Opening weekend at Keeneland concludes on Sunday with two more graded stakes races, both of which offer Win and You’re In berths for the Breeders’ Cup. The Grade III Dixiana Bourbon Stakes, which offers a berth to the Juvenile Turf, drew an eclectic overflow field of fourteen plus two also-eligible entrants. The Grade I Spinster Stakes, a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, drew just five. But, it’s a solid mix of proven runners and up-and-comers.
Free live streams of Sunday’s graded stakes races, 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 air the Bourbon Stakes and the Spinster Stakes as well; their broadcast will run from 5:00pm-6:00pm EDT on their website.
Selections for the Bourbon Stakes are made for turf only. Morning lines were not available at original publish time. A modified version of the preview of the Spinster Stakes appears at Thorofan. Updated Sunday, October 9 to add morning lines and account for the fact that REAL CREEL drew into the Bourbon.
Race 8: Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (GIII), two-year-olds, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf, post time 5:10pm EDT
This year marks the 26th running of the Bourbon Stakes, named after a Kentucky county famous for both its Thoroughbred horse farms as well as its namesake libation. Originally called the Hopemont Stakes, the race has always been carded for a mile and a sixteenth on the grass, though it has twice been washed off the turf. To date, no winner of the Bourbon has gone on to prevail in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, though the latter race has only existed since 2007. The most accomplished winner of the Bourbon Stakes to date has been three-time Eclipse Award winner (and 2009 Arlington Million winner) Gio Ponti, who won the race in 2007. Several other winners of this race have won around Chicago as well. Star of Manila (1993), a son of 1987 Arlington Million winner Manila, broke his maiden at Arlington and also won the T. V. Lark Stakes before marauding at Keeneland. Pineaff (1998) followed his Keeneland win up with an authoritative victory in the Hawthorne Juvenile Stakes. The winner of the 2013 off-turf edition of the Bourbon, Poker Player, broke his maiden at Arlington for trainer Wayne Catalano, and has been running in the claiming ranks in Chicago in recent years.
Illinois-bred Coalport finishes second in the 2011 edition of the Bourbon Stakes, in just the second start of his career.
TICONDEROGA has raced just twice, but brings an excellent resume. He debuted going a mile and a sixteenth on the Saratoga grass, and missed by just a head. The horse who beat him, Good Samaritan, has since punched his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup with a strong victory in the Summer Stakes (GII – CAN) at Woodbine. Next out, TICONDEROGA won a maiden turf mile at Belmont with authority. In both of those starts, he showed the ability to pass horses nicely. The stretch back out to a mile and a sixteenth should be good for TICONDEROGA: he is by Tapit out of Keertana, a mare whose female family exemplifies stamina. The connections are right, too: Chad Brown trains, and Javier Castellano stays in the irons.
KEEP QUIET is one of the more experienced horses in the field, making his fifth start in the Bourbon. He finished off the board in his first two starts, but flourished as soon as he stretched out to two turns. In his first try at a mile and a sixteenth, a maiden special weight at Saratoga, he posted a frontrunning five and a quarter length victory. Next out, in the With Anticipation Stakes, he finished second beaten two lengths by Made You Look. But, it was not a bad second. KEEP QUIET did not get the early lead as he did in his maiden victory — but he pressed the pace and stayed interested all the way to the wire. He also keeps Florent Geroux aboard from that victory; Geroux knows how to ride a turf route as well as anyone, and also rides well at Keeneland
ROYAL BY NATURE has not taken an orthodox path to the Bourbon Stakes, but looks well spotted here none the less. Sure, it is hardly common to see a horse in a major Breeders’ Cup prep who broke his maiden at Indiana Grand and then took down a small stakes at Louisiana Downs. But, trainer Brad Cox knows what he is doing: he wins 20% of the time in graded stakes, and 24% of the time with shippers. Cox isn’t loading ROYAL BY NATURE on the van just to see the fall foliage in Lexington. ROYAL BY NATURE has two wins at a mile already, and his breeding (Myboycharlie out of an Empire Maker mare) suggests that the extra sixteenth of a mile should suit him well. And, his running style should suit as well — he has rallied from midpack in both his career starts, including into a crawling pace last out. He will get more to chase here. Yes, ROYAL BY NATURE needs to take a step up in figures to win this, but his last two starts have suggested he showed all he needed. There should be more in the tank, and he can show it at the right price here.
