Race 9 Lexus Raven Run Stakes
The pinnacle race on the Saturday Keeneland card is the Grade 2 Lexus Raven Run Stakes. The Raven Run is named after a 374-acre nature preserve located just outside of Lexington, Kentucky. Notable winners through the years have included Sightseek (2002), Leah’s Secret (2006), and a favorite of mine, Informed Decision (2008), who holds both the stakes and track record for this race when it was run on the polytrack.
Looking at the pace scenario of the race, there appears to be a lot of early speed signed on. Those horses that should be pressing or setting the pace include Covey Trace (15-1), Lucy N Ethel (9-2), Bellamentary (6-1), Curlin’s Approval (8-1), and Coniah (10-1). Lucy N Ethel was recently placed into the barn of Tom Amoss. The During filly is undefeated in her four-start career and is coming off a win in the Grade 2 Prioress Stakes. Being undefeated, she is sure to take money at the windows but I will play against her for win honors. She has never been headed in her career. While she is fast, there are other fillies in this race that have just as much early speed as her.
Bellamentary ships in from California for trainer Phil D’Amato. It’s hard to fault the Bellamy Road filly, as she has finished in the exacta in six out of seven career starts. She has just as much early heat as Lucy N Ethel but has shown she can press the pace and does not necessary need the lead. While she has not raced in 55 days, Bellamentary does show a steady diet of workouts coming in. She is two-for-two at the seven-furlong distance, but the fact she has never taken her show on the road is a strike against her in my opinion. I will be using her underneath in the exacta and trifecta.
Curlin’s Approval is a bit interesting in this race. The filly, who is named after her sire, has posted some outstanding times down at Gulfstream Park. Her only bad performance was when she failed to hit the board on a track labeled “good” and she will not encounter that at Keeneland Saturday. While she is taking a big step up the class, she could be any kind of filly and should be included in your vertical wagers.
As for horses that I believe are win contenders, I settled on those fillies that like to stalk or come from a bit off the pace. Southern Gal (12-1) fits this profile and is trained by Larry Jones. The Tapit filly is a half-sister to the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man. Her pedigree suggests that she should be a “two-turn” horse, yet she has won all her races at sprint distances, which shows class. She beat older horses in her last race, the Shine Again, at Laurel. Southern Gal shows two works at the track and you get Florent Geroux in the saddle. The price is right and she is worth a look for win honors. For multi-race bets she is a “B”.
As for my “A” horses, I landed on Sophia’s Song (5-1) and Lightstream (3-1). Sophia’s Song was purchased at the bargain price of $30k at the 2015 OBS sale. She has been quite the bargain winning three of six career starts and finishing in the exacta in five of them. She has typically set the pace, but in her last race the Charlestown Oaks, she was taken off the early speed and closed strongly, beaten by just a neck. While she failed to win that race imploring those tactics, I believe it set her up perfect for this race. Pletcher is always dangerous when he ships in and wins at a rate of 25%. Adding to the intrigue is this will be her third start off-the-layoff, an angle that Pletcher’s horses taste victory at a 24% rate.
As for my key horse, I landed on Lightstream for trainer Brian Lynch. While she is the morning-line favorite, I do believe she is the most likely winner of the race and the filly you will want to key and wheel. I have always been impressed with the Harlan’s Holiday filly and cashed a nice ticket on her when she broke her maiden at Gulfstream Park. She followed that performance by immediately being placed into the stakes company and she did not disappoint, winning the Grade 3 Beaumont Stakes here at Keeneland. She was just nipped by Paola Queen in the Grade 1 Test and although she has not raced in two months, I like her work pattern coming in. The outside post does not temper my enthusiasm. The abundance of early speed signed in this race should allow her to tuck in after breaking from the gate. Lightstream has the best closing kick and let’s hope the daughter of North Beach lights up the Raven Run coming down the stretch.