10/10/2012 1:54PM

Keeneland: Madame Giry sticks to what she does best in Franklin County

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Alyssa Spakowski/EQUI-PHOTO
Inspired comes into Friday's Franklin County Stakes off a win in the Turf Amazon Handicap at Parx last month.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Cam Gambolati has never won a race at Keeneland, let alone a stakes race. Oh, he has had a winner in Kentucky, mind you, but his experience at Keeneland has been limited.

“I got beat a head in a little turf stakes quite a few years back,” Gambolati recalled. “I’ve only run a handful of horses there.”

The drought might well end Friday for a 61-year-old trainer who will always be remembered for winning the 1985 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs with a speed freak named Spend a Buck. Gambolati has sent a rapidly improving 3-year-old filly named Madame Giry from New Jersey to Keeneland for the $100,000 Franklin County Stakes, the feature of a 10-race Friday card.

Madame Giry, with Eddie Castro to ride, will start from post 11 as part of an oversubscribed field of fillies and mares in the Franklin, which goes at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. Madame Giry has won four straight races, all turf sprints, the most recent being a small stakes at Belmont Park.

In all, 14 are on the program for the Franklin County, but only as many as 12 can start. The Franklin County goes as the ninth on a Friday card that also includes two allowances (races 7 and 8). First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

Gambolati said he seriously considered switching Madame Giry to the Polytrack for the Grade 2 Raven Run here Oct. 20.

“It would’ve been a shot at a graded stakes, and we could’ve stayed in against 3-year-old fillies,” he said. “But she’s won four in a row in turf sprints, so I thought, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’m glad about the outside post because she’s got really good tactical speed and Eddie can put her where he wants. I know it’s a very tough race, but this is a good filly.”

Madame Giry will face her most difficult assignment to date when taking on the likes of Inspired, a turf-sprint specialist who has earned nearly $440,000 and comes off a front-running victory in a key divisional race, the $200,000 Turf Amazon at Parx Racing. Roberto Alvarado Jr. retains the mount on Inspired, who got post 2 as the likely front-runner.

Other contenders include Bounding Bi (post 4) and Sensible Lady (post 8), the respective two-three finishers in the Turf Amazon; Speedacious (post 9) and Maple Forest (post 10), neither of them proven on grass but both having shown plenty of speed and class in prior tries; and Well Deserved (post 5), who six months ago nearly won the spring counterpart to this race, the Giant’s Causeway.

The Franklin County was first run in 1997. The 2011 winner was Wild About Marie, ridden by Robby Albarado and trained by Jeff Thornbury.