10/12/2010 1:33PM

Evening Jewel eyeing BC Filly and Mare Sprint

Benoit & Associates
Evening Jewel is on target for the Buena Vista Handicap at Santa Anita.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Jim Cassidy would like to run Evening Jewel in the Breeders’ Cup, but first things first. The veteran California trainer will be at Keeneland on Saturday to run the standout filly in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, and “if she runs big in there, then we can start looking at our options,” Cassidy said.

By any standard, Evening Jewel already has had a remarkable year, having earned more than $775,000 from seven starts, and it would be surprising if she isn’t a major factor in the $400,000 QE II – especially considering two-turn grass races versus 3-year-old fillies have become her bread and butter. Problem is, the Breeders’ Cup has no such specialty event, and Cassidy said he currently is leaning toward a pair of dirt races for Evening Jewel, with perhaps the BC Filly and Mare Sprint having a slight edge over the BC Ladies’ Classic at the moment.

“The filly’s training very well, and I’d just like to see her continue on her merry way,” said Cassidy, who was scheduled to arrive here Wednesday evening from Palm Springs on a private plane owned by Marilyn Braly, the owner of Evening Jewel.

Before being flown out of California early Tuesday, Evening Jewel had a final pre-race breeze the previous morning when going three furlongs in 37.20 seconds at Hollywood Park.

Cassidy noted that the QE II could be an emotional race for the Evening Jewel camp, because it will be the first for the filly since Marilyn Braly’s husband, Tom, died of cancer on Sept. 3. Tom Braly was a “good friend and adviser,” said Cassidy, who won the 2004 QE II with Ticker Tape.

Keeneland officials were expecting the connections of nine 3-year-old fillies to accept invitations to the 27th QE II, with Check the Label, winner of four straight graded turf races, vying for favoritism with Evening Jewel. The other invitees are Dade Babe, Fugitive Angel, Harmonious, La Cloche, Perfect Shirl, Snow Top Mountain, and Zagora. Entries for the 1 1/8-mile turf race were to be drawn Wednesday.

Romans gears up for Churchill

Dale Romans tends to be fairly quiet at Keeneland before going great guns at his home track, Churchill Downs. That is very much the case this year, especially with Romans having two horses to run in the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill next month.

Romans said First Dude, pointing to the BC Classic, likely will work again Saturday, while Paddy O’Prado, runner-up in the Oct. 2 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park and a top contender for the BC Turf, also might work that morning, although “he’s really run his eyeballs out all year, so I might even wait another week before having him work.”

Romans won his first Breeders’ Cup event last year with Tapitsfly, who is still unraced since taking the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita. The filly had ankle surgery earlier this year, then “just didn’t come back quite right for me,” said Romans, prompting another layoff. Tapitsfly recently resumed serious training at Churchill and should be ready to run early next year at Gulfstream Park, he said.

Romans said Sassy Image and Quiet Temper, both multiple graded stakes winners, also have returned to training after layoffs.

◗ All those graded stakes lent a classy touch to the opening three-day weekend of the Keeneland fall meet – while favorites lent a chalky touch. Indeed, from the 30 races (not counting the Arabian race run Saturday) that opened the meet, favorites won more than half of them: five Friday, four Saturday, and seven Sunday, for a total of 16.

The longest-priced winner on opening weekend was Acoma, who took the Juddmonte Spinster at 23-1.

◗ An overflow field of filly and mare turf sprinters has been entered for the Friday feature, the $100,000 Franklin County Stakes, with West Ocean and Canadian Ballet likely to be favored. Also entered is Old Time Religion, who will be running right back on five days’ rest after finishing second at 69-1 in the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes here Saturday.

The 14th Franklin County goes at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf race as the ninth of 10 Friday races. Thirteen were entered, but only 12 can start.

◗ Friday is College Scholarship Day, which Keeneland co-hosts once a meet in conjunction with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association. Ten scholarships worth $1,000 each will be raffled off throughout the day. In April, a record 6,137 students were admitted free when signing up for the promotion.