10/20/2010 3:23PM

Raven Run looks wide open again

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Lynn Roberts
Chantilly Nayla, James Graham up, wins the Mardi Gras Stakes.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Not that one has anything to do with the other, but when a full field of 14 3-year-old fillies ran last fall in the Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland, the Grade 2 race was dominated by huge longshots.

Whether a similar bombs-away scenario is in store Saturday with the 12th running of the $250,000 Raven Run remains to be seen, but once again, the stakes limit of 14 is entered in the seven-furlong Polytrack race – and this one looks like it also could produce a wild result.

“It looks like a lot of fillies in there are live,” said Eric Reed, who won the 2009 running with Satans Quick Chick and will saddle Distorted Promise here Saturday.

Plausible contenders, as numerous as they are, include Platinum Exchange and Kitty in a Tizzy, both with excellent form over the Polytrack surface at Woodbine; Katy Now and Hilda’s Passion, an uncoupled duo trained by Todd Pletcher; Negligee and Beautician, both outstanding 2-year-olds still looking to fare better at 3; and My Irish Girl, a winner in 7 of 8 career starts.

Yet one more possibility is Chantilly Nayla, who ran second to Franny Freud in April in the Grade 2 Beaumont over the Keeneland Poly before being privately purchased and turned over to trainer Wayne Catalano. The bay filly will break from post 7.

“We’re happy with everything – the post, the way she’s handling this racetrack, the way she’s doing,” said Catalano.

The Raven Run anchors a 10-race Saturday card that also includes three allowance races.

Last year, Satans Quick Chick won the Raven Run at 23-1, with Slides Choice second at 49-1 and Don’ttalktome third at 41-1.

Battle of Hastings to start for Fox

Battle of Hastings, an earner of nearly $1.3 million, will be making his first start for trainer Greg Fox when he runs next in either the Oct. 30 Fayette Stakes on the Keeneland Polytrack or the Nov. 4 River City Handicap on the Churchill Downs turf.

Battle of Hastings was turned over to Fox, a longtime equine veterinarian, by owner Michael House several weeks after the 4-year-old gelding finished fourth in the Aug. 28 Pacific Classic for his former trainer, California-based Jeff Mullins.

“It’s a great opportunity for me,” said Fox, whose stable star of recent seasons, Tizdejavu, also specializes in the same kind of middle-distance turf races that Battle of Hastings has prospered in. “I’ve been a big fan of Battle of Hastings, so I’m excited about taking him to the races soon.”

Fox also has assumed the training of In the Slips for House, whose Chestnut Farm is located just a few miles west of Keeneland. A minor stakes winner early this year for Mullins, In the Slips will be making her first start in nearly five months when she runs here Friday in the Grade 3 Valley View Stakes.

“The filly had a pretty hard campaign through the winter and spring and was sent back here for some R and R,” said Fox. “She’s done very well since she went back into training.”

Howard handling transition

Trainer Neil Howard has enjoyed a productive fall meet at Keeneland by winning with 3 of his first 6 starters, helping to ease what has been somewhat of a slow period as he transitions from training exclusively for Will Farish to a public stable.

Howard has won a maiden race with Perregaux, a claiming race with Twilight Bay, and an allowance race with Insider Tip.

“Transition always kind of has its ups and downs, but actually things are going pretty well,” said Howard, who announced last year that he was taking on new clients. “I still have quite a few horses for Mr. Farish, and most of the new clients I’ve taken on have been with his influence.”

Howard, who began his career in 1979, has won nearly 900 races for stable earnings of nearly $45.7 million. A 61-year-old New York native, he has trained such standouts as Mineshaft, the 2003 Horse of the Year, and Summer Squall, the 1990 Preakness winner.

Ness stable gets even bigger

Raven Run starter My Irish Girl, owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds, is now part of the huge Jamie Ness stable after some 25 Midwest horses were moved from trainer Brad Cox, who had been based at Delaware Park but has returned to Louisville to rebuild his business.

Midwest, the leading owner in North America in 2010 with 264 wins through Tuesday, is owned by Richard and Karen Papiese of Illinois. The vast majority of the 150 or so Midwest horses are trained by Ness, who has stables on several fronts.

My Irish Girl won all four of her starts for Cox, including her last race, the Aug. 28 Miss Woodford Stakes at Monmouth Park.

◗ Banned, an easy winner of a first-level turf allowance here Sunday, is headed to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf if he can make the field, said trainer Tom Proctor.