By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
With just two weeks remaining until the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, the racing action this Saturday is a bit quiet, but there are still several good races on the agenda, including the $250,000 Lexus Raven Run Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland.
The seven-furlong race has drawn a large field of eleven three-year-old fillies, led by the grade I-placed Bar of Gold. After starting her career with three straight sprint wins against New York-breds, she finished sixth in the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) after a poor trip and fourth in the Delaware Oaks (gr. III) while attempting two turns for the first time. Returned to a sprint next time out, she led past the eighth pole in the seven-furlong Test Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga before finishing second behind Cavorting, and despite a tricky trip in the Prioress Stakes (gr. II), she managed to rally and finish a strong second, once again behind Cavorting. In terms of Beyer speed figures, she has an edge over her rivals, and drawing post two should enable her to work out a great trip setting or stalking what should be a modest pace. Under the circumstances, she’s definitely the horse to beat.
That said, she’s unlikely to offer very good odds, and she’s facing some quality rivals that could have just as good a chance at winning at much larger odds. If you want to try and beat Bar of Gold, two logical choices are Sarah Sis and Chide. The former ran a strong race in the Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) two starts back, broke her maiden at Keeneland last year, and figures to be part of a modest early pace, which could help her chances. Chide finished third in the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont earlier this summer and produced a strong rally to finish second in the seven-furlong Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) last time out, and while the wide draw could compromise her chances a little, expect to see her closing strongly in the homestretch.But the filly that I like best in the Raven Run is Forever Unbridled. In her lone sprint race to date, she rallied from 11 lengths behind to take the lead in a 6 ½-furlong maiden race at Churchill before getting caught in the final furlong. Since then, she’s raced exclusively in two-turn races, running second in the Silverbulletday Stakes and third in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III) and Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) before finishing eleventh in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). She’s kept good company all year, running against talented fillies like I’m a Chatterbox, Lovely Maria, and Shook Up, and while the Raven Run will mark her first start since the Kentucky Oaks, I don’t think the layoff will be a concern. She’s been training sharply at Churchill Downs, turning in a pair of bullet five-furlong workouts over the last few weeks, and it’s worth noting that trainer Dallas Stewart had been pointing Forever Unbridled toward a start in the October 31st Fort Springs Stakes at Keeneland, so the fact that Forever Unbridled is now running in the more prestigious Raven Run is a positive sign.
But the biggest reason I think Forever Unbridled will win is based on the way she has been running in her last few starts. Notice how she has been settling a few lengths off the pace, rallying to get closer around the turn, and then flattening out in the homestretch to lose ground from the eighth pole to the wire. This is a very good sign of a horse that will relish a cutback in distance to a one-turn race, and it’s exactly the same profile that Forever Unbridled’s full sister Unbridled Forever demonstrated before cutting back in distance this summer and winning the Shine Again Stakes and Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. I think Forever Unbridled will improve just as much as her sister while making the same switch in distance, and I think she has a very strong chance to win at a nice price.
For similar reasons, I also respect the chances of Ahh Chocolate, who is 2-for-2 in one-turn races and 1-for-3 in two-turn events. Like Forever Unbridled, Ahh Chocolate had been flattening out in the homestretch of her recent races, and improved sharply when rallying to win a one-mile allowance race at Churchill by four lengths. She also has good form at Keeneland, having broken her maiden here back in April, and I’m hoping to see her work out a ground-saving trip from post six and produce a big finish in the homestretch to get involved for the exotics.
Now it’s your turn! Who do you like in the Raven Run?
There's still two weeks remaining until the Breeders' Cup, and the pre-entries haven't even been released yet, but here's a question for any and all to ponder: If you had to finalize your Breeders' Cup selections today, who would you choose in each race?
At the moment, here are the horses I would choose:
Turf: Flintshire (live longshot: Twilight Eclipse)
Turf Sprint: Pure Sensation (live longshot: Bobby's Kitten)
Filly & Mare Turf: Stephanie's Kitten
Filly & Mare Sprint: Judy the Beauty
Juvenile Fillies: Songbird
Juvenile Fillies Turf: Harmonize
Juvenile Turf: Washington DC
Dirt Mile: Red Vine
To help keep track of all the Breeders' Cup prep races, here is the link to Bloodhorse.com's Breeders' Cup news page. Also, here is the link to the currrent standings, entries, rules, and schedule for our "Road to the Breeders' Cup Classic" Handicapping Challenge. Enjoy the racing, everyone!
J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.