Updated on 09/15/2011 1:43PM

Keemoon towers over turf rivals


DEL MAR, Calif. - The marathon grass division for fillies and mares may not be a glamorous collection in California, but there is ample opportunity for a stayer such as Keemoon to bang out a lucrative career.

"There must be enough races, because she's made quite a lot of money," trainer Neil Drysdale noted. Keemoon attempts to increase her $444,780 bankroll Friday at Del Mar, where she seeks a repeat win in the $75,000 Honey Fox Handicap at 1 3/8 miles. Her odds will be short against seven rivals, including South American shipper Bucarest, French import Nuit de Siam, and improving Nepenthe.

Keemoon, 7 for 23, sat out Hollywood Park's spring meet. "I thought the ground would be a bit too firm for her at Hollywood, and The Seven Seas has a quite a turn of foot," Drysdale said. The absence of Keemoon allowed The Seven Seas, trained by Bobby Frankel, to dominate the division, but Keemoon won't have to face The Seven Seas anytime soon. Frankel is pointing her for the Beverly D. on Aug. 18 at Arlington.

That leaves Keemoon, owned by Henry Pabst, as the overwhelming Honey Fox favorite. The 5-year-old Keemoon has won four turf stakes in the U.S., and though she has been off nearly three months, Drysdale expects her to come back firing as the 124-pound highweight under jockey Gary Stevens. Drysdale said Keemoon "has been in training all the time. She's worked a couple times down here and went very well both times."

The stranger in the Honey Fox is Bucarest, who won four of six in South America and has been in training with Richard Mandella for more than four months. From a class perspective, Bucarest's Group 3 win suggests she is in tough. However, assistant trainer Gary Mandella said: "She trains better than just a Grade 3 winner."

Bucarest was not entered on a whim. "We wouldn't just shove her in an 11-furlong race if she wasn't ready," Mandella said. "She's worked like she's dead fit. Alex [Solis] should get her settled and make one run with her. It'll be a nice starting point." Mandella's most accomplished new shooter from South America - champion miler Paga - is scheduled to make her U.S. debut next week in the Osunitas Handicap.

The other top contender in the Honey Fox is Nuit de Siam, making her second start in the U.S. after a promising runner-up finish vs. allowance foes June 27. Trained by Darrell Vienna, she is expected to improve with the longer distance on Friday. Nepenthe also has improved at longer distances.

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