09/30/2008 11:00PM

Shorter is better for Precious Kitten

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Even when Bobby Frankel was asking Precious Kitten to go a bit beyond her means, the Hall of Fame trainer expressed cautious optimism in the mare.

That was leading into the Aug. 9 Beverly D., a 1 3/16-mile turf race that proved too far. Precious Kitten, a lukewarm favorite, faded to fifth after chasing the pace.

Duly regrouped with a steady series of New York workouts, Precious Kitten will return to action Friday on the opening-day card at Keeneland as the likely favorite in the $400,000 First Lady.

"I feel better about this race," said Frankel.

Like the Beverly D., the First Lady carries a Grade 1 ranking, but it is the shorter distance of the one-mile First Lady that gives Frankel a higher degree of confidence.

"I've had this race in mind for her ever since the Beverly D.," he said. "The mile suits her better."

Precious Kitten, with Rafael Bejarano aboard from the inside post, figures to get a good stalking trip from just behind the expected front-runner, Dreaming of Anna, who will break right alongside from post 2. Last fall, Precious Kitten narrowly missed in the First Lady when finishing second by a half-length to Vacare.

Eight fillies and mares are entered in the First Lady, which is not one of the six Win and You're In races set for opening weekend at Keeneland. The distance of the First Lady doesn't precisely match any of the Breeders' Cup races for fillies and mares.

"I don't really know what I'll do with my filly after Friday," said Frankel.

That said, the purse and grade of the First Lady still make it a race of great value. Besides Precious Kitten and Dreaming of Anna, the race drew several other highly accomplished turf fillies, including Rutherienne, winner of the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley here in the spring, and Forever Together, winner of the Grade 1 Diana Handicap at Saratoga two starts back.

The pace of the First Lady figures crucial for Rutherienne and Forever Together, since both do their best running from well behind.

The First Lady, which has been known by several different names since its 1998 inception, has produced two winners of the BC Filly and Mare Turf: Perfect Sting (2000) and Intercontinental (2005).

The First Lady directly precedes the Darley Alcibiades as the eighth of 10 Friday races.