10/06/2009 11:00PM

Keeneland fall meet figures key to Cup

Barbara D. Livingston
Beautician will try to give trainer Ken McPeek his fourth victory in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades on Friday at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - There's no telling if Polytrack to Pro-Ride is an apples-to-apples comparison of synthetic racing surfaces, but it's close enough. The fruits of opening weekend of the Keeneland fall meet will be shipped to Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup four weekends later, a goal that an impressive number of horsemen are looking to reach after descending on Keeneland in recent days.

FallStars Weekend, as Keeneland calls it, includes nine graded stakes in which a cavalry of hopefuls will seek to stamp their tickets to the Nov. 6-7 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, where Pro-Ride is the main racing surface. With five of the FallStars stakes being run over Polytrack, there is a logical correlation from here to Santa Anita, although money, prestige, and ambience also are obvious factors in luring major players, both equine and human, to this pastoral tract of horse heaven.

"The start of the fall meet is always extremely exciting," Keeneland racing secretary Ben Huffman said. "Everybody around here is ready again for some big-time racing, and the first weekend is a fantastic preview of the Breeders' Cup."

All but one of the FallStars stakes - the Woodford on Saturday - carry Win and You're In provisions toward BC events. Two will be run Friday, five on Saturday, and two on Sunday.

The Friday stakes - the Grade 3 Phoenix (race 8) and Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades (race 9) - anchor a 10-race card that drew a robust total of 114 horses, even with no also-eligibles or stable couplings. True to form, the connections of the two Phoenix favorites, Fatal Bullet and Capt. Candyman Can, are looking to use the racing as a springboard to the BC Sprint.

Likewise, the $500,000 Alcibiades represents a natural progression to the BC Juvenile Fillies. She Be Wild, with Garrett Gomez in to ride, may be a slight favorite in a field of 12 2-year-old fillies, but Beautician brings an unmistakable aura of class to the proceedings, having run second to Hot Dixie Chick in both the Schuylerville and Spinaway in her two appearances at the Saratoga meet.

"She's doing absolutely great," said Ken McPeek, trainer of Beautician, a gray Dehere filly who tuned up for the 1 1/16-mile Alcibiades with a sharp breeze last weekend at her Churchill Downs base.

McPeek has recorded 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds in Alcibiades history, so it may be revealing that he said he is "the most confident I've ever been coming into this race."

"I think she is better than all three of them that won this race," he said.

She Be Wild is unbeaten but clearly has not faced the caliber of Hot Dixie Chick in sweeping through three races at Arlington Park. Wayne Catalano, who three years ago trained the champion 2-year-old filly in Dreaming of Anna, believes She Be Wild has the demeanor and style to become a top performer.

"She can do whatever you need," Catalano said. "There might be a couple in there with some speed, and she'll sit off them if that's what Garrett needs her to do. She's headed the right way, I know that - doing good."

Maidens have won two (Bel Air Beauty, 2006, and Country Star, 2007) of the three runnings of the Alcibiades since it was first run on Polytrack in 2006. One of the longer-priced fillies in this 58th running, Quick Breeze, won a maiden race at Arlington Park in her second and most recent start, prompting her trainer, David Carroll, to quip: "Maybe we're overqualified."

Other Alcibiades possibilities include Tidal Pool, an allowance winner at Saratoga; Zilva, a two-turn maiden winner on the Saratoga turf; Amen Hallelujah, making her stakes debut for the IEAH Stables; Kid Kate, winner of two off-the-turf races in as many tries, including a minor Monmouth Park stakes in August; and Sassy Image, runner-up in the Grade 2 Adirondack at Saratoga.

The weather forecast for opening day calls for an 80 percent chance of thundershowers, with high temperatures in the low 70s. Clearer conditions are likely for Saturday and Sunday.

Opening day starts a little later than other programs at this 17-day meet. The first race will go at 2:15 p.m. Eastern, whereas other days will start at 1:05. The 10th and last race Friday is scheduled for 6:45. A 17-piece orchestra - scheduled to set up on the racetrack, barring rain - will play after the races.

The fall meet runs through Oct. 31. As usual, extensive onsite coverage will be provided by television crews from TVG throughout the meet.