10/18/2011 12:57PM

Keeneland: Three good fillies set sights on Raven Run

Mike Montgomery Photo
Strike the Moon won the Charles Town Oaks last month and will rematch with the second- and fourth-place finishers.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Discretion could prove the better part of valor for a trio of 3-year-old fillies who will reconvene Saturday in the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland. No one could have blamed their respective connections if they had opted for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, but that temptation was resisted on all counts.

Strike the Moon, Groupie Doll, and Hot Summer – the respective one-two-four finishers in the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks last month – will go instead in the $250,000 Raven Run, a seven-furlong Polytrack race that represents one of the last chances to remain within their age group this year.

“We’ve talked about the Breeders’ Cup for our filly,” said David Fawkes, who sent out Hot Summer to win the Grade 3 Victory Ride on the Aug. 27 Travers undercard at Saratoga for owner Harold Queen before the filly was fourth at Charles Town. “But it’s going to be so tough, with Turbulent Descent and some of the others in there. We just thought this was the more prudent way to go.”

Hot Summer, by Malibu Moon, has never raced on a synthetic surface, but Fawkes has deduced that she should do well on Polytrack.

“Her pedigree says she’ll like it,” he said. “A lot of the Malibu Moons tend to run big on the synthetic.”

Keeneland racing officials were expecting a field of 10 to 12 fillies for the 13th Raven Run when entries were drawn Wednesday.

Three allowance routes on card

Besides a competitive-looking Sycamore, three two-turn allowances – none with standout favorites – help to make the Thursday card a good one.

The fourth race is a one-mile turf race for 2-year-olds. The sixth is a second-level Polytrack race for older fillies and mares, with Whoopty Whoopty, trained by Graham Motion, looking like one of a handful of viable contenders. And the seventh is a first-level filly-mare race at the rarely-run distance of 1 1/4 miles on the Poly.

Nakatani arrives with hot hand

Jockey Corey Nakatani, who will be in Thursday from New York to ride Bold Hawk in the Sycamore Stakes, has been on quite a hot streak the last six weeks or so, winning five stakes, the latest coming Sunday in the Grade 1 Nearctic aboard Regally Ready at Woodbine.

Nakatani also had that fabulous 6-for-7 day on Oct. 8 at Belmont Park, including wins on My Miss Aurelia in the Grade 1 Frizette and on Western Aristocrat in the Grade 1 Jamaica.

Valley View attracts a crowd

An oversubscribed field of 3-year-old turf fillies has been entered for the Friday feature, the Grade 3, $150,000 Valley View at 1 1/16 miles. Dynamic Holiday, trained by Motion, looks like one of the logical favorites in the race, for which 16 were entered, 14 made the program, and 12 can start.

Others likely to attract play in an extremely well-matched field include In Step, Bizzy Caroline, Diva Ash, New Normal, and Pinch Pie. The Valley View anchors a 10-race card that ends with a $200,000 guaranteed pick four.

McPeek keeps flooding entry box

Ken McPeek said before the meet began that he could have 50 starts, maybe more, in trying to be the leading trainer for the fourth time in five Keeneland meets. It seems that estimate was conservative. After 8 of 17 cards, McPeek already had 39 starts, winning 5, and figures to wear down the competition with his numbers.

“We’ve had pretty good luck in getting our horses in up to now,” said McPeek. “I’m drawing from Churchill, Keeneland, and the farm, so we’ve got quite a few numbers. I know we’re not winning at the same percentage we have the last few meets, but God forbid if we have a little letdown. I think with a little better racing luck, and all the horses we still have to run, we could be tough for the title again.”

DiVito flourishing with 2-year-olds

Jimmy DiVito continued his fabulous year with 2-year-olds when he sent out Luke of York to win the Keeneland 75th Anniversary Stakes here last Saturday, then followed it up the next day with an easy victory by Bet to Win as the 1-5 favorite in an allowance race.

DiVito went 12 for 22 with 2-year-olds, virtually all of them inexpensive purchases, this summer at his home track, Arlington Park. Luke of York was a $23,000 purchase at a Florida sale in June as the first horse ever bought by his owner, George Michaels, a commodities trader in Chicago.

Saez recovers quickly

Jockey Gabriel Saez worked four horses Tuesday morning at Keeneland after being cleared by doctors Monday to continue riding in the aftermath of the nasty spill he took in the last race here Saturday.

“It’s amazing,” said his agent, Ruben Munoz. “He’s 23, though. That must be it.”

No need to operate on Sassy Image

Dale Romans said a major reason that surgery has not been performed on the tiny non-displaced chip found in a hind ankle of Sassy Image is that the filly has been entered next month in the breeding-stock sale at Fasig-Tipton. Sassy Image, owned by his brother, Jerry Romans Jr., has been declared from consideration for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

“The chip isn’t that big a deal, unless the new owner wants to run her again,” said Romans. “Then you’d probably want to go on and take it out.”

◗ The second half of the fall meet will present a contrast not only in the caliber of racing – all six Grade 1 races have already been run – but also in the weather. Whereas ontrack fans enjoyed brilliant sunshine and warm temperatures for most of the first eight days, the forecast for this week is decidedly less pleasant, with showers and temperatures in the 40s in mid-week, followed only by a mild upgrade to mid-50s for Friday and Saturday.