10/18/2009 11:00PM

American Lion hints at classic potential


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The first weekend of the Keeneland fall meet carried plenty of meaning for the Nov. 6-7 Breeders' Cup, at least in producing potential starters.

The second weekend? Not so much - although what otherwise might have been a forgettable maiden race could have produced a contender for the 2010 classics.

American Lion, owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Eoin Harty, looked sensational in , drawing off to win the seven-furlong race by nearly seven lengths in 1:22.22 over Polytrack and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 93. Of course, it's quite a leap from an October maiden win to becoming a major player on the road to the Triple Crown, but all such journeys begin with a first step.

"He's one of our two best 2-year-olds," WinStar's racing manager, Elliott Walden, said Monday. "To this point, it's him and Super Saver," fourth in the Champagne Stakes for trainer Todd Pletcher. "We were extremely pleased with the way he ran."

Walden said WinStar, the central Kentucky powerhouse owned by Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt, has had "at least 12 2-year-olds" win or run second in maiden races this year. American Lion is by the hot sire Tiznow and is the first foal out of a young Storm Cat mare named Storm Tide, whose dam, City Band, was a Grade 1 winner.

American Lion finished second in his only prior start, a Sept. 13 maiden race at Arlington Park, when trained by Richard Budge. Historically, Budge has handled the less-talented WinStar runners when listed as program trainer for the occasional race, but Walden said fans "shouldn't read anything into that at all. Richard is a private trainer for us on the farm, and all the horses come through him at some point."

In the case of American Lion, "we just decided not to send him to Del Mar for his first start and had Richard take him up to Chicago to run him the one time, knowing the horse would join up with Eoin when he came here for the fall meet."

Walden said American Lion was being flown Monday to join Harty's main strings of horses in southern California, where the colt will be pointed to the Grade 1, $750,000 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 19 at Hollywood Park, with possibly a prep race in between.

Fallen riders due back

Jockeys Robby Albarado and Miguel Mena are both expected back in action Wednesday after overcoming injuries incurred in separate spills at Keeneland over the weekend.

Albarado suffered bruises around an eye when he was thrown at the start of the sixth race Saturday. He had to miss the remainder of Saturday and all of Sunday, and three of his scheduled mounts, including El Brujo in the Perryville Stakes, wound up victorious. Still, Albarado leads the jockey standings with 10 winners heading into Wednesday.

Mena was still "sore in a few spots" Monday, according to his agent, Steve Elzey, after being thrown at the start of the first race Sunday. The 22-year-old Peruvian was reported by Keeneland medical staff to have possible soft-tissue injuries in his neck and left thigh when the rider being transported to the University of Kentucky Medical Center, where he underwent observation and treatment before being released Sunday evening.

Hot Cha Cha a first for connections

Hot Cha Cha, the 4 1/2-length winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup here Saturday, might make her next start in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes over the Churchill Downs turf on Nov. 14, said trainer Phil Sims.

The QE II victory was the first in a Grade 1 event for Sims and his longtime client, breeder-owner Nelson McMakin, as well as jockey Jimmy Graham. All were thrilled with how Hot Cha Cha dominated the competition by pulling clear after charging through a rail opening in the turn for home.

"Down the backside, she was running easy," said Sims. "She was laying closer than usual because of the slow pace, and some of the riders were staying off the rail. When the hole opened up, she shot right through there."

The QE II fillies who rounded out the respective top four - Shared Account, Gozzip Girl, and Miss World - all have returned to the East Coast.

Warrior's Reward appears okay

Warrior's Reward, pulled up about a furlong past the wire after fading to fifth as the favorite in the Perryville on Saturday, appears to be 100 percent healthy, trainer Ian Wilkes said Monday.

"He's walking good, feeling good," said Wilkes, adding that X-rays had revealed noting amiss. "It's all good news, great news."

Jockey Calvin Borel told the Keeneland publicity staff he thought the colt took a bad step after straightening away for the drive before adding that "maybe it is nothing."

Overflow for Sycamore

An overflow field of older turf horses has been entered in the Thursday feature, the Grade 3, $125,000 Sycamore Stakes. Cloudy's Knight, the former Canadian champion who won the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Turf last month following a year layoff, heads a lineup that also includes Winchester, Free Fighter, and Always First. Fifteen are entered in the 1 1/2-mile race, although only as many as 12 can start.

The Sycamore is the first of four stakes set for this week, with the highlight coming Saturday with the Grade 2, $300,000 Raven Run. Also on tap are the Grade 3, $150,000 Valley View on Friday, and the $125,000 Dowager on Sunday.

* The pick six carryover has edged up to $23,562 for Wednesday. There is no carryover in the Super High Five.