#2 TICONDEROGA (7/2)
#5 KEEP QUIET (9/2)
#6 ROYAL BY NATURE (8/1)
Longshot: Getting the longshot into the field required a bit of race-day luck, but #15 REAL CREEL (10/1) did draw in from the also-eligible list thanks to the scratch of IT’S YOUR NICKEL. He looks set to make an impact. He has raced just once, but that victory was a debut win at Kentucky Downs. He got the early lead in that effort, but handled some pace pressure and turned those foes away. Horses do not typically win first time out over that demanding course, suggesting REAL CREEL has class and precocity. The biggest question is the stretch out, since only one of REAL CREEL’s siblings has won at a route of ground. But, he is by Mizzen Mast, a positive influence for going long on the grass. And, trainer Steve Asmussen is a 21% winner with first-time routers. Though REAL CREEL was relegated to the also-eligible list — this one, not PRADOS WAY, looks to be the real Asmussen A. Rider Ricardo Santana, who has been getting a lot of good ones from that barn, has been named on both. Don’t ignore REAL CREEL as “just another AE” — include him in your plays.
Race 9: Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (GI), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, post time 5:45pm EDT
This year marks the 61st running of the Spinster Stakes, a nine-furlong, weight-for-age test of filly and mare routers. It has always been run on the main track: dirt, except for 2006-2013 when it was run on polytrack. The race has been a rich source of filly and mare champions; twenty horses in the history of this race have won it on their way to a championship. Before the Breeders’ Cup era, such stars included Doubledogdare (1956), Bowl of Flowers (1961), and Gallant Bloom (1969). The aforementioned Bowl of Flowers, in her career as a broodmare, found a local connection; her mating with Big Spruce produced 1981 Hawthorne Gold Cup winner Spruce Bouquet. During the Breeders’ Cup era, the Spinster has produced four horses who went on to win the Distaff in the same year: Princess Rooney (1994), Sacahuista (1987), Bayakoa (1989, 1990), and Inside Information (1995). Two horses have won the Spinster and the Distaff in different years: Paseana (1993 Spinster, 1992 Distaff) and Azeri (2004 Spinster, 2002 Distaff).
Take Charge Lady, the dam of champion Will Take Charge and the second dam of champion Take Charge Brandi, annexes the 2003 Spinster.
This year’s Spinster, again sponsored by Juddmonte, offers a $500,000 purse as well as a Win And You’re In berth to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff for the winner. The race drew a field of just five. I’M A CHATTERBOX and PAID UP SUBSCRIBER formed the exacta of the GI Delaware Handicap earlier this year, and ENGAGINGLEE also achieved a grade I placing in the La Troienne earlier this year at Churchill Downs. MISS PINK DIVA and GENRE, both trying Grade I company for the first time, complete the field.
Unfortunately, this year’s edition of the Spinster is not the best betting race. The race drew a field of five horses…and though I’M A CHATTERBOX will likely go off the heavy favourite, she deserves it, and she has proven everything she needs to prove in order to be the goods here. A five-horse field can be a bit unpredictable. Speed can be good, and I’M A CHATTERBOX has it, but so does GENRE and MISS PINK DIVA also have it. It makes sense to look for a horse who has speed, but also ratability. I’M A CHATTERBOX is not only the fastest horse in the field, but also has that running style. She also has form at a mile and an eighth, and two exacta finishes in three tries at Keeneland. Her only off-the-board finish in Lexington came in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) last year; this field is nowhere near that level. Her three bullets since the Personal Ensign suggests she is coming into this in good form, too. In short — opposing I’M A CHATTERBOX here just seems cute for cute’s sake. In multi-race bets, single her and move on.
Underneath, GENRE and PAID UP SUBSCRIBER have the most appeal. GENRE already has a “second to I’M A CHATTERBOX” medal from the Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park earlier this year. The Obeah was the same mile and an eighth distance as the Spinster. Since then, she has started three times. Though GENRE has been facing a bit softer company than this, she has made good account of herself. She won the Molly Pitcher (GIII) in the slop two back, and proved her stamina in winning the ten-furlong Lady Jacqueline last out. GENRE has been highly consistent in her career, finishing in the exacta in nine of her eleven starts. And, her running style fits nicely, as she has speed, gameness, and a stalking gear.
Among the late runners, PAID UP SUBSCRIBER appeals a bit more than ENGAGINGLEE. PAID UP SUBSCRIBER can sit up a bit closer to the pace, an advantage here. Though ENGAGINGLEE did win in a short field last out, that came in the mud. ENGAGINGLEE is a slop monster, and may not be quite as effective against these better horses on a dry track. Whereas, PAID UP SUBSCRIBER drops here from a much tougher Grade I last out, and has shown herself to be adaptable enough to be effective in a short field. Turning the tables on I’M A CHATTERBOX would be too much to ask, but given her class and speed, it would be a surprise to see PAID UP SUBSCRIBER miss the board.
#3 I’M A CHATTERBOX (4/5)
#5 GENRE (7/2)
#2 PAID UP SUBSCRIBER (7/2)
Longshot: The longshot writer took off early to enjoy some smooth Kentucky bourbon.
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