This year marks the 66th running of the Alcibiades Stakes (GI), the signature fall destination race for 2-year-old fillies at Keeneland. Always a major prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), it now serves as the second-to-last Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” event for the juvenile fillies division and runners hoping to guarantee a spot in the starting gate this year at Del Mar on Friday, Nov. 3.
The race itself is named for the 1930 Kentucky Oaks winner and multiple champion Alcibiades, who herself was named after a Greek general, orator and politician. Since 2003, the race has been sponsored by Darley Racing and it has carried a Grade 1 designation since 2007.
Champion Moccasin was the first easily recognizable name to win the Alcibiades back in 1965 and, although the roster of winners overall doesn’t read like a billboard of champions, some good fillies are on the list, including Candadian champion L’Alezane, Breeders’ Cup winner and champion Eliza, Countess Diana, Hall of Famer Silverbulletday, Breeders’ Cup heroine Stephanie’s Kitten and Broodmares of the Year Cara Rafaela, the dam of top sire Bernardini, and Take Charge Lady, the dam of Grade 1 winners Take Charge Indy and Will Take Charge.
This year, ten fillies are set to go postward in the $400,000 event, which will be run at 1 1/16 miles over Keeneland’s main track.
Friday is opening day at Keeneland and the weather in Lexington is expected to be beautiful, with sunny skies and highs in the low-80s forecasted. A dry track and firm course can be counted on all day.
Lothenbach Stables’ Bet She Wins is the lukewarm morning line favorite at 7-2. She will be making her dirt debut following a 9 ½-length off-the-pace maiden victory in the Arlington-Washinton Lassie Stakes on the all-weather surface at Arlington Park. The daughter of First Samurai, who was purchased as a Fasig-Tipton August yearling in 2016 for $230,000, owns some pretty strong speed figures and will certainly benefit if the early splits are decent.
She leaves her home at Arlington for the first time and her one dirt workout is decent (a half-mile in :48 2/5 on Sunday) and considering most of her competition are in similar situations where they need to step up or step aside, she may have found a good spot to step up. Jose Validivia Jr. rides the Chris Block trainee from post six.
Trainer Ken McPeek, who has saddled three Alcibiades champions over his career, including now notable broodmare Take Charge Lady, sends out Princess Warrior for her first attempt against winners. The daughter of Midshipman, who is owned by Evan, Matthew and Andrew Trommer, will lead the field to post in her first start since after breaking her maiden at Churchill Downs at six furlongs three weeks ago.
Princess Warrior earned a very respectable speed figure in that win, which she accomplished after a mid-pack trip and stretch assault on the leaders. She won’t need to improve much to be effective here, even though it’s her first try around two turns. Brian Hernandez Jr. will be back aboard and all she may need to do is avoid being trapped along the rail after what is hopefully a ground-saving trip when she is asked for her best running at the top of the stretch.
Pacific Gale has won two of her three career races, including the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park by 3 ¼ lengths in her last race and has improved, from a speed and pace figure standpoint, with each start. The John Kimmel trainee drew a good post position (two) for jockey Chris DeCarlo to be able to send her to the front after the break, which is where the daughter of Flat Out seemingly prefers to be.
Like most of her rivals, Pacific Gale makes her routing debut — and at least she’s bred to go the 8 ½ furlongs of Friday’s race. She’s been training well and steadily for months and has successfully shipped to win from her New York base before. She should offer some decent value, as well, and is certainly a must-use on exotic tickets.
The well-bred Heavenly Love is coming off her maiden score over the Kentucky Downs turf at six furlongs. Her 4-1 morning line odds (making her the co-second choice) are a bit confusing since she has done her best running sprinting on the turf, so it has to be her connections garnering the attention as she’s a Debby Oxley homebred trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Julien Leparoux, most recently of Classic Empire fame.
Heavenly Love certainly has room for improvement in her first start around two turns, so if you have faith in her connections, then she’s worth a wager.
Sassy Sienna is one of two from trainer Brad Cox and adds blinkers off a late-running third-place finish in the grassy P.G. Johnson Stakes at the end of August. She broke her maiden at first asking at 7 ½ furlongs and was effective in her last around two turns, so maybe all she needs is the focus the blinkers should give her. Her speed/pace/class figures suggest she’ll need to improve, but that applies to half the field here.
Kelly’s Humor is Cox’s other runner off a record of two wins and a second in her career, including a maiden score in the Ellis Park Debutante at seven furlongs. A repeat of her last, a second at today’s distance in the Pocahontas (GII) at Churchill, gives her a good shot at the upset.
Dancing is Casse’s other runner and has yet to reach the winner’s circle. Ironically, her figures are as good as her stablemate’s, so she may be worth wagering on instead, at what will surely be better odds.
Over Thinking broke her maiden on turf last out at Kentucky Downs at a sprint distance. She will need to show more in her route debut.
Caroline the Great hasn’t done a whole lot since breaking her maiden at Lone Star Park back in June, though she was second in a turf stakes at Louisiana Downs last out. This competition seems a bit stiff for her.
Arabella Bella looks like her future is probably on turf.
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law in Kentucky known as the “Borell Law.”Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time.She lives in Robinson, Texas, with her longtime beau, Tony. She is the executive director of the 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue, The Bridge Sanctuary.