Six older fillies and mares are matched in Keeneland's Wednesday feature, the 1 1/2-mile, $100,000 Bewitch Stakes (gr. IIIT). The Patrick Biancone-trained Angara won last year's event, spring-boarding off an explosive allowance win to open the meet. The conditioner looks to repeat the tactic with Louve Royale, a driving April 9 allowance winner over the course.
This spring marks the 46th running of the event named for the great Calumet Farm champion race mare, who retired in 1951 after 55 starts and earnings of $462,605. Sam Huff's Bursting Forth, winner of the 1999 running, holds the stakes record at 2:27 2/5.
Gary Tanaka's Noble Stella is the 7-5 morning-line favorite. Bred in Germany by Gestut Etzean (also breeder of 2004 Bewitch winner Meridiana), Noble Stella is a daughter of German stallion Monsun, sire of 2005 John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Shirocco.
The 5-year-old mare raced in Italy before shipping stateside in 2004. Her North American record includes 2005 stakes wins in the nine-furlong Dance Smartly Handicap (Can-IIIT) and 1 1/2-mile Flaming Page Stakes at Woodbine.
The Roger Attfield trainee shipped into Keeneland off a tired third-place effort in the Orchid Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream and has a six-furlong (1:14.20) April 18 work over a firm Keeneland main track.
On the board in 12 of 21 starts, Noble Stella has earned $381,894 and lands the services of Edgar Prado, aboard for Meridiana's 2004 win.
The pair will break from the rail.
Joseph Allen owns 5-2 second choice Louve Royale, a head winner over Sky High Flyer in the April 9 Keeneland allowance over 8 1/2 furlongs. Patrick Biancone has this 5-year-old daughter of Peintre Celebre stabled at Turfway Park to take advantage of the Polytrack surface where she has been working impressively all spring.
Bred in Ireland by Dayton Investments and unraced until May of her 3-year-old season, Louve Royale has yet to win a stakes race but may be ready to jump up. She was an energized third in the 1 1/2-mile Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes over the course last October and has been on the board in all six of her North American starts, including a second place finish by a neck in last year's Memories of Silver Stakes at Belmont.
Julien Leparoux, the meet's leading rider by wins, was aboard in Louve Royale's track win and gets the call from Biancone for a trip from Noble Stella's immediate right.
Adding some spice to the affair is Pin Oak Stable's Sweet Science, also a winner of an opening weekend (April 8) allowance over the course at the 1 1/2-mile distance of the Bewitch.
Bred in Kentucky by Josephine Abercrombie's Pin Oak Stud and trained by Graham Motion, this 5-year-old daughter of Diesis
--All the Rage, by Lyphard has placed in 10 of her 11 starts, including a second-place finish to Honey Ryder in last year's Robert G. Dick Memorial Breeders' Cup Handicap at Delaware Park.
Sweet Science showed early speed in the Keeneland allowance win, leading or close much of the way, and may try that tactic from the outside sixth position under Rafael Bejarano.
Recent Gulfstream allowance winners Shared Dreams, trained by Christophe Clement; Bea Plus, a George Weaver trainee; and the Cecil Stewart-trained Mama I'm Home round out the field.Bewitch S. (gr. IIIT), Keeneland, Wednesday, April 26, fillies and mares, 4-years-old and up, 1 1/2 miles, $100,000, estimated post time 4:45 p.m. EDT.
PP -- Horse, jockey, odds
1 -- Noble Stella (GER), Edgar Prado, 7-5
2 -- Louve Royale (IRE), Julien Leparoux, 5-2
3 -- Shared Dreams (GB), Javier Castellano, 5-1
4 -- Bea Plus (KY), Robby Albarado, 8-1
5 -- Mama I'm Home (FL), Willie Martinez, 15-1
6 -- Sweet Science (KY), Rafael Bejarano, 3-1