10/25/2011 11:31AM

Keeneland: Sea Level Drive the one to beat in turf allowance

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sea Level Drive ran so well in finishing second to Marketing Mix in the Grade 3 Pucker Up at Arlington Park that the filly was invited by Keeneland to start in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, an Oct. 15 race in which Marketing Mix wound up finishing second to Together.

“But we turned down the invitation to run her in the Valley View” six days later, trainer Rusty Arnold said. “That didn’t work out, because we got excluded. It’s been a funny month for the filly.”

Now with the Keeneland fall meet dwindling to its last few days, Sea Level Drive finally will make the starting gate. With Jimmy Graham to ride from post 7, she looks like the filly to beat in the eighth race, the second and richest of two allowances on a nine-race Thursday card. The $54,000, second-level, one-mile turf race is programmed with 14 fillies and mares, although only as many as 12 can start.

Sea Level Drive, owned by the Green Lantern Stable of Richard Masson, closed sharply to be second at 25-1 in the Sept. 17 Pucker Up. Masson and Arnold had the filly at Arlington all summer with Leigh Bentley after a series of events “just kind of led us to keep her there,” said Arnold, whose main summer base is Saratoga. “The filly can be a little temperamental and needs to settle in, and we didn’t want to be whipping her back and forth through the hot summer. Leigh did a wonderful job with her. We’d always wanted to try her on the grass, and after she ran as well as she did in the Pucker Up, we started looking at Keeneland. We just didn’t know it’d be in a two-other-than.”

One other filly, Megaspiel, also has switched trainers for this race, with Eric Reed assuming her care for Gerald Reid.

“They freshened her up and sent her to me, trying to make a race at Keeneland,” said Reed, who will have a string of about 15 horses at Santa Anita after the Breeders’ Cup. “She’ll be one of the horses we have out in California.”

Megaspiel will start from post 2 with Edgar Prado aboard.

Other players in the eighth-race feature include a pair of Woodbine shippers, Kilmore Quay (post 5, Julien Leparoux) and Poof Too (post 12, Robby Albarado), along with High Alpine (post 8, Marcelino Pedroza), a gritty last-out winner at Kentucky Downs for John Gaver III.

Two races earlier, fillies and mares also will clash at a mile on the turf, albeit for a $52,000 purse under a first-level allowance restriction. Logical contenders in another oversubscribed field include Happy Choice, She’s Picky, Nandira, and Startling Beauty.

First post Thursday is 1:15 p.m. Eastern. The 17-day meet closes Saturday with the 53rd running of the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes.