10/13/2011 2:47PM

Keeneland: Motion in the mix for meet training title

Coady Photography/Keeneland
Aruna, trained by Graham Motion, wins the the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Graham Motion has already had a dream year, having won the Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom. Motion isn’t the type to make “leading trainer” at any given meet as a goal, but after the first 4 of 17 days here, he was atop the standings with 4 wins from 12 starts.

“You look up after the first weekend and you’re right there, and you think, ‘Hey, it’s a short meet, we’ve got some numbers, it’s in the realm of possibility,’ ” said John Panagot, the 26-year-old whiz kid who helps coordinate innumerable racing-related details for Motion’s far-flung stable in his position as stable agent.

At this early juncture, Ken McPeek would have to be considered the favorite to win his fourth Keeneland title in the last five meets, partly because he figures to have substantially more starts than anyone else. McPeek was 3 for 23 going into Thursday action.

Panagot said Motion probably will have about 30 starts by the time the meet closes Oct. 29. The stable’s first four wins here included Hoofit in the Grade 3 Phoenix and Aruna in the Grade 1 Spinster.

Tall task for Summer Soiree

Motion will be going for his third graded win of the meet Saturday when he sends out Summer Soiree, the 2-1 second choice on the morning line, in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. Summer Soiree, with Ramon Dominguez replacing Gabriel Saez, will start from the outside post in the field of eight.

“Honestly, I’m not really looking forward to running against Winter Memories,” said Barry Irwin, who heads the Team Valor International syndicate that owns Summer Soiree and Animal Kingdom, among other top horses.

Winter Memories, a flashy gray trained by Jimmy Toner, “was just so good in that last race,” the Garden City, Irwin said. “She absolutely won for fun. Our filly is brilliant in her own right, with a ton of speed, very explosive, although I’m thinking she’s probably best at a mile. Sometimes 3-year-olds can get the mile and an eighth under the right circumstances, but I’m sure I’ll be watching for that gray filly.”

◗ What a fortunate coincidence for Keeneland that the precise 75-year anniversary of the track’s founding on Oct. 15, 1936, happened to fall on a Saturday. It permits the track to maximize its exposure of an outstanding race card to weekend viewers while also co-hosting a special concert Saturday night in downtown Lexington with the world-famous Boston Pops orchestra. Acknowledgements of the anniversary will be in evidence throughout the track Saturday.

◗ Turallure, with Julien Leparoux up, had his second workout since he captured the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile when breezing five furlongs in 1:01.40 over a firm turf course here Thursday morning. Turallure, a 4-year-old colt trained by Charlie Lopresti, will be facing the likes of Goldikova and Gio Ponti when making his next start in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

◗ The principals of the popular “Night School” handicapping seminars, Joe Kristufek and Jeremy Plonk, will be here Saturday for a meet-and-greet session on the apron before the races at 11:30 a.m. “Night School” is held every Monday on horseplayernow.com.

◗ After Saturday, the Keeneland stakes schedule skips Sunday and Wednesday before resuming Thursday with the Grade 3, $100,000 Sycamore for older turf marathoners. The feature of a nine-race Sunday card is a $56,000, third-level allowance for filly and mare sprinters.