Firing the opening stakes salvo of the fall meet, an experienced cast of eight is set to load onto Keeneland's turf course to contest the $150,000 Sycamore Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT) over 1 1/2 miles Friday.
If history repeats, then George Strawbridge and Augustin Stable's Rochester, a homebred back-to-back Sycamore winner of 2001-'02, could run away with his third gold julep cup.
Trained by Jonathan Sheppard, the 9-year-old son of Green Dancer was no match for Silverfoot in the final strides of the Sept. 24 Kentucky Cup Turf Handicap (gr. III)--another race this millionaire captured back-to-back--finishing 6 3/4 lengths behind.
On the board in 12 graded stakes races, including two seconds in Keeneland's spring version of the Sycamore, the Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIIT), Rochester knows the course well should find a stalking trip from post three under 120 pounds and Hall of Famer Gary Stevens.
The main threat appears to come from Trillium Stable's dual grade II winner--and former steeplechaser--Dreadnaught. The 5-year-old Lac Ouimet gelding, out of the Sovereign Dancer mare Wing of Dreams, had no response for foes in his last two starts in Belmont's Man o' War (gr. IT) or Saratoga's Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) but should fit well with this group.
Bred in Kentucky by David Pennington, Dreadnaught was a $15,500 sale yearling at Keeneland November in 2000 and has earned $331,524--much of it off scores in the 2004 W. L. McKnight (gr. IIT) and Red Smith Handicaps (gr. IIT) at Calder and Aqueduct, respectively.
Conditioner Tom Voss gives Dreadnaught the services of longtime rider Jean-Luc Samyn ("Samyn on the green") for a likely late-running trip from Rochester's immediate right.
Dreadnaught is the race's 122-pound co-highweight.
Also shouldering 122 is the Bobby Frankel-trained Vangelis. The 6-year-old son of French stallion Highest Honor suffered some poor racing luck in the Man o' War, leaping in the air at the start and running fourth behind winner Better Talk Now.
Vangelis also fared slightly better than Dreadnaught in the Sword Dancer with a game, steady inside run to get the place money behind King's Drama and Relaxed Gesture.
Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds, Michael Hernon, Joe Hernon, and Michael Andree, and owned by Hubert Guy and Cheveley Park Farm, Vangelis has two stakes wins in France--the Prix d'Harcourt (Fr--III) at Longchamp; and the Grand Prix de Vichy (Fr-III)--and it certainly wouldn't surprise if he and Frankel, who is looking to find this one a win, steal the cup.
Vangelis and Edgar Prado will break from post eight.
Let It Thunder, Tempered Steel, Ball Four, Noble Masterpiece, and Clear Forecast round out the field.Sycamore Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT), Friday, Oct. 7, 3-year-olds and upward, 1 1/2 miles, $150,000, estimated post time 4:15 p.m. EDT.
PP -- Horse, Weight, Jockey
1 -- Let It Thunder, 120, Jesus Castanon
2 -- Tempered Steel, 120, Rafael Bejarano
3 -- Rochester, 120, Gary Stevens
4 -- Dreadnaught, 122, Samyn
5 -- Ball Four, 120, Leparoux
6 -- Noble Masterpiece, 120, Mike Smith
7 -- Clear Forecast, 120, James Graham
8 -- Vangelis, 122, Edgar Prado