nothing better than a pace casualty on Saturday.
10- Sophia’s Song 5/1 ML- Burned chalk players for the first time when racing over the bull ring after rewarding them the three times prior. Sophia rallied last time at Charles Town but just missed, beaten a neck at 1/5 odds. The blinkers come off today which could do her some favors given the lively pace, and she hails from the Todd Pletcher outfit, always a huge handicapping factor to consider. Disappointing for sure that Javier Castellano sticks in New York to ride in their State-bred program, but gets a serviceable replacement in Robby Albarado to be sure. For Pletcher devotees, now is the time to hope back on the wagon since the price will finally be playable. Beaten a neck at odds-on vs. Grade 3 runners certainly makes that one playable right back against Grade 2 types; yet another to tab the tote board with for more clues; mixed signals.
11-Takrees 12/1 ML- McLaughlin’s other charge, and a much more intriguing one at that. Takrees has been freshened up since Saratoga and exits the Prioress, a race that was dominated by Lucy N Ethel on the front end. To her credit, Takrees made up seven lengths in the final quarter mile chasing what could be described as a moderate tempo. Add an extra furlong to the equation today and a pace cavalcade in front of her to boot and that could spell the perfect storm for her potent stretch punch. Don’t be surprised if this one actually goes off at a shorter price to her stable mate, and I’ll be surprised if she’s not inhaling her that one approaching the quarter pole. Her new jock, Ricardo Santana knows how to time a strong ride from a closer (See Creator). She’ll be rallying through traffic late and she’s on my radar; strong contender.
12-Lightstream 3-1 ML- Questions abound for your morning line favorite: After three straight wins to start her career, this one hung a bit at The Spa this Summer, finishing third and then second in two Grade 1 efforts. Truly appreciate this one’s valor in prevailing in both of her first two races when breaking from the rail sprinting, undoubtedly showing the racing world she has a ton of talent. Also, many will point encouragingly to the fact that Leparoux comes back over her way to ride on Saturday. Sustainability is the key with horses that blossom at an early age and at this point in proceedings, it appears the jury is out on just how good she is right now. The wide draw should keep her in the clear and out of trouble, but her rider is going to have to try and find a way to save some ground with her at some point, otherwise it’s logical to expect she could hang a bit, and be unable to pass another contender who can get a better trip than she will likely endure here on Saturday; will need a reversion to her Spring time form—betting against the likelihood of that given her odds.
Recommend Exacta and Trifecta Wagers for this race.