10/22/2009 11:00PM

Tossouts few among 14 in Raven Run

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Monmouth Oaks winner Just Jenda will be Larry Jones's final Keeneland stakes starter.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Racing fans who complain about short fields could receive a measure of comeuppance Saturday when they struggle to sort out the jumbled assortment of 3-year-old fillies in the Grade 2, $300,000 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland.

There doesn't appear to be a clear-cut favorite among the overflow field entered in the Raven Run, unless you count Just Jenda, who has a neat storyline in her favor: Her eminently likable trainer, Larry Jones, will be sending out his final Keeneland stakes starter before he retires early next month.

Forsaking sentiment, however, there just aren't many easy throwouts in this race. Sixteen fillies will be on the program for the 11th running of the Raven Run, which goes at seven furlongs on Polytrack, but only as many as 14 can start. The two also-eligibles, Saucey Evening and Devil by Design, can make the field only if there is a scratch early on raceday.

Just Jenda is a four-time stakes winner this year, but the Raven Run is a departure from her norm. Racing under the orange and white silks of Jones's wife, Cindy, Just Jenda has raced primarily in two-turn events and exclusively on dirt in her 11-race career.

"She's trained here like she'll handle the Poly," said Larry Jones. "She's shown before she can be pretty effective turning back," referring to a runner-up finish in the one-turn on the May 2 Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs. "We're looking for her to be very competitive Saturday."

Beyond Just Jenda, a horseplayer could hardly be blamed for turning almost anywhere within the Raven Run cast. Flashing won the at Presque Isle Downs resulted in a third. The winner of the Masters, Informed Decision, has developed into a major force in the filly-mare sprint division since she captured the Raven Run here last fall.

A few others in the Raven Run field also have had brushes with top company, such as Sky Haven, a Steve Asmussen-trained filly who in her last two starts was fourth to Sara Louise in the .

And then there are the fringe players who wouldn't necessarily qualify as surprise winners, such as Best Lass, Jardin, Moontune Missy, Lady's Laughter, and Strike the Bell. And here's another: Satans Quick Chick, whose two-back win over the synthetic surface at Presque Isle resulted in a 100 Beyer Speed Figure, better than any other horse in the field has ever earned.

"I think it's a legitimate number," said her Keeneland-based trainer, Eric Reed. "She's never raced over the Poly here, but her best breezes have come over it. She really likes it, and I think with as firm as the track will be, she's going to really like the going."

A couple of even longer-priced starters will be in the field: All of Her Twist, a late-running Forest Wildcat filly shipping in from New Jersey for Kelly Breen, and Lady's Laughter, a locally based runner who was sharp in winning a Poly allowance here in the spring for trainer Charlie Lopresti.

"It's been my experience that the Forest Wildcats like the Poly," said Breen. "This may be a tough spot to try her, but they're putting up a lot of money, it's a graded race, and I think her running style will fit Keeneland."

"My filly is dead fit, and she tries every time," said Lopresti of Lady's Laughter. "She needs to sit off the pace, and that's what we've been schooling her to do in the mornings."

After a few days of terrific weather in the Lexington area, dampness and chill are supposed to be back by Saturday, with a high temperature of 51.

The Raven Run, the ninth of 10 Saturday races, anchors a terrific card that also includes three allowances (races 5, 8, 10) and two starter-allowances (races 2, 6).

First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the Raven Run set for 5:13.

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