First Look: 6 graded stakes at Keeneland, Belmont, Woodbine

First Look: 6 graded stakes at Keeneland, Belmont, Woodbine
Photo: Keeneland photo

Like lunchtime ending at a busy restaurant, the rush of Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races brought a surge of adrenaline to autumn racing. Now, with the dinner crowd holding reservations for Nov. 5 and 6 at Del Mar, the volume of graded stakes is a lot calmer this week.

Most of the bigger races feature fillies and mares. Keeneland hosts one last “win and you’re in” on Wednesday and a Grade 1 turf race Saturday. Woodbine has one of its most important cards Sunday.


Jessamine Stakes (G2), Keeneland, 1 1/16 miles (turf), 2-year-old fillies

Turnerloose is 2-for-2 for trainer Brad Cox, winning this summer in a maiden race at Ellis Park and then by five lengths as the 2-1 favorite last month in the Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Kentucky Downs. Now the Nyquist filly extends another 110 yards racing on the third different track in her native state. Turnerloose drew post 3 in the field of 14 plus two also-eligibles. The winner gets the last automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup, specifically the Juvenile Fillies Turf on Nov. 5.

2021 Jessamine (G2)


Franklin County (G3), Keeneland, 5 1/2 furlongs (turf), fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up

In Good Spirits, a 4-year-old filly racing for trainer Al Stall Jr., and Catch a Bid, a 5-year-old mare from Joe Sharp’s barn, are expected to have a rematch after they finished one-two last month in the 6 1/2-furlong Ladies Sprint (G3) at Kentucky Downs. Campanelle, a 2020 winner at Royal Ascot, has her homecoming for Wesley Ward after a disappointing summer in Europe. The last time she raced at Keeneland, she finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

2021 Franklin County (G3)


Sands Point (G2), Belmont Park, 1 1/8 miles (turf), 3-year-old fillies

Our Flash Drive won a pair of Grade 3 races this summer at Woodbine, one on the synthetic track and the other on the turf. The Ghostzapper filly trained by Mark Casse tries to bounce back from a fourth-place finish Sept. 19 in the $150,000 Pebbles Stakes at Belmont. Jordan’s Leo and Runaway Rumour look to improve after finishing second and third, respectively, in the Pebbles. If Core Values is entered by Vicki Oliver, she would be looking for her third stakes victory this year.

2021 Sands Point (G2)

.Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1), Keeneland, 1 1/8 miles (turf), 3-year-old fillies

The RSVPs for this invitation-only race could make for a table crowded full of talent. Chad Brown trains Technical Analysis, a two-time graded-stakes winner at Saratoga, and Shantisara, who won minor stakes at Arlington Park and Colonial Downs. Lady Speightspeare is 3-for-3 with a Grade 1 win for Canadian Hall of Famer Roger Attfield, but her allowance victory last month came on the back of a one-year layoff. Racing for Mike Maker, Army Wife already has wins in the Black-Eyed Susan and Iowa Oaks. Burning Ambition would be stepping up in class for Brad Cox while carrying a four-race winning streak, including the Indiana Grand Stakes. Flippant spent her summer winning minor stakes at Ellis Park and Colonial Downs.

2021 QE II Challenge Cup (G1)


E.P. Taylor (G1), Woodbine, 1 1/4 miles (turf), fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up

Possible entrants for the third and final race in Canada’s Ladies of the Lawn series were not posted yet by the racetrack’s Thoroughbred stakes office. Mutamakina, a 4-year-old filly who won the Dance Smartly (G2) in August, and La Dragontea the 5-year-old mare who was first in the Canadian Stakes (G2) last month, gave Christophe Clément victories in the first two legs at Woodbine. Both horses were among the 22 nominees for Sunday’s race. There is a US$40,000 bonus for being the top points earner in the series.

Nearctic (G2), Woodbine, 6 furlongs (turf), 3-year-olds and up

Town Cruise looks like the class of the 23 nominees for this race. Bred, owned and trained by Brandon Greer, the 6-year-old Town Prize gelding has spent his entire career racing at Woodbine, amassing $1,005,719 in purse earnings from a record of 14: 6-2-1. His triumph Sept. 18 in the Woodbine Mile was his first in a Grade 1 race. It has been more than two years since he started in this short a sprint.

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