California shipper Wickedly Perfect carried her good form to Kentucky, taking a field of juvenile fillies wire-to-wire to score the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) by two lengths Oct. 8 on opening day at Keeneland.
Rafael Bejarano, who swept both stakes at Keeneland, guided the daughter of Congrats to her second graded victory in the 1 1/16-mile Alcibiades. They covered the distance on Polytrack in 1:46.26 as the 3-2 favorite. Doug O’Neill trains Wickedly Perfect for STD Racing, Rafter JR Ranch, and Peter Moehrke.
The gray/roan filly entered the Alcibiades off a runner-up finish in the grade I Darley Debutante Sept. 4 at Del Mar. She won both starts prior to that, including the Sorrento Stakes (gr. III), which was also on Del Mar’s Polytrack.
Bejarano had ridden Wickedly Perfect in her previous three starts and wasted no time asking her to do what she does best—run on the front end. They got away with easy fractions too, leading six rivals through splits of :24.48, :50.19, and 1:15.95. Second choice Wonderlandbynight, the Arlington-Washington Lassie (gr. III) winner from Sept. 11, chased the leader under E. T. Baird, while Dos Lunas and Jordy Y were also up close.
Wickedly Perfect cut the corner sharply and hit the top of the stretch with a comfortable 1 1/2-length advantage. She repelled a challenge from Jordy Y in mid-stretch, hitting the wire in front with room to spare. Harlan's Ruby and Julien Leparoux closed late to nose Jordy Y for second. Wonderlandbynight was fourth.
O’Neill confirmed after the race that Wickedly Perfect will be pointed toward the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
"She's always trained like a filly that wanted to run long," O'Neill said. "That's why we put blinkers on her in her first start. She's shown amazing speed in all her races, but she's always acted like a filly that would want a distance of ground. Churchill Downs here we come."
"Doug did such a great training job," Bejarano said. "She was relaxed in the first quarter; she was so relaxed I knew she could do anything in the race. I think she's going to be tough (in the BC Juvenile Fillies). She won't have to be on the lead next time."
The winner was purchased for $70,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s April sale of 2-year-olds in training. Bred in Florida by Y-Lo Racing Stables, she is out of the Tactical Cat mare Wickedly Wise. She has now earned $404,600.
Wickedly Perfect paid $5, $3.20, and $2.40. The exacta (6-2) returned $24.60 and the trifecta (6-2-3) was $68.20.
Forest Legend was fifth, followed by Dos Lunas, and Brushfirefairytale.
One race earlier in the $175,000 Phoenix Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO), lightly-raced 3-year-old Wise Dan defeated older horses in his impressive stakes debut, running down favored Hollywood Hit inside the sixteenth-pole to win by a half-length.
Bejarano guided Wise Dan to victory for Charles Lopresti. They covered six furlongs on the Polytrack in 1:09.20. Wise Dan is a gelded son of Wiseman's Ferry, out of the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle. He is owned by Morton Fink.
Lopresti also trains Here Comes Ben, the Forego (gr. I) winner who is expected to be one of the favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I). The Kentucky-based conditioner was undecided if Wise Dan would also go onto Churchill Downs for the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I), even though the Phoenix was a “Win and You’re In” event.
“He’s done some stuff in the morning here, so I knew he was going to be ready," Lopresti said. "I didn’t know if he was going to be seasoned enough against these older horses. He’s really, really fast.
“We’ll make a decision about (the Breeders’ Cup) in three-four days; we don’t want to do wrong thing by the horse. He has a very bright future. He’s only a 3-year-old."
Bejarano gave Wise Dan a perfect ground-saving trip, racing in fourth but not far behind the leaders—longshot Goldzar, Hollywood Hit, and Canonize. Goldzar guided the field of 11 through splits of :22.23,and :45.22 before Hollywood Hit, who entered the race having won five of his last seven, took over just after the quarter-pole. He opened up a 1 1/2-length lead at the top of the stretch, but Bejarano swung Wise Dan away from the rail in his bid to catch the leader.
They finally collared Hollywood Hit inside the sixteenth-pole while drifting toward the center of the racetrack, and inched clear for the 6-1 upset. Hollywood Hit and James McAleney were three lengths clear of grade I winner Warrior's Reward for runner-up. Goldzar, sent off at 79-1, held fourth.
Wise Dan was making only his fourth career start in the Phoenix. He broke his maiden at second asking by more than 15 lengths March 27 at Turfway Park and last out won an allowance race by 3 1/2 lengths on the slop at Churchill Downs May 1. He has now earned $148,274.
The winner paid $15.20, $7, and $4. The exacta (3-7) returned $72.20 and the trifecta (3-7-5) was $233.40.
Notes: The announced attendance on an absolutely perfect fall day in Lexington was 17,148…Trainer Donnie Von Hemel and jockey Jesus Castanon teamed up to win a pair of races, taking the opener with 3-year-old Secessionist in a maiden event, and race 3 with favored Caleb’s Posse in an allowance sprint. His triumph aboard Secessionist was Castanon's 2,000th career win...Shane Sellers won the nightcap aboard Such Time as This for his first win at Keeneland since 2004.