04/09/2017 11:19AM

Brown likes Lady Eli's looks for Jenny Wiley Stakes

Coady Photography
Lady Eli and Roca Rojo go through a morning work at Keeneland on Sunday in preparation for the Jenny Wiley Stakes.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Rush hour came late Sunday morning at Keeneland, as a multitude of turf stars worked for upcoming stakes engagements at the Kentucky track. The activity on the lawn was led by the star racemares Lady Eli, Time and Motion, and Catch a Glimpse, all targeting the Grade 1, $350,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes this coming Saturday.

Despite the powerhouse group lining up for that race, trainer Chad Brown appeared quietly confident in Lady Eli’s chances in her season debut after she worked five furlongs in 1:02.40 in company with Grade 3 winner Roca Rojo. Lady Eli, last seen finishing second by a nose to Queen’s Trust in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, was originally expected to start the season elsewhere, but was training so well, she directed Brown to Keeneland.

“She’s never been bigger or stronger than right now,” Brown said. “Her works have been amazing. I really didn’t circle the Jenny Wiley when the first of the year came – I figured I’d take my time, get her back to her home base in New York, and maybe start her in a race like the Beaugay in mid-May. But as soon as I started working her, it was very apparent to me that she still had a lot of fitness from her campaign last year. She’s 5, it could be her last year running, it’s a Grade 1, and I have what I think is the best turf mare in the country, so I have to allow her to run.”

Lady Eli and regular exercise rider Walter Malasquez worked to the inside of Roca Rojo and Florent Geroux, with the two pairs finishing on near-even terms.

“She’s been training well in south Florida,” Brown said. “I just wanted her to have a recent breeze over the turf course. She hasn’t run on it since she was 3. I took advantage of the opportunity to get on the turf course and let her get her footing on it.”

Roca Rojo, last seen finishing second by a nose to Miss Temple City in the Grade 1 Matriarch last December, is also nominated to the Jenny Wiley, but Brown indicated that she would run only if the turf were very soft – a scenario that would bench Lady Eli. Roca Rojo is more likely to run in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs.

Time and Motion also showed an affinity for the Keeneland course last fall, winning a three-way photo in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup during the fall meet. She ended the season by finishing sixth in the Matriarch. She worked her solo half in :52.40 as she prepared for her 2017 debut – an easy work by design, according to Tiffany Webb, assistant to trainer Jimmy Toner.

“We just wanted [jockey Jose Ortiz] to get used to her,” Webb said. “He rode her as a 2-year-old, but she’s very different now than she was as a 2-year-old. We just wanted an easy work. She’s been putting in some nice, fast works down at Palm Meadows.”

Catch a Glimpse worked a half in :50.40 under regular exercise rider E.J. Bowler.

“We were just out for a little stroll,” trainer Mark Casse said. “We told E.J. on the radio about the top of the lane let her pick it up a little bit and she did.”

Catch a Glimpse was Canada's Horse of the Year in 2015 when she won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland. She won five straight to start her 2016 campaign, including the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks, but has since dropped four straight, finishing second to Celestine in the Sand Springs Stakes in early March at Gulfstream Park.

The field for the Jenny Wiley is also expected to include Grade 1 winner Illuminant; back-to-back graded stakes winner Dickinson; Goodyearforroses, who has won three straight in California; Quidura, a graded winner at Keeneland; and stakes winner Kitter’s Roar.

• European champion Lady Aurelia worked a strong five furlongs in :59 flat on the turf in company with Bound for Nowhere, her final serious preparation for her planned season debut in the listed Giant's Causeway Stakes, on the undercard of the Jenny Wiley. Trainer Wesley Ward intends to use the race as a prep for the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes at the renowned Royal Ascot meeting.

• Heart to Heart, among the likely favorites for Friday's Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile, worked a half in :49.40. He is seeking his first Grade 1 win after finishing second to Miss Temple City in last year's renewal.