10/09/2007 11:00PM

Ravel tries to fulfill his early promise

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - Ravel has been gone but not forgotten, at least not by Michael McCarthy.

"I had no doubt last winter that the best two 2-year-olds on the West Coast were just a couple of stalls away from each other," said McCarthy, who ran the Todd Pletcher stable last winter at Santa Anita. "And that was Ravel and Rags to Riches."

While Rags to Riches went on to win the Kentucky Oaks and Belmont Stakes, Ravel, owned by Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, was sidelined in late March while being pointed to the Santa Anita Derby. In just his third start, Ravel earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Feb. 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, but several weeks afterward the Fusaichi Pegasus colt suffered a bruised cannon bone that did not require surgery. After being given time to recuperate at Ashford Stud, he has trained sharply toward his return.

That long-awaited comeback comes Friday in the eighth race at Keeneland, a $54,000 second-level allowance to be run at 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack. Garrett Gomez, who rode Ravel in a December maiden victory at Hollywood Park and in the Sham, will be in from New York to ride.

Since returning from the farm, Ravel has been overseen primarily by another Pletcher assistant, Michael Dilger, first at Arlington Park, then at Keeneland. McCarthy, who has overseen the Pletcher string at Churchill Downs since returning from California in April, said that the entire Pletcher staff is excited about Ravel's return.

"I would imagine he would've come back as good as ever," said McCarthy. "Hopefully this will be the first step in a big campaign that will carry over to his 4-year-old year."

Ravel will start from post 9 in a 12-horse field that drew several other horses with stakes experience, including Prom Shoes, Galloping Home, and Smokeyjonessutton.

Asi Siempre retired, will be sold

Asi Siempre, fifth as the defending champion Sunday in the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes for owner Martin Schwartz, has been retired, trainer Patrick Biancone said Wednesday. The 5-year-old gray mare is scheduled to be sold at auction here next month at the November breeding stock sale.

"She is not injured, just aging a bit," said Biancone. "We have some very good young fillies coming up behind her. She was an unbelievable mare for us."

Asi Siempre, by El Prado, won 7 of 21 starts and earned $953,300. Besides her 2006 Spinster triumph, another major highlight came last year in the Breeders' Cup Distaff when she finished second with a strong stretch effort before being disqualified to fourth for stretch interference.

Leparoux tops jockey standings

Julien Leparoux already has a bead on a fourth straight Keeneland riding title. Leparoux rode three winners here Wednesday, and after four of 17 programs, he led the jockey standings with eight wins, three more than Rafael Bejarano. Leparoux tied for the riding title with Bejarano at the 2006 spring meet, then was the outright winner at the 2006 fall and 2007 spring meets.

One of Leparoux's winners Wednesday came in the sixth race aboard Strike Out, a highly touted first-time starter trained by Biancone. Strike Out, a 2-year-old filly by Grand Slam, returned $4.60 as the favorite in a field of 11 while chalking up the first win of the meet for the Biancone stable, which had lost with its first 12 starters. Biancone was the leading trainer at the 2006 fall and 2007 spring meets.

No Dirt Mile for Minister's Bid

Trainer John Ward said he seriously considered the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile for Minister's Bid before deciding against it.

"We really had looked at it, but now I think we're going to point to a different race, probably at Churchill Downs," said Ward.

Minister's Bid, a 4-year-old Deputy Minister colt, has won his last three starts, all allowances, the latest coming Aug. 10 in a 1 1/8-mile race at Saratoga.

* Friday is the biannual College Scholarship Day, where Keeneland raffles off a $1,000 scholarship after every race. Students must be present to win. The raffle is co-sponsored by Keeneland and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association.

* The late pick four here every Friday during the spring meet carries a guaranteed pool of $200,000. The pick four is held on races 7-10.