10/19/2011 3:15PM

Keeneland: Groupie Doll gets rematch with Strike the Moon in Raven Run


LEXINGTON, Ky. – Buff Bradley usually has his best horses stabled 80 miles away at Churchill Downs, but when he realized he was going to run Groupie Doll in the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes over the Polytrack surface at Keeneland, he went out of his way to have the filly train here.

“We did it so she’ll be familiar with the surface and won’t have to ship,” said Bradley, who has been all too happy to have Groupie Doll replace the retired Brass Hat as his stable star. “She’s going into the race very well.”

Groupie Doll defeated older fillies and mares in the Grade 3 Gardenia at Ellis Park in August before finishing a sharp second to Strike the Moon last month in the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks. With Greta Kuntzweiler back to ride, the filly was assigned post 2 as a prime contender in a terrific field of 13 3-year-old fillies set to race seven furlongs Saturday in the 13th running of the $250,000 Raven Run.

Strike the Moon (post 11, Julian Pimentel) shipped here last week from her Maryland base also to run in the Raven Run. Likewise, David Fawkes has shipped in Hot Summer (post 3, Cornelio Velasquez), who was fourth in the Charles Town Oaks after winning the Grade 3 Victory Ride on the Aug. 27 Travers undercard at Saratoga.

The Raven Run is the ninth of 10 Saturday races. After Saturday, just two stakes remain at the meet: the $125,000 Dowager on Sunday and the $150,000 Fayette on closing day, Oct. 29.

Diva Ash returns in Valley View

Diva Ash showed off before a huge Kentucky Oaks crowd in dominating the Edgewood Stakes in early May, but she has scarcely been seen since then. The bay Tapit filly hit what trainer Dale Romans called “just a little bump in the road” after finishing sixth in her only subsequent start, the Regret at Churchill in June, and it has taken a few months to get her back ready to run. She will return to action Friday at Keeneland in the featured Valley View Stakes.

“I like the way she’s been training,” Romans said. “She should be sharp off the layoff, and there’s some speed in there against her, but it seems like she’s matured some and should be able to relax early if that’s what we need her to do.”

Diva Ash, owned by Zayat Stables, is one of a handful of fringe players in a wide-open renewal of the Valley View. Mark Guidry, who in August returned from a retirement of nearly four years from the saddle, has the mount.

Twinspired targets a rebound

Besides the Valley View, a 10-race Friday card also includes three allowances (races 3, 6, 8), including a return to the Keeneland Polytrack by Twinspired. It was six months ago last Sunday that Twinspired missed by an inch or two in the richest race of the year here, the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes, with Brilliant Speed nailing him on the wire.

Twinspired, with Calvin Borel riding for the first time, drew the rail in a full field of 3-year-olds and up in race 8, a $54,000, second-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles. Since his Blue Grass near-miss at 24-1, the gray colt has raced just twice, with disappointing results: he was 17th in the Kentucky Derby and seventh in June in a Polytrack race at Woodbine.

In the preceding allowances, Birdie Beats Par should be a solid favorite in race 3 when competing under a wide-open condition among seven 3-year-old turf sprinters exiting races at seven different tracks, while a large and well-matched field of fillies and mares will go postward in race 6, a $52,000, first-level turf route.

◗ Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, a Columbia, Ky., native who attracted national renown last month when presented by President Obama with the highly prestigious Medal of Honor, will be a special guest here Sunday on Military Family Day. Meyer, 23, will be among the thousands of military men and women who will attend the races in uniform.

◗ The longest-priced winner of the meet stormed home in the first race Wednesday when Waltzinginredjeans, ridden by Matthew Straight, returned $169.80 and keyed a dime super paying $9,368. There were four winning dime tickets sold from a pool of $46,525.

◗ Churchill has announced that opening day of the fall meet, Oct. 30, will be part of another “Pigskins and Ponies” ticket deal for fans combining a football game involving the University of Louisville at nearby Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on the previous day. More information is available at churchilldowns.com.

◗ Turf workouts for Breeders’ Cup hopefuls and other approved horses will begin Monday at Churchill.