Centre Court to Defend Jenny Wiley Title
G. Watts Humphrey's 5-year-old mare Centre Court will attempt become only the second repeat winner of the Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland when she takes on nine rivals in the 1 1/16-mile turf race April 12.
The only dual Jenny Wiley victor was Intercontinental, who captured the race in 2004-05. The $300,000 contest is the second of three grade I stakes on Saturday's 12-race program that begins at 12:35 p.m. ET. The Jenny Wiley will go as the 10th race with a 5:13 post time.
Centre Court, a daughter of Smart Strike —Let, by A.P. Indy, enters the Jenny Wiley with a total of six graded stakes victories to her credit and seven wins overall from 15 starts with earnings of $909,845. The dark bay or brown mare posted three uncharacteristic off-the-board efforts last year, however, after which trainer Rusty Arnold decided to investigate whether she suffered from a physical issue.
"She went wrong at the end of last year...she was sore and I couldn't find it, so we sent her to Dr. Bramlage and he diagnosed her with a strained muscle in her glutes," said Arnold. "It wasn't torn; we just had to give her some time off and she's come back very well."
After being turned out at a farm for four months, Centre Court resumed light training, and then successfully defended her title in the Honey Fox Stakes (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream Park over fellow Jenny Wiley foe Kitten's Point. It was Centre Court's first start since finishing eighth in the Ballston Spa (gr. IIT) at Saratoga Race Course last August.
Bred in Kentucky by Humphrey and his mother's Louise Ireland Humphrey Revocable Trust, Centre Court has notched additional victories in the 2012 Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT), Lake George Stakes (gr. IIT), and Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT). She also ran second in that year's Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland.
"She's done excellent since she's been back," said Arnold. "She trained good in Florida and ran very well (in the Honey Fox) for a horse that hadn't been out in seven months. She came out of it well, and she's done well here (at Keeneland)."
While Arnold feels good about Centre Court's chances in the Jenny Wiley, he acknowledged the fact the race boasts a talented cast of powerhouse females.
"It's a tough group," he said. "Stephanie's Kitten is always tough—they all are. It's a good, solid bunch. We'll see if we've got her back good enough."
Julien Leparoux, who has been aboard for the majority of Centre Court's starts, has the mount again on the mare, who will break from post position 10.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's 5-year-old homebred mare Stephanie's Kitten won the 2011 Darley Alcibiades (gr. I) at the Jenny Wiley distance at Keeneland, as well as that year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT). She got her first grade I victory on grass in last year's Longines Just A Game Stakes at Belmont Park.
Trained by Chad Brown, Stephanie's Kitten will break from post position 2 and be ridden by John Velazquez. The daughter of Kitten's Joy —Unfold the Rose, by Catienus was bred in Kentucky.
Another threat in the Jenny Wiley is last year's Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) winner, Discreet Marq. The 4-year-old daughter of Discreet Cat has not raced since finishing second by a nose in the Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) at Betfair Hollywood Park in December.
Trained by Christophe Clement for Patricia Generazio, she will break from post 8 under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
Rounding out the field are other grade/group stakes winners Kitten's Point, Emotional Kitten, Abaco, Class Included, Hard Not to Like, Fitful Skies, and Cloud Scapes. The latter filly became Smart Strike's 100th stakes winner when she captured the March 8 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT).
$300,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. I, approximate post time 5:13 p.m. EDT), fillies and mares, 4YOs and up, 1 1/16 miles (turf)
Copyright © 2014 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.