The Grade 3, $125,000 Valley View at Keeneland will be renewed at Keeneland on Friday, and for the second time in four years the 1 1/16-mile grass test for three-year-old fillies will be run in two divisions.
Colonial Flag, who captured the Grade 3 Ontario Colleen at Woodbine in her most recent start in late August, might start as a slight favorite in the first division. A maiden breaker during the Keeneland spring meet in April, the daughter of Pleasant Tap went on to finish second in the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill Downs. She rebounded from a last-place effort in the Grade 1 American Oaks to take the one-mile Ontario Colleen by a length for trainer Michael Matz.
Arlington Park's Grade 3 Pucker Up, traditionally a feeder race for the Valley View, has yielded several first division starters including Miss Cato and Volcat, who both missed in a three-way photo for the top prize in that nine-furlong test. Miss Cato had previously run fourth in the American Oaks, while Volcat had landed a key renewal of the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks in July.
Hall of Famer Bill Mott will saddle Alaura Michele, who captured the restricted Nani Rose at Saratoga in July before running third to eventual Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup heroine Dayatthespa in the August 31 Riskaverse at the Spa. The multiple stakes winner has struggled on yielding and soft ground in the past, which might explain her dull sixth in the September 20 Given at Belmont Park. That race's runner-up and third, Medolina and Nayarra, re-oppose here.
Keeneland mainstays Phil Oliver, Jonathan Sheppard and Rusty Arnold will be represented by Closing Range, Angel Terrace and Run a Risk, respectively, while the Monmouth-based Cosmic Energy enters on a three-race win streak for trainer Tim Hills.
The Chad Brown-trained Pianist will likely be a solid favorite in the second division of the Valley View off a daylight score in the aforementioned Given. Pianist romped by 5 1/2 lengths in the one-mile overnight stakes on yielding ground, but she handled firmer footing just fine with a stalk-and-pounce Saratoga allowance triumph by three lengths in her penultimate outing.
The once-beaten Leading Astray, who won the Pucker Up by a neck, Grade 3 Boiling Springs vixen Dancing Solo, and last year's Grade 3 Miesque queen More Than Love are among the other notables in this Valley View half, while Miz Ida is not far from being graded stakes caliber with stakes wins at Fair Grounds, Indiana Downs and Kentucky Downs this term.
Welcome Dance, a winner of two minor stakes at Delaware Park, should show speed from post 3. On the opposite end of the running spectrum is Irish-bred Freedom Reigns, whose late rallies in the Hatoof and Pucker Up at Arlington came up a nose and a length short of Leading Astray.