10/21/2010 11:55AM

Beautician lukewarm choice in wide-open Raven Run

Barbara D. Livingston
Beautician has earned nearly $600,000 but is still seeking her first stakes win heading into Saturday's Raven Run.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – In years when the University of Kentucky hosts Georgia for a night football game during the Keeneland fall meet, thousands of curiosity-seeking Georgia fans typically turn out for an afternoon of horse racing. Uninitiated in the subtleties of handicapping, those novices surely will be bumfuzzled when they come upon the Raven Run Stakes here Saturday.

They won’t be alone.

Experts and rookies alike will struggle mightily in their assessments of the Grade 2, $250,000 Raven Run, a seven-furlong Polytrack race that drew a field of 14 so well-matched that the morning-line favorite has been listed at 4-1. Her name is Beautician, but there is little guarantee that she will actually be favored in a race that really doesn’t have one.

“There are some solid fillies in there, but nothing jumps out to say you’re going to have a hard time beating one or another,” said Ken McPeek, the trainer of Beautician.

While keeping elite company, Beautician has never won a stakes but has earned nearly $600,000. “How do you do that?” asked a laughing McPeek. “We feel like turning her back to seven furlongs is doing her a favor, but as deep as this is, she’s going to have to run her best to get the job done.”

Similar things might be said for the other 3-year-old fillies in this 12th edition of the Raven Run. Some others on a lengthy list of logical players include Katy Now, the beaten favorite in the Victory Ride at Saratoga; Negligee, whose victory here last fall in the Alcibiades Stakes makes her the lone Grade 1 winner in the field; Hilda’s Passion, a sharp last-out winner at Saratoga; Chantilly Nayla, runner-up in the Beaumont Stakes here in the spring; Red Hot Buddha, a consistent gray filly with six lifetime wins; Kitty in a Tizzy, whose form has improved noticeably in Polytrack events; and My Irish Girl, a winner in 7 of 8 starts, albeit versus lesser company.

The Raven Run, named for a 374-acre nature sanctuary located just outside of Lexington, has been won by such standouts as Darling My Darling (2000), Sightseek (2002), and Informed Decision (2008). It goes as the ninth of 10 races on a Saturday card that starts at 1:15 p.m. Eastern.