10/01/2013 2:46PM

Keeneland: Large fields for opening-day card

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Michael Burns
Canadian shipper My Conqueustadory may be favored in the 13-runner Alcibiades.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Big fields have been entered for the two opening-day features – as well as for the other eight supporting races at Keeneland, where the 17-day fall meet will be off and running Friday with a full head of steam.

The Grade 1, $400,000 Darley Alcibiades drew 13 2-year-old fillies for its 62nd running, while an oversubscribed field of 15 sprinters was entered in the Grade 3, $200,000 Phoenix. Like all but two of the other seven graded stakes on the opening three-day FallStars Weekend, they are Win and You’re In preps toward the Nov. 1-2 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

Not counting one also-eligible and one coupled entry, a whopping total of 115 betting interests are on the 10-race opener.

“We’re happy to have racing back here at Keeneland, and evidently so are the horsemen,” said Rogers Beasley, Keeneland director of racing. “Hopefully, we can sustain these big fields throughout the meet for our fans.”

The Alcibiades, which goes at 1 1/16 miles on the main Polytrack surface, could have the Canadian shipper My Conquestadory as a solid favorite, even though she has raced only once. It was a huge effort, however, as she dusted male rivals in the Grade 2 Summer Stakes on the Woodbine turf.

“She’d trained so well that I felt good about trying her in what you’d normally think is a very demanding spot for a first-time starter,” said Mark Casse, who trains her for Conquest Stables LLC. “She’s trained her whole life over the synthetic, so I don’t see any problem in her moving over from the turf to the Poly for this.”

The Alcibiades goes as the ninth of 10 races on a Friday card that starts at 1:05 p.m. Eastern. The Phoenix, a six-furlong Polytrack fixture that directly precedes the Alcibiades as the eighth race, will have Gentlemen’s Bet as the favorite. Fifteen are entered, although only as many as 14 can start.

“We took a pass on the Vosburgh [last weekend at Belmont Park] thinking this might be a little better spot for us,” said Ron Moquett, trainer of Gentlemen’s Bet. “Hopefully, we made the right call. The horse is training great, and I can’t wait for opening day.”

Saturday should be the best day of the meet. Five graded stakes will anchor the richest program of the meet, led by the $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile, a Grade 1 race in which the reigning Horse of the Year, Wise Dan, will make his final start before returning to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

The other Saturday stakes are the Grade  1 First Lady, the Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity, the Grade 2 Thorougbred Club of America Stakes, and the Grade 3 Woodford. The First Lady and Woodford are the only FallStars races not included in the Win and You’re In program.

The Sunday features are the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster and the Grade 3 Bourbon.

Keeneland racing secretary Ben Huffman said he expects purses to average about $617,000 per day.

Among the riders who will be here throughout the meet, which runs through Oct. 26, are the top jockeys from the recently ended Churchill Downs and Arlington Park meets, while a number of New York- and California-based jockeys – including Mike Smith, John Velazquez, Garrett Gomez, Julien Leparoux, Edgar Prado, and Rajiv Maragh – will be here for some of the FallStars cards and perhaps for other stakes later in the meet.

The weather forecast for Friday and Saturday calls for mostly sunny skies and high temperatures in the low 80s.

TVG will provide extensive onsite coverage throughout the meet.