By Margaret Ransom
Who doesn’t love the Keeneland fall meet?
The track in Lexington, Kentucky continues its opening weekend run on Saturday, with four Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races, including a trio of Grade 1’s – the $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile, the $400,000 Breeders’ Futurity and the $350,000 First Lady. The other BC automatic qualifier is the $200,000 Thoroughbred Club of America (G2).
Keeneland is running a full fall meet that began Friday (Oct. 2) and goes through Oct. 24. After a break to regroup, the track will host the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 6-7.
Here’s a rundown of Saturday’s stakes:
Agave Racing Stable, ERJ Racing, Madaket Stables and Rockin Robin Racing Stable’s Bowies Hero attempts to become the third horse to win back-to-back editions of the race.
The Turf Mile winner earns a fees-paid spot in the $2 million BC Mile (G1) on Nov. 7. The race drew field of 11, including four trained by Chad Brown – Without Parole (12-1), Raging Bull (6-1), Flavius (9-2), and Analyze It (9-2). The favorite is Todd Pletcher-trained Halladay (5-2), winner of the Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 22 over the likes of Cassa Creed, Raging Bull, Without Parole, Got Stormy and Uni.
The first Shadwell Turf Mile was run in 1986 and was named the Keeneland Breeders’ Cup Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile turf test. It earned graded status for the first time in 1988 and the first winner to go on and capture a Breeders’ Cup race was Steinlen in 1989. The race got a cut in distance in 1994 and was eventually upgraded to Grade 1 status in 2001. Shadwell claimed title sponsor in 2004. This year it will be contested for the 35th time.
Some of the other more memorable winners in the past include Wise Dan, Court Vision, Favorite Trick, Dumaani and Itsallgreektome. Bowies Hero will be trying to join Gio Ponti (2010-2011) and Dumaani (1995-1996) as the only repeat winners.
Trainer-turned-jockey agent Kiaran McLaughlin is the race’s leading conditioner with three wins and Robby Albarado has booted home four winners.
The winner earns a fees-paid spot in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1).
The First Lady was first contested in 1998 at the distance of 1 3⁄16 miles and earned graded status for the first time in 2005. The distance was shortened to a mile the same year.
The race has been highly productive in producing Breeders’ Cup winners since just about its first year. In 2000, Perfect Sting ran second and went on to win that year’s inaugural edition of the BC Filly & Mare Turf. In 2005, Intercontinental was the first to win both races and was crowned champion turf female.
Forever Together followed and was also named champion of the division. Tepin won this race in 2015 and went on to defeat males in the BC Mile (G1) before earning the Eclipse Award as champion turf female. Last year, Uni won the BC Mile after winning the First Lady and won the Eclipse as well.
Chad Brown, who has two in the field, has saddled three previous winners, while jockey Julien Leparoux has been aboard five winners.
Robert LaPenta, Michael Dubb, Head of Plains Partners and Bethlehem Stables’ Uni is back to defend her title and become the first repeat winner of the race. Uni is winless in two starts this year, third in the Just A Game (G1) and a disappointing seventh in the Fourstardave.
A field of six was entered, including Brown-trainee and Just A Game winner Newspaperofrecord as well as Distaff Turf Mile (G1) winner Beau Recall.
Godolphin’s homebred Essential Quality will face winners for the first time as the 2-1 favorite in a race that carries a fees-paid berth in the BC Juvenile (G1)on Nov. 6 to the winner – and awards points on the road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby (G1).
The Breeders’ Futurity took place for the first time and after several track switches between a couple of now-defunct Kentucky ovals and it returned to Keeneland 1938, though it was contested at Churchill Downs three times during and during World War II. The juvenile feature earned Grade 3 status in 1973, grade 2 in 1976 and grade 1 in 2004. It has been a 1 1/16-mile event since 1981, but has been contested at several different distances throughout its history.
A year ago, the highly regarded and oft-injured Maxfield won this race before injury kept him from the Breeders’ Cup, and his win here added him to an impressive roster of previous winners, like Johnstown, Whirlaway, Round Table, D’Accord, Swale, Tasso, Forty Niner, Dance Floor, Tejano Run, Honor and Glory, Favorite Trick, Captain Steve and Classic Empire.
Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who has one here this year, has already saddled six winners and Don Brumfeld remains the top rider decades after his retirement with five winners.
A field of seven are set for this dash and fees-paid spot to the winner into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) on Nov. 7.
The race was originally named the TCA Dinner Purse and was a non-stakes event from 1941-1980. It was boosted to graded stakes status in 1981 and until 1985 the race was restricted to owners who were members of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) and was given a graded status in 1988 when that restriction was lifted. It has been a Grade 2 since 2009.
California-bred Spiced Perfection won this race a year ago and was then fourth in the Breeders’ Cup, but Judy the Beauty in 2013, Groupie Doll in 2012 and Informed Decision used this race as a springboard to racing’s championship day. Probably the most famous name to have won this race in the past is 1990 winner Safely Kept, who defeated males in that year’s BC Sprint (G1).
Five trainers – Wesley Ward, Bret Calhoun, Larry Robideaux, D. Wayne Lukas and Shug McGaughey — each have two wins in this one. Pat Day is still the leading jockey with five winning mounts.
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 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 Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, two Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.