04/22/2009 11:00PM

Beware of Sheppard's hot hand

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Patrick Lang/Lang Photography
Winter View will try to give trainer Jonathan Sheppard his third stakes win of the meet.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Jonathan Sheppard certainly has flaunted his training skills at the Keeneland spring meet. By sending out Informed Decision to win the Grade 1 Vinery Madison and Forever Together to win the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley - both following fairly lengthy layoffs, no less - Sheppard showed yet again why he has been enshrined in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame since 1990.

Indeed, Sheppard pretty much has maxed out from just seven starters at the meet, having won four times, including with the 5-year-old mare Winter View. Although Winter View earned just an 84 Beyer Speed Figure in winning a second-level turf allowance here April 5, she did so in striking fashion, to the extent that she could be a major threat Thursday when she makes her second straight start at 1 1/2 miles in the 48th running of the Grade 3 Bewitch Stakes on the Keeneland turf.

Besides the Sheppard factor, Winter View also has Julien Leparoux going for her. Leparoux has been riding in sensational form at this meet, having virtually clinched his fourth Keeneland title as this 15-day meet entered its final three days.

Winter View, a 5-year-old Augustin Farm homebred by Thunder Gulch, will break from post 1 when lining up against seven other fillies and mares in the $150,000 Bewitch, the eighth of nine races on a card that starts at the usual 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

Dress Rehearsal, with Kent Desormeaux to ride, is the deserving favorite in the Bewitch, having cruised to a 2 3/4-length victory in her last start, the Grade 3 Orchid on March 22 at Gulfstream Park. A 4-year-old Irish-bred filly with three starts in the United States, Dress Rehearsal will be trying to become the fourth graded stakes winner of the meet for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who earlier took the Grade 3 Transylvania with Stormalory, the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile with Mr. Sidney, and the Grade 3 Doubledogdare with Indescribable.

Other viable contenders include the defending Bewitch champion, Communique, who will have Garrett Gomez aboard, and a German-bred mare, Caprice, with Edgar Prado named.

The lineup is completed by Russian Rosie, Favorite Fantasy, Empiress, and Absolutely Cindy.

The Bewitch, which was first run in 1962 and was switched to the turf in 1986, starts on the backstretch and is run around three turns.