10/06/2011 2:41PM

Keeneland: Spinster draws deep, well-matched field

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Tom Keyser
Aruna will start from post 2 in the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – There are no superstars in the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes on Sunday at Keeneland, but that might be missing the point. The Grade 1 fixture drew a fabulously well-matched field of 13 fillies and mares for its 56th running, with accomplished stakes runners such as Aruna, Tapitsfly, Embur’s Song, and Pachattack taking part.

Aruna, scratched from the Flower Bowl at Belmont Park last weekend when the turf came up soggy, drew favorably in post 2 for the Spinster, which goes at 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack as a fees-paid Win and You’re In event toward the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. Ramon Dominguez has the call on Aruna.

From the rail, this is the Spinster field: Super Espresso, Aruna, Tapitsfly, Sugar Again, Stars to Shine, La Gran Bailadora, Embur’s Song, Tesoro de Amor, Dynazaper, Theyskens’ Theory, Protesting, Pachattack, and Well Monied.

The Spinster, the ninth of 10 Sunday races, ends the nine-race “FallStars Weekend” extravaganza that kicks off the Keeneland fall meet. One other FallStars event, the Grade 3, $150,000 Bourbon Stakes, directly precedes the Spinster as the eighth race Sunday. The Bourbon, for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on turf, got more than the 12-horse maximum, with Here Comes Frazier and Lucky Chappy among the likely favorites.

McPeek loaded for fall meet

Ken McPeek has won three of the last four training titles at Keeneland, and with what he calls “a full stable” of active runners to send postward at the 17-day fall meet, he would have to be considered the favorite to make it four out of five.

“We’ve got a lot of bullets in the chamber,” McPeek said.

A decidedly subpar Saratoga meet (3 for 65) left many of the McPeek runners with conditions still to run through, and if opening weekend was any indication, the 49-year-old trainer will be trying to take full advantage. McPeek was scheduled to have horses in 14 races – four Friday, four Saturday, and six Sunday.

Still, Wesley Ward said the condition book is written in such a way that his many 2-year-olds could make him a threat to win his first-ever Keeneland title.

“We’ll really be bearing down,” said Ward, who had horses entered in eight races over the opening three-day weekend. “There should be plenty of opportunities for us to run.”

Wayne Catalano, the perennial Chicago kingpin who narrowly missed tying McPeek last fall (10-9) for the Keeneland title, said he probably doesn’t have the numbers to contend this time. Catalano had horses in just three races opening weekend.

Animal Kingdom on schedule

Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor International, said Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is scheduled to return to “real training” with Graham Motion at Fair Hill in northern Maryland within the next few days.

Animal Kingdom has been sidelined since suffering an injury to his left hind leg when finishing a troubled sixth in the June 11 Belmont Stakes.

“Everything’s on schedule to this point,” Irwin said. “I’m still trying to convince Graham we can make the Dubai World Cup [next March] without a prep race. We’ll see how it goes.”