10/04/2005 11:00PM

Last chance for a BC ticket

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Ex Caelis, winning her maiden at Saratoga, is among the 2-year-old fillies that could be propelled to the Breeders' Cup with a victory in Friday's Grade 2 Alcibiades.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Three days. Eight stakes. Hundreds of thousands in purses. Millions in returned winnings.

And that's just to start.

Seventeen days of the Keeneland fall meet begin Friday with what has developed into yet another tradition at this bucolic track: a rousing three-day weekend to set the tone through the end of October. Regardless of whether the meet peaks too early, the front-loading of important stakes is necessitated by a racing calendar centered around the Breeders' Cup championships, which will be run Oct. 29 at Belmont Park.

The quality of the eight stakes on the opening "FallStars Weekend," as Keeneland promotes it, may or may not match previous years, in large part because many horsemen have demonstrated a preference this year for prepping at Belmont. Nevertheless, many highly accomplished racehorses will be in action here this weekend, including Alinghi and Three Valleys in the Shadwell Turf Mile on Saturday, and Wend and Intercontinental in the WinStar Galaxy on Sunday.

Some of those standouts on opening weekend have designs on the Breeders' Cup (Three Valleys, Wend), and some do not (Alinghi, Intercontinental). And at first glance, the richest of the two opening-day stakes, the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades, does not appear to have attracted any 2-year-old fillies worthy of running back three weeks later in the BC Juvenile Fillies. But once a winner emerges from an 11-horse field subtly packed with potential, surely her connections will be tempted to proclaim their latest star to be Breeders' Cup-bound.

D. Wayne Lukas, the all-time leading trainer at Keeneland in both stakes and races won, believes he might have the filly to fit that scenario in the 54th running of the Grade 2 Alcibiades. She is Ex Caelis, who will break from post 6 under Edgar Prado in a 1 1/16-mile race that lacks a clear-cut favorite.

Ex Caelis, by Fusaichi Pegasus, won a seven-furlong maiden race at Saratoga in her second career start, then finished second after making a sustained midrace rally in the one-mile Arlington-Washington Lassie last month in her lone subsequent start. Lukas said he welcomes the progression to the longer Alcibiades.

"Going to two turns should be a step in the right direction," he said. "Keeping her development in that direction is the way to go. We've been looking forward to getting her into this kind of situation."

Prado has been particularly live here in recent years, having won more Keeneland stakes since 2001 than any jockey except the recently retired Pat Day. Prado has won a remarkable eight Grade 1 stakes here during that span.

Aside from Ex Caelis, the Alcibiades drew several other fillies with considerable promise. That list includes Dixie Dreamer and She Says It Best, the respective one-two finishers in the Bassinet Stakes at River Downs; Performing Diva and Rainbow Pond, the respective one-two finishers in a key Sept. 3 maiden race at Saratoga; Maggie Slew, an Indiana-bred who owns the distinction of being the last foal by the great Seattle Slew; and Coolwind, the third-place finisher behind Original Spin and Ex Caelis in the Lassie.

The rest of the field is Trick's Pic, Joint Effort, More Than Pretty, and Easy Slam. All 11 starters will carry 118 pounds.

Joint Effort, trained by Dale Romans, is the only starter with two-turn experience, having finished a distant third in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies three weeks ago.

Trainer Bernie Flint, who sent out Runway Model to a 17-1 upset last year in the Alcibiades, is represented by another longshot this year in More Than Pretty.

For a live longshot, Coolwind ships in from Chicago for trainer Greg Geier with a couple of solid races on her past performances. Her career debut, which came on the Aug. 13 Arlington Million undercard, was a sight to behold, as she waited interminably behind traffic before shaking loose to defeat a nice group of maidens. Her stakes debut in the Lassie also was respectable, as she roared into the heart of contention in midstretch before settling for third.

The Alcibiades is carded as the ninth of 10 races on a Friday opener that also includes the Grade 3 Sycamore Breeders' Cup (race 7), in which Vangelis looks like the horse to beat for Bobby Frankel, and four allowances (races 3, 6, 8, and 10).

The weather for opening day probably won't be as good as the racing - the Lexington forecast calls for a high temperature of 62 and a good possibility of rain.

Opening weekend stakes

DayRacePurse
FridayAlcibiades (Gr. 2)$400,000
 Sycamore BC (Gr. 3)150,000
SaturdayTurf Mile (Gr. 1)600,000
 Breeders' Futurity (Gr. 2)500,000
 Phoenix BC (Gr. 3)250,000
SundaySpinster (Gr. 1)500,000
 Galaxy Stakes (Gr. 2)400,000
 Woodford County100,000

At a glance: Keeneland

RACING SCHEDULE: Friday through Oct. 29 (17 days); dark Mondays and Tuesdays.

ADMISSION: Grandstand, $3; seating additional. Clubhouse, private.

PARKING: General parking, free; valet, private.

LOCATION: Six miles west of downtown Lexington on U.S. 60.

POST TIMES: 1:15 p.m. Eastern daily.

PHONE: (859) 254-3412 or (800) 456-3412.

INTERNET: http://www.keeneland.com

Stakes schedule

DATEEVENTCONDITIONSDISTANCEPURSE
Fri.,Oct. 7Darley Alcibiades (G2)2YO F1 1/16 miles$400,000
Fri.,Oct. 7Sycamore Breeders' Cup (G3)3YO & Up1 1/2 miles (T)150,000
Sat.,Oct. 8Shadwell Turf Mile (G1)3YO & Up1 mile (T)600,000
Sat.,Oct. 8Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (G1)2YO1 1/16 miles500,000
Sat.,Oct. 8Phoenix Breeders' Cup (G3)3YO & Up6 furlongs250,000
Sun.,Oct. 9Juddmonte Spinster (G1)F&M, 3YO & Up1 1/8 miles500,000
Sun.,Oct. 9WinStar Galaxy (G2)F&M, 3YO & Up1 mile (T)400,000
Sun.,Oct. 9Woodford County3YO & Up5 1/2 furlongs (T)100,000
Thur.,Oct. 13Bryan Station3YO1 mile (T)150,000
Fri.,Oct. 14Perryville (G3)3YO7 furlongs, 184 ft.200,000
Sat.,Oct. 15Qn. Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1)3YO F1 1/8 miles (T)500,000
Sun.,Oct. 16Thoroughbred Club of America (G3)F&M, 3YO & Up6 furlongs300,000
Thur.,Oct. 20Buffalo Trace Franklin CountyF&M, 3YO & Up5 1/2 furlongs100,000
Fri.,Oct. 21Valley View (G3)3YO F1 1/16 miles (T)125,000
Sat.,Oct. 22Lexus Raven Run (G2)3YO F7 furlongs300,000
Sun.,Oct 23Rood and Riddle DowagerF&M, 3YO & Up1 1/2 miles (T)150,000
Thur.,Oct. 27Jessamine County2YO F1 1/16 miles (T)100,000
Fri.,Oct. 28Bourbon County2YO1 1/16 miles (T)100,000
Sat.,Oct. 29Fayette Stakes (G3)3YO & Up1 1/8 miles150,000