10/07/2005 12:00AM

Galaxy able to increase star power


Even Keeneland must pick its battles. After years of having one of its top grass races, the WinStar Galaxy, struggle to lure the elite Breeders' Cup-bound turf mares, the track opted out of direct competition with the Flower Bowl and Yellow Ribbon Stakes.

This summer, Keeneland shortened the distance of the Galaxy from 1 3/16 miles to a mile, positioning the race more as a prep for the Grade 1 Matriarch at a mile, as opposed to the lengthier Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. The track then cut the purse from $500,000 to $400,000, reasoning that those funds could be better utilized by boosting other stakes races.

The change in distance appears to have worked. After years of the race "falling through the cracks," Keeneland racing secretary Ben Huffman said, the Grade 2 WinStar Galaxy field assembled for Sunday is a top-level group, led by last year's Matriarch winner, Intercontinental.

Although Intercontinental is one of the premier turf mares in the country, the race is no gimme. Ticker Tape, last year's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II winner at Keeneland, is in the nine-horse field, as is Wend, who won the Grade 2 New York Handicap this summer before finishing sixth in the Beverly D. in her last start Aug. 13.

Jerry Bailey, the regular rider for both Intercontinental and Wend, has accepted the mount aboard the Bobby Frankel-trained Intercontinental.

, has yet to lose at Keeneland, winning back-to-back runnings of the Jenny Wiley in 2004-2005. In four starts since taking the Wiley this year, she has won two races, including her most recent start in the Grade 2 Palomar Handicap at Del Mar, in which she defeated third-place Ticker Tape by 1 1/2 lengths.

, 5 for 6 since being placed on turf, has the credentials to pose a danger, particularly if the headstrong Intercontinental fights her rider - as she has been prone to do.

A lightly raced 4-year-old filly by Pulpit, Wend is perfect in five starts on firm turf - with her only defeat on grass taking place over a yielding course in the Beverly D. The forecast for Sunday calls for mild, cloudy conditions, with only a small chance of rain.

John Velazquez rides Wend for trainer Bill Mott.

Ticker Tape, returning to the site of her last victory, heads the opposition to the two favorites, along with fellow graded stakes winners Shaconage, Katdogawn, River Belle, and La Reina.