2017 Raven Run Stakes Preview

This Saturday's featured race at Keeneland is the Grade 2 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 3 status in 2002, and gained its current Grade 2 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 (G1), and capture the 2009 Eclipse Award for Champion Female Sprinter. Of local interest, Informed Decision also won the Chicago Handicap (G3) in both 2009 and 2010.  The 2015 winner, Ingrid Mason trainee Sarah Sis, also won the Chicago Handicap the following year.


Informed Decision leaves no doubt about the winner of the 2008 Raven Run Stakes.  She would earn Champion Female Sprinter honours the following year.

This year's edition of the Raven Run offers a $250,000 purse once again, and eleven sophomore fillies passed the entry box. 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 (G1) 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, and also includes coverage of the Jim McKay Maryland Million day at Laurel.

Keeneland: Saturday, October 21

Race 9: Lexus Raven Run Stakes (G2) , three-year-old fillies, seven furlongs on the dirt, post time 5:30pm EST

Though TEQUILITA experimented with route distances in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and the Kentucky Oaks (G1), she has found her best going one turn.  She has emerged a real seven-furlong horse, with three wins and a third in four tries at the distance.  Her only loss at seven furlongs came in the Test (G1), against horses not quite as tough as she faces today.  That form includes a maiden win at Keeneland last fall, so she has shown she can handle the course.  That came battlign up front, but she can also sit back a bit and make a rally, a positive with quite a bit of other speed here.  The question is the rider, as she loses rider Luis Saez to a long day of New York-bred stakes at Belmont.  But, Feargal Lynch found the winners' circle at Keeneland for the first time this meet on Thursday, and trainer Michael Matz gives him live mounts.  He has another one with seven-furlong maven TEQUILITA.

Outside-drawn MISS SUNSET comes into this race off a win in the CERF Stakes at Del Mar.  Though that was a restricted stakes race, it did come against older fillies and mares, a point in her favour as she moves into this straight sophomore bunch.  She also has form going seven furlongs; two back, she survived an early pace battle and drew off to whomp California-bred stakes fillies at the distance at Del Mar.  The outside draw means she should get a relatively clean trip in this large field, and the presence of top Keeneland rider Julien Leparoux is also a plus.

The beaten favourite in the CERF Stakes was another sophomore who turns up in the Raven Run, CLASSY TUNE.  The Simon Callaghan shipper is still lightly raced, with only five starts under her girth.  But, she has not missed the board in any of those five starts, and both of her wins have come over older mares at Santa Anita  What makes CLASSY TUNE most interesting, though, is one of those races she did not win: a second-place effort in which she was beaten a nose at Santa Anita.  It was her only start so far going seven furlongs, her first race off a freshening, and only her second career start.  That day, she was on the lead, but since then she has proven herself a little more effective from just off the pace.  If Florent Geroux can give CLASSY TUNE that off-pace trip, she could be the first one that the likes of MISS SUNSET have to fend off.

Selections:

#7 TEQUILITA (4/1)

#11 MISS SUNSET (4/1)

#9 CLASSY TUNE (5/1)

Longshot:  Though the second-place finish going seven furlongs at Keeneland by #3 PINCH HIT (12/1) came in $50K N2L company, she has proven hserself better than that as the summer went on.  She cleared her first-level allowance condition next out at Churchill going seven, then beat older in a two-other-than mile at Ellis, then two starts later won the Dogwood going seven furlongs against sophomore fillies.  Rider Jon Court, who guided her to her N1X and N2X scores, returns to ride PINCH HIT here.  Her only loss this summer came in the Grade 3 Groupie Doll, going a mile against older at Ellis.  In short, PINCH HIT has come into her own, particularly at this seven-furlong distance.  She has some class to prove against these, as the Raven Run is a bit classier than the Dogwood drew.  Still, her best races are fast enough, and she has the tactical versatility to battle on the front, stalk, or make a rally from midpack.  Though trainer Brad Cox has been hit-or-miss at Keeneland, PINCH HIT should be the right price to bet that she finds her best going six furlongs against three-year-olds.

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