10/02/2012 3:54PM

Keeneland: Nineteen entered for Alcibiades but only 14 can start

Coady Photography
Rose to Gold has romped versus ungraded stakes company at Calder in her first two career starts. On Friday, she steps up in class in the Grade 1 Alcibiades.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – There was a crowd at the entry booth Tuesday morning, and it had nothing to do with the usual back-slapping reunions of horsemen, jockey agents, and backstretch types that invariably take place leading up to a Keeneland meet.

Nineteen 2-year-old fillies were entered in the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades Stakes, the Grade 1 race that helps to open the 17-day fall meet Friday. Rather than split the Alcibiades, as might have been done in a bygone era, racing officials opted to keep the race intact. As many as 14 can start, with two more fillies on the also-eligibles list and three more excluded.

“I hope this is indicative of just how good entries are going to be this meet, both with the stakes program and our overnight races,” said Keeneland racing secretary Ben Huffman. “I’m encouraged that we’re in for a terrific meet.”

Huffman estimated that per-day purses will average about $580,000 at the meet, which runs on a Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule through Oct. 27.

The Alcibiades, along with the Grade 3 Phoenix Stakes, will anchor a 10-race opener that starts at 1:05 p.m. Eastern. Both are Win and You’re In events toward the Nov. 2-3 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

In all, nine graded races – seven of them Win and You’re In races – will be run during the opening three-day FallStars Weekend.

The most intriguing filly in the 1 1/16-mile Alcibiades is a $1,400 purchase named Rose to Gold, whose two career races – both of them ungraded stakes at Calder – have resulted in run-off victories of 13 and 13 1/2 lengths. Trained by a relative unknown, Sal Santoro, Rose to Gold shipped here the middle of last week and has been galloping regularly over the main Polytrack surface.

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“She’ll train on a muddy track, a fast track, a slow track,” said Santoro. “I figured she’s got to love this Poly, and she does. She bounces around out there. We’re pleased that she likes it. We’ll find out Friday how much she really likes it.”

Other logical contenders in a wide-open 61st running of the Alcibiades, which is carded as the ninth race, include Kitten’s Dumplings, Gold Edge, Tara From the Cape, Skyfall, Speedinthruthecity, and Magical Moon.

The $175,000 Phoenix (race 8), being run for the 160th time, drew a field of 10 sprinters, led by Aikenite, Sum of the Parts, and Lonesome Street.

Wesley Ward, who won his first Keeneland training title at the spring meet in April, is back with a full barn of 40. “I’m hoping that all 40 of them will run,” said Ward, who entered six for opening day and got four in. “We’re here to run, that’s for sure. I love this place.”

An influx of jockeys who have been competing in New York will be prominent throughout the meet, led by Julien Leparoux, the leading rider here at each of the last four meets. Rosie Napravnik also is here for the duration, while newcomers such as Paco Lopez, Elvis Trujillo, David Cohen, and Joe Rocco Jr. will join such regulars as Robby Albarado, Calvin Borel, Shaun Bridgmohan, Kent Desormeaux, Jimmy Graham, Corey Lanerie, and a host of other top jockeys from beginning to end. Opening day will feature appearances by Ramon Dominguez, John Velazquez, Javier Castellano, and Rajiv Maragh, who otherwise will be riding mostly at Belmont Park this month.

A blockbuster Saturday card will include five graded stakes, led by the Grade 1, $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile in which Wise Dan will be the favorite. Other Saturday stakes are the Grade 1 First Lady, Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity, Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America, and Grade 3 Woodford.

The Saturday card will conflict with a University of Kentucky football game at nearby Commonwealth Stadium, although football fans can be expected here later in the program since kickoff is scheduled for 12:21.

FallStars Weekend will end Sunday with the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster and Grade 3 Bourbon.

While rainy conditions prevailed here Tuesday, the forecast for Friday calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 74, with temperatures becoming quite cooler for Saturday and Sunday.

This meet marks the first as president and chief executive officer for Bill Thomason Jr., who on Sept. 1 replaced the retired Nick Nicholson in those roles. Thomason hosted a media conference Tuesday in the Keeneland Library.