2016 Raven Run Stakes Preview

This Saturday's featured race at Keeneland is the Grade II Raven Run Stakes. The race has been run since 1999, and has always been a seven-furlong sprint for three-year-old fillies over the Keeneland main track. It earned Grade III status in 2002, and gained its current Grade II designation in 2006. The race takes its name from Raven Run, a nature sanctuary about half an hour's drive from Keeneland. To date, the most accomplished winner of the Raven Run has been Informed Decision (2008). This race was the last of her three-year-old career, but she returned the next year to win six of her seven starts, including the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (GI), and capture the 2009 Eclipse Award for Champion Female Sprinter. Of local interest, Informed Decision also won the Chicago Handicap (GIII) in both 2009 and 2010.  Last year's winner, Ingrid Mason trainee Sarah Sis, also won the Chicago Handicap this year.


Sarah Sis does Chicago proud, wearing down Bar of Gold to win the 2015 Raven Run Stakes.

This year's edition of the Raven Run offers a $250,000 purse, and drew a contentious file of twelve sophomore fillies. The Raven Run is the second to last chance for three-year-old filly sprinters to compete in graded company against their own age group. The only such race remaining is the La Brea Stakes (GI) at Santa Anita, typically run late in December.

Free live streams of the Raven Run, just as with all races at Keeneland, run both on the Keeneland website as well as on the Horse Races Now mobile app.  Horse Racing Radio Network will also present audio coverage of the Raven Run on its website; that broadcast runs from 5:00pm-6:00pm EDT.

Morning lines were not available at original publish time.  Updated Thursday, October 20 to add morning lines.

Keeneland: Saturday, October 22

Race 9: Lexus Raven Run Stakes (GII), three-year-old fillies, seven furlongs on the dirt, post time 5:30pm EDT

The big story behind the Raven Run is, of course, LUCY N ETHEL.  Undefeated in four starts, she was previously going to face older in the Gallant Bloom, but was not allowed to enter due to questions surrounding whether program trainer Chloe Bradley or banned trainer Ramon Preciado really had the reins.  She has since been transferred to the barn of Tom Amoss, and makes her first start for him here.  LUCY N ETHEL is a fast horse, and should be the speed of the speed.  But, BELLAMENTARY, CURLIN'S APPROVAL, and CONIAH have some serious front-end gas as well.  LUCY N ETHEL has never gone seven furlongs before, and with that much other speed to force her along, the undefeated streak likely ends here.

SOUTHERN GIRL, on the other hand, should be able to draft just behind that speed and take over.  SOUTHERN GIRL has been brought along slowly, and this is her first try in graded stakes company.  But, she has shown consistency, with four wins in five starts.  Her only loss was a third-place finish in her only two-turn start.  SOUTHERN GIRL has been able to stretch out to seven furlongs; last out, she won a stakes against older company at the distance.  She is showing progression from start to start, and is lightly enough raced to have further upside.  And, the connections inspire confidence.  SOUTHERN GIRL is trained by Larry Jones, historically adept with three-year-old fillies, and strong big-race rider Florent Geroux gets the leg up.

LIGHTSTREAM is another who should benefit from a hot pace in front of her.  She has a far outside draw, but the extended sprint configuration combined with the dearth of real closers should give her plenty of time and space to be well spotted.  LIGHTSTREAM has well-proven form going seven furlongs, with two wins and a close second in three tries at the distance on dirt.  She also has a stakes win going a one-turn seven panels on grass.  She has been off since finishing second in the Test (GI) a bit over two months ago, but LIGHTSTREAM has a solid worktab leading into this start, Trainer Brian Lynch also has a respectable record (16% wins, 49% in the money) with runners coming off 45-90 day layoffs.  LIGHTSTREAM could be rolling late, and she rates a solid chance.

SOPHIA'S SONG has shown speed in many of her starts, but also has been able to sit off the pace and rally.  She did that in an extended one-turn race, even, when she won a one-mile allowance at Gulfstream last December.  Though she was beaten as the favourite in the Charles Town Oaks (GIII) last out, Charles Town can be quirky: it's a bullring, with a two-turn seven-furlong trip.  The move back to a one-turn configuration should help SOPHIA'S SONG.  Finally, trainer Todd Pletcher has been on fire at Keeneland.  A 25% shipper trainer in general, Pletcher has been particularly hot this meet: so far he has sent out twelve starters.  Five have won, and nine have finished in the exacta.  He has been spotting and preparing his charges impeccably, and SOPHIA'S SONG makes as much sense here as any of his other Keeneland runners have in their spots.

Selections:

#5 SOUTHERN GIRL (12/1)

#12 LIGHTSTREAM (3/1)

#10 SOPHIA'S SONG (5/1)

Longshot:  #1 COVEY TRACE (15/1) was the one who upset SOPHIA'S SONG last out in the Charles Town Oaks.  Though that came over a two-turn trip, she showed extended one-turn form with a runaway victory against older company two starts back in an allowance at Ellis.  She has shown early speed, but has shown the same sharp speed as the likes of LUCY N ETHEL or any of her likely gadflies up front.  No matter: COVEY TRACE has also shown fine form rallying from a few lengths off the pace, and that is the sort of trip that likely serves her best here.  Brian Hernandez returns to the irons on her, and two of her four wins have come with Hernandez aboard.  He took her from off the pace to an allowance win at Churchill Downs earlier this year, and that kind of trip could make COVEY TRACE an upset candidate here again.

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