04/10/2012 11:24AM

Keeneland: Musical Romance meets tough, deep field in Vinery Madison Stakes

Bob Coglianese
Musical Romance will face a deep field in Thursday's Vinery Madison Stakes at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The standard line is that Musical Romance, an Eclipse Award winner, heads the field for the Grade 1 Vinery Madison on Thursday at Keeneland.

Oh, if it were only that simple.

Delve into the past performances of the 10 fillies and mares in the $300,000 Madison, and it quickly becomes apparent that the seven-furlong Polytrack race is far more than just Musical Romance and a supporting cast. The respective 1-2-3 finishers from the Grade 1 Santa Monica on the West Coast – Home Sweet Aspen, Sugarinthemorning, and She’s Cheeky – are part of the lineup, while three real up-and-comers from New York (by way of Florida) also are here: Whipsaw City, La Reine Lionne, and Future Generation.

Throw in Ariana D, 2 for 2 over the Keeneland Polytrack; Groupie Doll, a just-miss second in the Grade  2 Raven Run here last fall; and the only true longshot in the field, Whisked Away, and you have an outstanding group of challengers to the champion.

Musical Romance, with Juan Leyva to ride again, was assigned post 2.

“It’s tough, but I think Grade 1s are supposed to be,” said Bill Kaplan, the Florida-based trainer who also co-owns Musical Romance. “The mare is coming into the racing outstandingly, as usual, and I don’t think she’ll be doing anything different. She’ll be pressing the pace, and hopefully she’ll get a nice clean trip, which is what I worry about more than anything.”

Musical Romance, a 5-year-old Florida-bred, will be making the 36th start of a career in which her versatility and consistency came to a peak last fall at Churchill Downs, when she won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint to earn the divisional Eclipse. An earner of more than $1.3 million, the dark bay mare was barely beaten when second here last fall in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes over the Keeneland Polytrack. She then won the Filly and Mare Sprint at 20-1 and has had two subsequent races, both at Gulfstream Park, running fourth in the Sunshine Millions and then winning the Grade 2 Inside Information.

“She’s already run very well there at Keeneland,” Kaplan said of Musical Romance, who arrived here April 3. “That’s encouraging. We got her out of the heat in Florida to Kentucky, where the mornings are very cool. She’s doing extremely well.”

The myriad obstacles to a triumphant return include the uncoupled Chad Brown duo of Whipsaw City (post 3, Julien Leparoux) and La Reine Leonne (post 5, John Velazquez). Both enter off terrific efforts in longer turf races at Gulfstream, and it would be no surprise if either or both thrived on the slight turnback in distance and the favorable switch from grass to synthetic.

This will be the 11th running of the Madison, which was first run in 2002 when Victory Ride prevailed for trainer Rusty Arnold and jockey Edgar Prado. The 2011 running was won by Shotgun Gulch for breeder-owner-trainer C.R. Trout.

The Madison goes as the eighth of nine Thursday races. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the Madison set for 4:42. TVG will have live coverage of the card.

Vinery Madison Stakes, Post Time: 4:42 ET Thursday

Purse: $300,000; 7 furlongs





ML Odds


Home Sweet Aspen

J. Sadler

J. Rosario



Musical Romance

W. Kaplan

J. Leyva



Whipsaw City (FR)

C. Brown

J. Leparoux




R. McAnally

R. Bejarano



La Reine Lionne

C. Brown

J. Velasquez



Whisked Away

R. Beck

L. Martinez Jr.



She's Cheeky

P. Eurton

R. Albarado



Groupie Doll

W. Bradley

R. Maragh



Ariana D

A. McKeever

J. Lezcano



Future Generation (IRE)

C. Clement

G. Gomez