Darling My Darling tracked dueling favorites Surfside and Roxelana and rallied through the stretch to win the $75,000 Raven Run Stakes Wednesday at Keeneland. Surfside set fast opening fractions of :21.58 and :43.44 seconds while pressed by even-money favorite Roxelana and edged away on the turn to lead by a length after six furlongs in 1:08.20. At the sixteenth pole, Darling My Darling surged by to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Under jockey Mike Smith, Debby M. Oxley's 3-year-old daughter of Deputy Minister completed the seven furlongs in 1:20.88 on a fast track. The winning time was just off the track record of 1:20 1/5 (1:20.39) set by Binalong in 1993.
"The two other horses (Surfside and Roxelana) were up there going head to head and I felt real confident that I would have a shot at them," said Smith. "I was just sitting there, and I thought if I could get her to switch (leads) that we could go by. All of a sudden, she switched on me and everything fell right together. She really kicked it in and went right on about her business."
Surfside finished second, two lengths clear of Cat Cay, who closed along the inside after spotting the leaders nearly 12 lengths through the early stages of the race. Roxelana was fourth, followed by Frankly My Dear and Heavens Above. Sumthintotalkabout was scratched.
Surfside's trainer D. Wayne Lukas said the 3-year-old daughter of Seattle Slew--Flanders, who returned from a six-month layoff in the Raven Run, will be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I). "I will get married to her for the next three weeks and she'll be ready," the conditioner added.
Darling My Darling, on the other hand, is not considered likely for the Breeders' Cup but may race at Churchill on Breeders' Cup weekend.
"No Breeders' Cup," trainer John T. Ward Jr said of the winner. "This is her first real crack out of the box."
The win was the third in eight starts for Darling My Darling, who earned $39,968 for the win. Darling My Darling won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park to start the year and subsequently finished third in the Beaumont Stakes (gr. II) and eighth in the Acorn Stakes (gr. I). The Raven Run was her first race in four months. As a juvenile, she finished second in both the Matron and Frizette Stakes, both grade I's, before fading to finish fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Darling My Darling was bred in Kentucky by W.S. Farish, Alice Lupton, and Frank T. Mansell.
Darling My Darling paid $18.60, $5.80 and $4. The winning exacta was worth $56.80.
One race before the Raven Run, Number One Sheikh set blazing early fractions and held on to win an allowance race by three lengths, breaking the Keeneland course record for 6 1/2 furlongs in the process. The 3-year-old, sent off at 19-1 and equipped with blinkers for the first time, stopped the timer in 1:14.70 under jockey Craig Perret after running an opening quarter-mile in :21.36 and the half in :43.78. The final time shaves .12 seconds off the previous record for 6 1/2 furlongs set by The Trader's Echo in 1999. Number One Sheikh is a 3-year-old son of Sheikh Albadou owned by La Familia Stable and trained by Scott Murphy. The chestnut colt was bred in Kentucky by Kerber Milling Co. (Charts, Equibase