04/11/2013 1:58PM

Keeneland: Madison looks like right race to shop for a price


Had things gone to plan, champion female sprinter Groupie Doll would be running at a short price Saturday in the Grade 1, $300,000 Madison at Keeneland. But Groupie Doll was sidelined this winter and spring after not training to trainer Buff Bradley’s satisfaction, and the race is now void of star power.

Racing fans might be disappointed, but the connections of the horses competing in the race are likely not. Saturday’s race, while not on par for a typical Grade 1 race, is a competitive affair, providing valuable opportunities for the horses involved, and for bettors in what is now a wide-open wagering contest.

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Just two of the 10 fillies and mares entered in the seven-furlong Madison are graded stakes winners – Holiday for Kitten and Shumoos – and neither stands out.

Holiday for Kitten is unraced this year and her strength is racing six furlongs or less. Shumoos won her graded stakes race way back in 2011 as a 2-year-old in Britain.

That leaves Fantasy of Flight, second most recently in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream Park, as the favorite, a tepid one at 7-2 odds on the morning line.

Trainer Michelle Nevin said the Madison was a fitting choice over stakes options at Gulfstream this spring for Fantasy of Flight.

“Well, she has shown she likes seven-eighths,” Nevin said. “She’s run big on the Polytrack, is doing well, and it seemed like a good time to give her a shot.”

Fantasy of Flight comes into the Madison fresh, having not raced since Feb. 10, spacing Nevin feels brings out the best in her mare.

Fantasy of Flight is no stranger to Keeneland, having won a first-level allowance there last April. That race was her only start on a synthetic track in 11 starts. Javier Castellano rides.

Byrama, who has chased many of the elite female turf sprinters and milers on the West Coast over the past year, including Mizdirection, also looms a contender despite also having raced just once on a synthetic surface.

She ran second last year in Sept. 5 CERF Stakes at Del Mar, which also has a Polytrack surface, running 3 1/4 lengths behind Reneesgotzip.

Most recently, Byrama was third in the Grade 2 Buena Vista going a mile on turf at Santa Anita on Feb. 18. Joel Rosario has the mount.

Queen’s Award, whose form is disguised by a pair of off-the-board finishes in five-furlong turf races this winter in Florida, is a dangerous longshot. Both races were shorter than Queen’s Award prefers, and on a surface not as much to her liking as Polytrack.

Last fall, Queen’s Award turned in pair of powerful performances sprinting on the Polytrack at Keeneland, easily winning a second-level allowance and then running a fast closing second to stakes winner Sweet Cassiopeia. Queen’s Award, like Fantasy of Flight, loves to fire fresh, posting her career-best 96 Beyer Speed Figure in winning last fall after 2 1/2 months away from the races.

“The more time we give her, the better she runs,” trainer Eduardo Caramori said.