10/04/2012 3:11PM

Keeneland: Hungry Island figures to sit the trip in First Lady


Last week, female turf stayers had their moment in the spotlight, competing in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont and Grade 1 Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita, both at 1 1/4 miles. This Saturday, the female turf milers get their due, this time at Keeneland with the running of the Grade 1, $350,000 First Lady.

Tapitsfly and Daisy Devine, Grade 1 winners in 2012, are among the six fillies and mares in the lineup for the one-mile grass test, but neither is expected to go favored. Instead, Hungry Island has been installed as the 2-1 morning-line choice, having just recently finished second in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga behind Zagora, a leading contender for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Beyond the strength of Hungry Island’s runner-up performance in the Ballston Spa, the presence of free-wheeling front-runner Summer Soiree should contribute to Hungry Island being a clear-cut favorite, with the public anticipating Hungry Island will get a quick pace to aid her customary rally.

If that occurs, the race will be run quite differently than when Keeneland ran the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in the spring. That day, Daisy Devine and jockey James Graham stole the race on the lead, getting away with a six-furlong split in 1:15.35 in the 1 1/16-mile race, before spurting away to compete the distance in 1:43.21, winning by a length and leaving Zagora and Aruna, another top-class mare, to bring up the rear.

This time, Daisy Devine appears much more likely to fall into a tracking position from which she also has been highly effective.

Similarly, Tapitsfly, who won the Just a Game on the lead this June at Belmont, also figures to be rated.

“We’ll probably sit second or third and try to run ’em down,” said her trainer, Dale Romans.

Seemingly working against Daisy Devine is inactivity. She hasn’t run since fading to fifth behind Hungry Island and Tapitsfly in the May 5 Distaff Turf Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs.

“She’s come back and is working well,” trainer Andrew McKeever said. “Hopefully, I’ve got her fit. She had a few little small problems; has always had little issues is all. Now, she’s peaking at the right time.”

Perhaps an affinity for the Keeneland turf course, over which she also won the Valley View last fall, will offset the absence of a prep.

More so than any of the other entrants, Summer Soiree has the most right to improve off her last run. Last year’s Del Mar Oaks winner didn’t start her 2012 campaign until Aug. 25, when she ran third in the Ballston Spa after setting the pace, and now makes her second start of her current form cycle.

The Ballston Spa likely advanced her fitness, and now she’s reunited with jockey Gabe Saez, aboard for all five of her career victories.

Seemingly overmatched longshots Snow Fall and Brilliant Future complete the short First Lady field.