As the warm summer air gives way to the cool autumn breeze, the turning of the leaves welcome in the opening of Keeneland race track. The meet started off with a bang, with prestigious races such as the Shadwell Mile and the Spinster Stakes highlighting the festivities.
But lest you think the high-quality action ends following the running of the meet's final Grade I - the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup - there are still plenty of great races on tap. In fact, you don't even need to wait for the weekend. Thursday afternoon's card features a solid stakes event with great tradition.
For the past 17 years the Sycamore stakes has been a staple of Keeneland’s fall meet. The grade III Sycamore is run at the 1 ½ mile distance. It has come to symbolize a race for tough, hard knocking colts and geldings.
The perfect example of this was last year’s edition - won by Brass Hat. Brass Hat personified heart and toughness. The 9-year-old gelding had an explosive turn of foot. He had an incredible career, winning graded stakes from the age of 3, all the way up until his last year on the track at the age of 9.
Brass Hat, who was trained by William Bradley, will be paraded this Thursday at Keeneland before the running of the grade III Sycamore.
The 2011 Sycamore lacks the star power of last years group, but, it does boast a field of up and comers.
#4 Center Divider is the 3-1 morning line favorite. This son of Giants Causeway is coming off a career best 93 beyer speed figure in his second place finish to Grassy in the grade II Bowling Green Handicap. The Chad Brown trainee boasts a record of three wins from 11 starts, two of those on the turf. Center Divider is coming into this race in great form, with back to back second place finishes. He’s won at a distance longer than 12 furlongs, so he should have the stamina to last here. The question is: does he have the heart and talent?
#6 Sanagas is the 7-2 second choice. Sanagas has been ultra-impressive in his short eight race career. He has five victories, three of those on the turf. Sanagas has been knocking heads with Center Divider since coming to the U.S. in July. The Graham Motion trainee got the best of Center Divider in the John's Call Stakes at Saratoga, a race in which Sanagas won, with Center Divider 2 ¼ lengths behind in second. Sanagas is coming off a some-what disappointing 4th place effort in the grade II Bowling Green Handicap, a race in which Center Divider ran 2nd. Sanagas is strictly the horse to beat in my opinion. He has the class and the stamina. He also loves to win.
#8 Bim Bam is the 3rd choice on the morning line at 4-1. Bim Bam has been knocking heads in graded stakes company for the better part of two years. He’s a consistent sort, but often seems to settle for the minor awards. The son of Deputy Wild Cat hasn’t won a race since June of 2010. Bim Bam is solid, boasting several 2nd place finishes of late, including a 2nd in the grade I Manhattan Stakes at Saratoga. The problem with this colt is the distance, and the fact he doesn’t like to win. I honestly wouldn’t take a short price on Bim Bam in the Sycamore.
#3 Bold Hawk is 5-1 on the morning line. Bold Hawk started his career with a lot of promise, he won the grade III Hawthorne Derby in his 3 year old season. Things obviously went amiss for this son of Silver Hawk, he went on the shelf for 3 years before making his return in October of last year at Keeneland. Trainer James Toner seems to have this colt in fine condition with back to back solid 3rd place finishes. Bold Hawk gets the services of hot riding jockey, Corey Nakatani. Nakatani has been in the zone of late, having won 6 races on a card at Belmont which included two grade I victories. Bold Hawk has the pedigree to last the grueling 12 furlong distance of the Sycamore. Hawk is rounding into form and will definitely be a play in the exotics.
#5 Ashtar is 8-1 on the morning line. Ashtar is shipping in from California for trainer Ruben Cardenas. He’s coming off a strong 4th place finish to Acclamation in the grade II Clement Hirsch. Ashtar is a grade I winner in Chile and has won at the 12 furlong distance. He seems to be a versatile type who can be close to the pace or come from behind. There’s not a lot of speed in this race which could favor Ashtar. I think this horse could surprise in the exotics at a price.
>>Sycamore Plays: $10 win on #6 Sanagas. $5 exacta #6 with 4 Center Divider and #5 Ashtar.<<
In Honor of Tim (Tiznow) Reynolds, you changed all of are lives for the better and you'll be with us always. Donations can be made to the Timothy (Tiznow) Reynolds Memorial Fund. A memorial fund for his daughter, Lauren Reynolds.