By Margaret Ransom
The home of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup is ready to roll out a full meet on Friday, with the traditional opener, the $350,000 Alcibiades Stakes (G1) for 2-year-old fillies, featuring three of the seven entries trained by Kenny McPeek, including 5-2 favorite Crazy Beautiful.
The 1 1/16-mile Alcibiades is the lone Grade 1 on the 10-race opening day at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, which is holding its first full meet of the year after canceling in the spring and holding a five-day meet in July. The 17-day meet runs through Oct. 24, with the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 6-7.
Attendance will be limited to connections of horses only and fans will still be prohibited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All those who do attend will be required to remain masked at all times and follow proper social distancing protocols as mandated by the state of Kentucky and the Keeneland Association. Jockeys are under strict rules and regulations and any who plan to ride at the track are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 before a race.
The race got its name for Hal Price Headley’s Alcibiades, who was a two-time champion and the winner of the 1930 Kentucky Oaks. She was also her owner’s foundation broodmare, having produced seven foals, who themselves became prolific producers and show up in many of the best of the modern-day thoroughbred.
Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas has saddled five winners of the race to lead all trainers and Rafael Bejarano is tied with the retired rider Don Brumfeld for leading jockey with three wins each.
McPeek, looking for his fourth Alcibiades win, also sends out Simply Ravishing and Oliviaofthedesert.
First post Friday is 1:05 p.m. ET with the Alcibiades the ninth race (5:40 p.m. post).
1. Thoughtfully (Ricardo Santana, Jr., Steve Asmussen), 3-1
2. Travel Column (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox), 7-2
3. Oliviaofthedesert (Corey Lanerie, Kenny McPeek), 12-1
4. Crazy Beautiful (Brian Hernandez, Jr., Kenny McPeek), 5-2
5. Xtrema (James Graham, Keith Desormeaux), 15-1
6. Gramercy (Joel Rosario, Eoin Harty), 9-2
7. Simply Ravishing (Luis Saez, Kenny McPeek), 3-1
Also at Keeneland on Friday is the Phoenix Stakes (G2), a 6-furlong test which secures a spot in the gate for the BC Sprint (G1).
The Phoenix is the oldest race in North America, having first been contested in 1831, though it hasn’t been run every year since. It has been held at Keeneland since 1937 and in the 1940s was contested twice at Churchill Downs. Some of the more recent winners, within the past 75 years or so that fans of racing will recognize include Coaltown, Hill Gail, Moccasin, Gallant Bob, Timeless Native, the filly Xtra Heat, Wise Dan, Work All Week and Runhappy.
Last year’s winner, Whitmore, is back for his fourth appearance in the race seeking a repeat victory and will square off against a solid field of 11 other sprinters. He was labeled the 7-2 second choice on the morning line after a dull and uncharacteristic seventh in the Forego (G1) at Saratoga last out, leaving recent Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) hero Diamond Oops as the 3-1 favorite.
The Phoenix will go as the eighth race Friday with a 5:05 p.m. post time.
1. Shashashakemeup (Corey Lanerie, Keith Desormeaux), 30-1
2. Absolutely Aiden (Chris Landeros, Wesley Hawley), 12-1
3. Whitmore (Joe Talamo, Ron Moquett), 7-2
4. Diamond Oops (Florent Geroux, Patrick Biancone), 3-1
5. No Parole (Luis Saez, Tom Amoss), 5-1
6. Echo Town (Ricardo Santana, Jr., Steve Asmussen), 8-1
7. Empire of Gold (Declan Carroll, Terry Eoff), 50-1
8. Copper Town (Julio Garcia, Wesley Ward), 12-1
9. Lexitonian (Tyler Gaffalione, Jack Sisterson), 4-1
10. Edgemont Road (Declan Cannon, William VanMeter), 15-1
11. Mo Dont No (Gerardo Corrales, A. Quartarolo), 30-1
12. Midnight Sands (Joel Rosario, Brendan Walsh), 12-1
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.