10/06/2002 11:00PM

Sightseek tops deep, talented Raven Run

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland has quite a formula going. Invent a race, mix in a nice pile of purse money and some of the best horses around, and there it is: an instant graded race.

The Grade 3, $150,000 Raven Run Stakes was inaugurated only three autumns ago, when the late Howard Battle and other Keeneland racing officials recognized the need at the fall meet for a middle-distance stakes for 3-year-old fillies. When the seven-furlong Raven Run is run as a graded race for the first time Wednesday, it may have the deepest field in its brief but rich history - which says a lot, considering the caliber of fillies who have run in the three previous runnings.

Sightseek, a lightly raced filly owned by Juddmonte Farms, could be a slight favorite in a field that has seven stakes winners among its 12 starters. The Raven Run will be the first stakes appearance by Sightseek, a Distant View filly who won an entry-level allowance at Belmont Park by an eye-popping 12 lengths in her latest start.

"We think a lot of her," said trainer Bobby Frankel. "Her work here the other day" - a five-furlong blowout in 1:01.20 Friday - "was really nice."

At least one other filly making her stakes debut figures to take quite a bit of play: Driana, a Dale Romans-trained filly who has won her last two starts, both in New York and both impressively.

The more seasoned stakes runners in the cast include For Rubies, a remarkably consistent filly who finished third or better in each of her 13 starts; Take the Cake, a graded winner who recently warmed up with a useful comeback race at Arlington Park for Carl Nafzger; Miss Lodi, a flashy runner who has won four of six starts; Spring Meadow, the third-place finisher in the Grade 1 Test Stakes in July; and Respectful, a late-running California shipper trained by Eric Kruljac.

The rest of the field is Goodness, Colonial Glitter, Don't Ruffle Me, Maresha, and Wild Kandace.

The Raven Run, which occupies the usual race-eight feature slot on a nine-race Wednesday card, is named for a 374-acre nature preserve located outside of Lexington. Its first three runnings were won by Dreamy Maiden (1999), Darling My Darling (2000), and Nasty Storm (2001).

Four allowance races also are carded for Wednesday.

The Raven Run starts the first five-day week of the fall meet, with the biggest race coming Saturday - the Grade 1, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.

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