10/16/2006 11:00PM

Field dominated by shippers


Bright Gold, the defending champion, and Society Hostess, a two-time stakes winner at Belmont this year, are among the talented shippers packed into an overflow field of filly-mare turf-sprint specialists in the Thursday feature at Keeneland, the $100,000 Franklin County Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.

The Franklin County evidently had been circled on the calendars of many horsemen throughout the country. Besides Bright Gold and Society Hostess, the Franklin County also attracted Gilded Gold from New Jersey; Jewels N Gems and Flying Circle from south Florida; Our Love and Mykindasaint from Louisiana; and Sandra’s Rose from California.

That impressive roster of invaders will meet up with the likes of local stalwarts Pretty Jane, More than Pretty, and Mocha Queen, all of whom have won turf sprint stakes on this circuit in 2006.

Bright Gold, a 6-year-old mare based in Maryland with Mary Eppler, would be a decided choice in this lineup if not for her most recent race Aug. 7, when she finished ninth of 11 in the Grade 3 Royal North at Woodbine. Duly regrouped with a series of smart works at Pimlico, Bright Gold will try to duplicate the rally that carried her to a two-length score as the favorite in the Franklin County last fall.

Society Hostess looks like a very stern challenger. In four races since returning to Kentucky, where she was bred, she has won three times, including two minor Belmont stakes in June and September. Her trainer, Christophe Clement, got away to a great start at this meet by winning with each of his first three starters. Garrett Gomez will come in from New York to ride Society Hostess.

Among the balance of the field, Gilded Gold was flawless when she captured the Giant’s Causeway here in the spring for trainer Alan Goldberg; Jewels N Gems will look to revert to the form that took her to three straight turf-sprint wins earlier this year; and Flying Circle, who has several huge efforts to her credit, will try to win off a 9 1/2-month layoff.

Mykindasaint and Sandra’s Rose would have to make it off the also-eligibles list to contend, since only as many as 10 can start.

The Franklin County, the anchor of yet another Keeneland program dominated by big fields, dates to 1997, when it was known as the A.P. Indy Stakes. First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.