Favored Meribel circled the field 10 wide leaving the final turn and rallied to avenge an earlier loss to Precious Kitten and win the $125,000 Valley View (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland Friday.The 1 1/16-mile race was moved to the all-weather Polytrack surface because of the wet condition of the turf course, which did not result in a reduction of the event's graded stake status. The switch made no difference to the daughter of Peaks and Valleys and her jockey, Garrett Gomez. Running last in the 13-horse field with five-sixteenths of a mile remaining, Meribel launched her bid under Gomez and defeated Precious Kitten by a half length. It was another half-length back to third-place May Night."I'd say most of the time (horses) sit back there and eat a lot of dirt," said Gomez. "On this Polytrack, they have no kickback. Horses that get back there settle into a nice stride and make a nice run. They don't have to fight their way through the clods and the dirt."Meribel, whose three previous victories came on the turf, ran the distance on the recently installed Polytrack in 1:42.95 and earned $77,500 for owners Arthur B. Hancock III and Catesby W. Clay."She's a filly that has a very quick turn of foot and she finishes her races very well," said Nicholas Bachalard, assistant to winning trainer Christophe Clement. "She had a tendency to lug in before. Lately she's been very good."The winner, who won in spite of a brief bumping incident with Pure Incentive when straightened for the drive, paid $6.20, $3.80 and $3. Precious Kitten, who edged Meribel by a neck last time out in the Martha Washington Breeders' Cup at Laurel, returned $5.20 and $3.60. May Night paid $6.20.Pure Incentive finished fourth, followed by Rasta Farian, J'ray, Mysterious Lina, Delmarva, Southern Protocol, Soothsay, Transmit, Tiz a Fantasy and Idle Quest. There were no scratches in the field of 13.
A victory by J'ray in the Valley View would have tied Todd Pletcher with his mentor D. Wayne Lukas for the record number of graded stakes wins -- 53 -- in a single year. Rafael Bejarano, who is battling with Julien Leparoux for leading jockey during the current meeting, rode Precious Kitten after returning from a fall in the second race. He won the final event of the day aboard Starlet Sky.Academy Talks, a 2-year-old making only his second start, swerved into the inside rail near where the seven-furlong chute intersects the main track, sending Bejarano to the ground. After sitting out four races, he returned to finish second aboard Precious Kitten in the Valley View and win the 10th race.(Chart, Equibase)