09/28/2012 12:10PM

Keeneland: Opening weekend stakes coming into view

Four-Footed Fotos
Aruna will be back to defend her championship in the Juddmonte Spinster.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Fields are starting to take shape for the FallStars Weekend events that will open the 17-day Keeneland fall meet next weekend, with five Grade 1 races being among the major preps for the Nov. 2-3 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

Two of the Grade 1 races are for 2-year-olds: the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades on the opening-day card Friday, and the $400,000 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity on Saturday. Here is a quick rundown of the other three Grade 1’s, all for more established older horses:

◗ Charlie Lopresti, on a hunting trip this week, has told Keeneland’ racing secretary, Ben Huffman, that Wise Dan is “on the fence” for the meet’s richest race, the $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile, after dominating the Sept. 16 Woodbine Mile. Clearly the presence, or absence, of Wise Dan could go a ways in determining the lineup, with Corporate Jungle, Data Link, Dominus, Doubles Partner, Silver Max, and Willcox Inn being among the other known prospects. The Shadwell, to be run Saturday, is a key prep toward the $2 million BC Mile.

◗ Daisy Devine and Hungry Island, winners of the two biggest filly-mare turf races in Kentucky in the spring, both will be back Saturday for the $350,000 First Lady, which also goes at a mile on the turf. Daisy Devine, trained by Andrew McKeever, won the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland, while Hungry Island took the Churchill Downs Distaff on the Kentucky Derby undercard for trainer Shug McGaughey. Also probable from a nominations list of 18 for the First Lady is Summer Soiree.

[KEENELAND: Get opening-day PPs, watch Friday's full card live]

◗ Aruna will be back to defend her championship in the $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster, which will be run Sunday (Oct. 7) at 1 1/8 miles on the Polytrack. Aruna has not raced since finishing last following a nightmarish trip in the Aug. 18 Beverly D. on the Arlington Park turf. Her likely opposition in the Spinster is expected to include Smart Sting, Tiz Miz Sue, and Upperline.

The rest of the stakes on opening weekend are the Grade 3 Phoenix (Friday), the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America (Saturday), the Grade 3 Woodford (Saturday), and Grade 3 Bourbon (Sunday).

Of those, the TCA Stakes figures to carry the most impact toward the Breeders’ Cup, with Groupie Doll set to make her final prep before the BC Filly and Mare Sprint.

The meet runs on a Wednesday-to-Sunday schedule through Oct. 27. Entries for the Friday opener will be taken Tuesday.

Pletcher increasing presence

Todd Pletcher has not run as many horses at recent Keeneland meets as once was the case, but the five-time Eclipse Award winner has taken out 40 stalls for the upcoming meet and figures to be among those most prominent.

Other East Coast trainers who will be very active include Graham Motion, John Terranova, and David Fawkes, while trainers such as McGaughey, Christophe Clement, Michael Matz, and Chad Brown will have smaller strings or will rotate in some of their better horses.

Huffman said a number of horsemen at the recently ended Presque Isle Downs meet have taken out stalls, a natural transition for many horses moving from one synthetic surface to another.

Ouzts on brink of 6,000th win

After winning the first and last races Thursday night at Turfway Park, Perry Ouzts was just one victory away from becoming just the 17th jockey in North American racing history to ride 6,000 winners.

Ouzts, 58, was most likely to hit the milestone Friday night at the Florence, Ky., track, when he has mounts in all but two of 11 races. He is the fourth-leading active rider in wins, behind Russell Baze (first overall), Edgar Prado (ninth), and Mario Pino (10th).

Ouzts said in a lengthy interview last year with Daily Racing Form that he has no set timetable for retirement. “I don’t see the end anytime soon,” he said.

The next jockey on the all-time list ahead of Ouzts in No. 16 with 6,032 wins is the late John Longden, who once held the all-time wins mark before being passed by Bill Shoemaker.

◗ The Turfway fall meet will come to a quiet close Sunday with a first post of 1:10 p.m. Eastern. There were no stakes run throughout the 16-day stand, with the Kentucky Cup being canceled and Churchill Downs officials saying they might seek to host some September dates next year.

◗ The Old Friends equine retirement home in Georgetown, Ky., will host an outing to honor the employees of the defunct Thoroughbred Times magazine on the opening Sunday of the Keeneland meet, Oct. 7, from noon to 4 p.m. More information is available at (502) 863-1775.