04/09/2008 12:00AM

Top filly sprinters lining up

Bob Coglianese
Keep the Peace has been freshened specifically for the Beaumont.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Eddie Kenneally believes more is at stake in the Stonerside Beaumont Stakes than a Grade 2 ranking and a $250,000 purse.

"Whoever wins has to be regarded as the best in this category," said Kenneally, who will send out one of the main contenders, Keep the Peace, in the Beaumont, a one-turn race for 3-year-old fillies going about seven furlongs on Thursday at Keeneland. "This is a legitimate test for these 3-year-old fillies. The race really came up mega-tough."

Indeed, with the one-two finishers in the Santa Anita Oaks and several other fillies with stakes wins on their records the Beaumont is an exceptionally deep race. The speedy Keep the Peace, with Edgar Prado to ride, will break from post 7 in a field of 10, surely with the intent of leading every step of the way in a Polytrack race contested at the Beard Course distance of seven furlongs and 184 feet. Only a nose defeat in the Feb. 9 Forward Gal to Bsharpsonata - who was a close second last weekend in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland - has kept Keep the Peace from being unbeaten in three career starts.

"We intentionally freshened her up after the Forward Gal with this race in mind," said Kenneally. "Everything's come together perfect. I'm very, very happy with the filly."

Keep the Peace, more a one-turn type, is not a prime candidate to advance to the May 2 Kentucky Oaks, but that clearly is not the case with some of her rivals. Specifically, Ariege and Golden Doc A, the top two in the March 8 Santa Anita Oaks, are using the Beaumont as a potential stepping-stone, while fillies such as Tasha's Miracle and Officer Cherrie also have shown considerable ability in high-class company and are plausible Oaks prospects, too.

Ariege, with Garrett Gomez riding, could be the favorite when she breaks from the rail. Trained by Bobby Frankel, the Kentucky-bred filly had raced exclusively on grass before switching to a synthetic surface in the Santa Anita Oaks, which she rallied to win by a hard-fought half-length over Golden Doc A.

Bird Town, the 2003 Beaumont runner-up, was the last filly to use this race to win the Oaks.

The Beaumont is part of a terrific week of stakes at Keeneland. The Friday feature, the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile, has drawn a sensational field of 11 turf specialists, including Kip Deville, Einstein, Cosmonaut, Shakis, and War Monger.