10/18/2012 1:38PM

Keeneland: Gypsy Robin among many to like in Raven Run

Shigeki Kikkawa
Killer Graces will be trying to rebound off a string of disappointing efforts.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Some awfully nice horses have won the Raven Run Stakes in its brief history, most notably Sightseek (2002) and Informed Decision (2008). It may be too early to say whether one of the 14 3-year-old fillies in the Raven Run field Saturday can someday reach similar heights, but Keeneland fans ought to have plenty of fun trying to figure that out.

A full gate of promise will empty onto the backstretch chute when the Grade 2, $250,000 Raven Run gets under way at about 5:21 p.m. Eastern, and it may take seven furlongs and a minute-twenty-something before the results start to clarify. Gypsy Robin was a three-length winner of the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes here in the spring at basically the same distance and within this same age/gender category, and although she may be a 3-1 morning-line choice in the 14th Raven Run, there are five more listed in single-digit odds on the program, not to mention a handful more with viable upset chances.

Wesley Ward, the leading trainer here in the spring, believes he has Gypsy Robin primed for another graded win over the Keeneland Polytrack, especially since he has had eight weeks to get her sharp. Gypsy Robin last raced on the Aug. 25 Travers Stakes undercard at Saratoga, finishing second to Contested in the Grade 1 Test. She was assigned post 11 with John Velazquez to ride.

“I’ve worked her five times over this track, and she’s coming into it the right way,” said Ward. “We’re going to lead her over there with some confidence. The outside post is nice, since Johnny can take a look at what’s happening inside and do what he needs to do.”

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Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, a longtime friendly rival of Ward’s from their days in northern California, could have the main threats to Gypsy Robin in the uncoupled duo of Killer Graces and Via Villaggio.

Killer Graces, the lone Grade 1 winner in the field, will be trying to rebound off a string of disappointing efforts. She has lost seven straight since taking the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet in December.

“She’s got a good record on synthetics,” said Hollendorfer, referring to 3 wins and 2 seconds from 9 starts for Killer Graces on synthetic surfaces. “There wasn’t much out here for her, it’s a graded race, and there was a plane available, so I thought I’d send both fillies that way.”

Via Villaggio will be competing in a graded stakes for the seventh straight time and has been very consistent, if not spectacular. Her most notable triumph came in the Grade 3 Railbird at Hollywood in May at this seven-furlong distance.

Shaun Bridgmohan has the mount on Killer Graces from post 6, while Martin Pedroza, in from California, will ride Via Villaggio from post 10.

Other top contenders include Sweet Cat, going turf-to-Poly while stretching out for Julien Leparoux and trainer Todd Pletcher; La Tia, a speedy Chicago shipper who won the Grade 3 Arlington Oaks in July; Anna Sophia, a two-back winner of a seven-furlong turf allowance at Belmont Park for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott; and Sacristy, winner of the Grade 3 Old Hat at Gulfstream Park and a sharp recent comeback winner over the Arlington Poly for Wayne Catalano.

Of that group, Anna Sophia may offer the best value with Victor Lebron riding. A Siena Farms homebred, she has shown glimpses of brilliance and would seem to benefit if a too-fast pace develops among Assateague, La Tia, Gypsy Robin, and perhaps a couple more.

The rest of the field is Lotta Lovin, Yankee Union, Drama Drama, Flashy Lassie, Monono, and Mercy Lou.

The Raven Run, sponsored since 2005 by the Lexus Store of Lexington, is named for a 374-acre nature sanctuary just outside of the city. Hall of Fame horsemen to win the race include Velazquez, Pat Day, Jerry Bailey, Mike Smith, Shug McGaughey, Bobby Frankel, and Jonathan Sheppard. The 2011 running was won by California invader Great Hot, with Chantal Sutherland riding for trainer A.C. Avila.

A huge crowd filled with Kentucky and Georgia football fans is expected early in the afternoon before they start filtering out as kickoff for their 7 p.m. game at nearby Commonwealth Stadium approaches. First post is 1:05.