Keeneland Fall Stars

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Article & photos by Grace Clark

 Opening weekend of the Keeneland Racecourse Fall meet is annually heralded as Fall Stars, as it features nine graded stakes races; Eight stakes are “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeder’s Cup World Championships, totaling $3.7 million in purse money. With perfect weather, large crowds, and some of the most competitive Thoroughbred racing the Commonwealth has to offer, October 7th-9th, 2016 became one of the most successful weekends in the history of Keeneland.

Friday October 7th featured two graded stakes races: the G2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix and G1 Darley Alcibiades. The G2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix featured a field of seven three-year-old and older horses competing for a $250,000 purse, and a spot in the TwinSpires Breeder’s Cup Sprint. Heavy favorite A.P. Indian stalked the early pace under jockey Joe Bravo, before swinging out three wide at the top of the stretch and drawing away in the stretch, winning the headbob over Limousine Liberal at the wire. The six-year-old gelding, trained by Arnaud Delacour and owned by Green Lantern Stables LLC, finished the six furlong distance in a sizzling 1:08.43, setting a new track record.

The G1 Darley Alcibiades garnered a full field of 14 two-year-old fillies competing for a $400,000 purse and a spot in the gate for the 14 Hands Winery Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies. Dancing Rags, a daughter of 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, followed in suit after A.P. Indian, stalking the pace before drawing away in late stretch to win by a length under jockey Angel Cruz, who captured his first stakes win in the race. “Rags” completed the 1 1/16 miles in a time of 1:44.69, for trainer Graham Motion and owner Chadds Ford Stable.

Stakes action on Saturday, October 8th kicked off in the fifth race with the G3 Woodford Stakes, held at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf for three-year-olds and up. The race featured the North American return of 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mongolian Saturday, as well as 12 other horses competing for their share of the $150,000 purse. The favorite did not disappoint, taking control in the stretch, under jockey Carlos Montalvo, and holding off a late closing charge from Hogy to win by half a length. The bay gelding covered the 5 ½ furlong distance in 1:03.46, setting a new track record for trainer Enebish Ganbat and owner Mongolian Stable.

The G2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes is one of the premier races for fillies and mares on the dirt, and featured a solid field of eight horses contesting the six furlong distance for the $250,000 purse. In trend with other stakes winners of the weekend, Irish Jasper stayed close to the early pace, before pulling away in the stretch to win by 1 ¾ lengths over favorite Stonetastic. The filly covered the distance in a time of 1:09.64 under jockey Julien Leparoux, for trainer Chad Brown and owner William Farish and David Mackie.

Champion Tepin, a forerunner for Horse of the Year, made her American and Keeneland return in the G1 First Lady Stakes, after successful trips to Royal Ascot and Woodbine Racecourse. The 30-1 longshot Photo Call set the early pace, and never turned around, pulling away to win by 2 ¾ lengths over Tepin. The mare covered the one mile distance in a track record time of 1:35.62 under jockey Kent Desormeaux, for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Teresa Viola Racing Stables.

The G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity is annually a show of talent in the two-year-old colt division, previewing the next year’s Triple Crown races. Just after stable mate Tepin suffered her defeat, Classic Empire made trainer Mark Casse’s racing stable proud, dominating the 12 horse field by three lengths under jockey Julien Leparoux, for owner Mark Oxley. Classic Empire covered the 1 1/16 miles distance in 1:43.41, stamping himself as an early favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

The final stakes race of the day was the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile, typically a show of the turf talent of the year, featuring an 11 horse field competing for the $1,000,000 purse. Miss Temple City, a filly dodging Tepin in the G1 First Lady, faced male horses for the second time in her life. Under jockey Edgar Prado, “City” led a majority of the way, holding on by a head over the late charging favorite, Ironicus. She finished the mile distance in 1:37.04 for trainer Graham Motion and owner The Club Racing LLC, Sagamore Farm, and Allen Rosenblum.

Fall Stars Sunday featured two stakes races, the Dixiana Bourbon and Juddmonte Spinster, for two-year-olds on the turf, and fillies and mares on the dirt, respectively. Trainer Mark Casse scored yet another graded stakes victory in the Bourbon, the second time in two years he has won the race. Keep Quiet, under jockey Florent Geroux, steadied off of the pace before kicking clear in the stretch to win by 1 ¼ lengths. The colt finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.92 for owner Gary Barber, capturing a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

The final stakes race of Fall Stars weekend, the Juddmonte Spinster, featured a small but strong field of five fillies and mares. Heavy favorite, I’m A Chatterbox, made her presence known early, sprinting away in the stretch to win by a dominating seven lengths under jockey Florent Geroux. “Chatterbox” finished the 1 â…› miles race in 1:49.98 for trainer Larry Jones and owner Grayson Farm.

As the weekend came to a close, the picturesque Keeneland race course provided a peaceful setting for horses training for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Many competitors stable and train here all year, with Fall Stars providing a preview of coming attractions for Santa Anita on Nov. 4-5.

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