A pair of six-furlong graded stakes events, the $300,000 Thoroughbred Club of America (gr. III) for fillies and mares and the $250,000 Phoenix Breeders' Cup (gr. III), support the Keeneland program Oct. 4 that features a pair of grade I races.
In the TCA, which is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race for the Sentient Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita Oct. 24, Wild Gams returns to defend her 2007 title against nine tough rivals. The entrants include grade I victor Golden Doc A (who is also entered in the grade III Indiana Oaks) and graded winners Indyanne, Any Limit, Sugar Swirl, and Sweet Hope.
Trainer Ben Perkins, who is overseeing Wild Gams for his son Ben Jr., at Keeneland, says the 5-year-old Forest Wildcat mare is “much better than she has ever been.”
With last year's win in the TCA, New Farm's New Jersey homebred Wild Gams earned a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Monmouth Park, where she ran ninth over sloppy going.
A two-time winner in four starts in 2008, she will break from post 7 under Miguel Mena.
“We shipped her straight down here from Presque Isle so she could train over the track,” said Ben Perkins Jr., noting Wild Gams worked five furlongs in :59 2/5 over the Polytrack Sept. 26.
It was the first work for Wild Gams since she won the $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes, a victory that pushed her earnings to $1,138,486. She had run second in the same race last year before her TCA triumph.
“We had given her the summer off last year to address some issues and all of those seem to be behind her now,” Perkins said. “I think she is better now at 5 than she was at 4 because she has filled in a lot this year.”
Perkins blamed an equipment decision for Wild Gam's poorest performance in two years.
“We had put glue-on shoes on her, and it was too late to change them,” Perkins said. “She never got hold of the track.”
A confirmed stalker, Wild Gams will need to have her running shoes this time to keep close to some of the fillies in this group.
Any Limit comes off a front-running, 5 3/4-length romp in the five-horse Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) at Saratoga Aug. 1. Indyanne, a 9 1/2-length victor in Calder's Azalea (gr. III) earlier this summer, had never been behind at any call in her four-race career until she was upset by a half-length in her last start, the Victory Ride (gr. III) at Saratoga Aug. 23, by Porte Bonheur. Sugar Swirl, third-place finisher as the favorite in Saratoga's Ballerina (gr. I) Aug. 24, and Delaware Park's Endine Handicap (gr. III) winner Sweet Hope, can also be very quick.
The Phoenix, the oldest stakes race in America, drew 12 sprinters for its 156th running.
Among the starters are three horses from Woodbine, which also has a Polytrack racing surface: Disfunction, a grade III winner who is exiting an allowance win Sept. 6; stakes winner Emirates to Dubai, who was fifth in the Play the King (Can-II) on Aug. 23; and Legal Move, who is coming off a win in the six-furlong Kenora. Five other starters have raced on an artificial surface, with mixed results for some of them.
Among the starters who haven't raced on an artificial surface are Talent Search, who has not raced at all since November 2007 when he was second in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I). The 5-year-old, trained by Mark Shuman, ran second in Belmont Park's Vosburgh (gr. I) before finishing third in the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) last year as well.
Also entered for his first try on synthetic is Greeley's Conquest, who was second in the Forego (gr. I) at Saratoga in his most recent race.
Keeneland's card includes the $150,000 Woodford, a 5 1/2-furlong dash on the turf headed by Team Block's Fort Prado, who won the Woodford in 2007. Cynthia Knight's Hold the Salt defeated Fort Prado in the Kentucky Cup Turf Dash at Kentucky Downs Sept. 13.
Twelve entered the Woodford.
$250,000 Phoenix Stakes (gr. III, Race 5, 3:18 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Sing Baby Sing (KY), 118, Justin Shepherd
2. Disfunction (BC), 120, Kent J. Desormeaux
3. Pictural (KY), 118, Cornelio H. Velasquez
4. Nakayama Arashi (FL), 118, Matthew Straight
5. Talent Search (KY), 118, Rafael Bejarano
6. Emirates to Dubai (KY), 118, Corey J. Lanerie
7. Ravalo (KY), 118, Calvin H. Borel
8. Noonmark (KY), 120, Julien R. Leparoux
9. Carnacks Choice (FL), 118, Rene R. Douglas
10. Legal Move (ON), 120, Miguel Mena
11. Greeley's Conquest (KY), 118, Jamie Theriot
12. Semaphore Man (KY), 120, Robby Albarado
$300,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, 5:30 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Indyanne (KY), 118, Robby Albarado
2. Dhanyata (IRE), 118, Jesus L. Castanon
3. Golden Doc A (CA), 122, Calvin H. Borel
4. Graeme Six (FL), 120, Julien R. Leparoux
5. Sugar Swirl (ON), 122, Rafael Bejarano
6. Cash's Girl (FL), 120, Jose C. Caraballo
7. Wild Gams (NJ), 120, Miguel Mena
8. Any Limit (KY), 122, Cornelio H. Velasquez
9. Sweet Hope (KY), 118, Kent J. Desormeaux
10. Indian Delight (KY), 118, Rene R. Douglas