10/09/2013 11:03AM

Keeneland: Madame Giry's bid for Franklin County repeat won't be easy task

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Madame Giry (left), winning the Jameela Stakes at Laurel, faces a talented group of female turf sprinters in Friday's Franklin County.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The niche division of filly and mare turf sprinters is mostly a wasteland when it comes to graded events, which may or may not be right and just. The topic arises Friday with the 17th running of the $100,000 Franklin County Stakes at Keeneland, where some genuine talent will assemble among an overflow field in the 5 1/2-furlong race.

“There just aren’t many graded races anywhere for these fillies, which is kind of a shame,” said Cam Gambolati, who will send out the defending champion, Madame Giry, in the Franklin County, the ninth of 10 Friday races. “This is one that really does deserve to be graded.”

Madame Giry will be reunited with jockey Eddie Castro when breaking from post 8 in the Franklin County, which has been carded with 14 fillies and mares, although only as many as 12 can start.

Madame Giry, a Maryland-bred owned by Nutmeg Stable, capped a five-race win streak, all with Castro aboard, when she circled to victory in the Franklin County last fall. She then lost four in a row but now returns to Keeneland after capturing back-to-back ungraded stakes at Saratoga and Laurel.

“The filly’s doing really well, but I have to say this is a lot deeper field than last year,” said Gambolati, whose claim to racing fame always will be his 1985 Kentucky Derby win with Spend a Buck.

“There’s just more quality in there,” he added, specifically mentioning Magical Moon, Sweet Cassiopeia, and Silverette. “We’ll sit back and make our one run and hope for the best again.”

Magical Moon (post 1, Brian Hernandez Jr.) long has been highly regarded by trainer Al Stall Jr. and has made steady progress as her 3-year-old season has unfolded. Sweet Cassiopeia (post 2, Joe Rocco Jr.), an earner of more than $500,000, was favored when capturing the 2013 Giant’s Causeway, the Keeneland spring counterpart to this race. And Silverette (post 7, Robby Albarado) is a gray 4-year-old who was good enough to win the $200,000 Turf Amazon at Parx Racing as the 3-2 favorite in her last start.

“She’s had three really nice breezes since the Philly race, so we’re happy with her,” said Dale Romans, who trains Silverette for Paul Pompa Jr.

Among the rest, the speedy Lignite (post 5, John Velazquez) figures prominently from the start as the only 3-year-old in the field besides Magical Moon, while it seems worth noting that Dene Court (post 10, Gary Boulanger) was supplemented to the race for $5,000 by Melnyk Racing after an encouraging comeback last month at Woodbine.

Keeneland has declared Friday as “See Blue Day,” with fans encouraged to wear the colors of University of Kentucky in anticipation of the school hosting the nation’s No. 1 college football team, Alabama, on Saturday night.

First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the feature set for 5:21.