10/07/2010 3:32PM

Trade-off brings first Arabian race to Keeneland

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Lynn Roberts
Zardana, defeating Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds in March, is among a solid field of 11 for Sunday's Juddmonte Spinster.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The genesis of the first Arabian race in Keeneland history stems from conversations that track officials had last winter in Abu Dhabi, the capital and government seat of the United Arab Emirates.

“We’re always looking to extend our sales reach, and there has been increasing interest in Thoroughbreds in that part of the world,” said Rogers Beasley, director of racing at Keeneland. “Basically in exchange for their sponsorship of one of our Grade 1 races,” referring to the $400,000 First Lady, “we agreed to stage an Arabian race, with them putting up all the purse money. We believe it’s a worthwhile thing to do.”

The result is the $50,000 President of the UAE Cup, part of a worldwide series of Abu Dhabi-sponsored races for Arabians, a breed far better known for endurance than speed. The 1 1/4-mile Polytrack event is carded as the third race Saturday, with the 4-year-old filly Sand Witchh, unbeaten in nine career starts, likely to be the heavy favorite in a field of 10.

Spinster comes up strong

A very competitive field of fillies and mares has been entered for the Grade 1, $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes, which helps close out FallStars Weekend with its 55th running Sunday.

Rinterval, Funny Moon, Hot Cha Cha, Zardana, and Acoma are among the 11 entered in the Spinster, a 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race with a Win and You’re In tag toward the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs. Zardana, trained by John Shirreffs, made a name for herself by defeating Rachel Alexandra earlier this year.

It’s Tea Time, assigned post 1, is the only 3-year-old in the Spinster, which is carded as the ninth of 10 Sunday races.

One other stakes is carded Sunday: the Grade 3, $100,000 Bourbon Stakes (race 8), a 1 1/16-mile race that leads to the BC Juvenile Turf. Fourteen 2-year-olds are entered, with the starting field limited to 12.

Optional claimer is clearly stakes quality

The Saturday card is so packed with quality that multiple stakes winners such as Gran Estreno and Desert Wheat can’t even play second fiddle on the day. In fact, it’s a tribute to the depth of the card that the fifth race, a $53,000 allowance on Polytrack with an $80,000 claiming option, will draw such little notice, relatively speaking.

The 10-horse field includes Tajaaweed, who exits the Arlington Million; Gran Estreno, the two-time winner of the Washington Park Handicap; Desert Wheat, an earner of nearly $700,000; Cherokee Artist, a stakes winner of more than $600,000; and Successful Dan, a lightly raced 4-year-old who defeated the highly regarded Warrior’s Reward at 3.

◗ Trainer Steve Margolis has returned from Delaware Park for what he hopes is a productive fall at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. Margolis, with the Klein family of Louisville as his main clients, won eight races at Delaware after leaving at the end of the Churchill spring meet. Margolis currently has about 40 horses split between the two Kentucky tracks.

◗ Eoin Harty, with Brian Ange as his assistant, will be well represented throughout the meet with a stable of about 25 head. “We might even stay right through Churchill because of what’s happening at Santa Anita,” where the Pro-Ride track is being replaced with dirt, said Ange. “We’ve got quite a few ready to run.”

◗ Jockey Jesus Castanon was just one victory away from the 2,000-win milestone when the meet started Friday. Castanon, 37, came from Mexico to the United States in 1989 and has ridden on a number of different circuits through the years. He was named on four mounts Friday and four Saturday.