The opportunity that currently presents itself to Romantic Vision couldn't have come at a better time.
Her first couple seasons on the track were spent working through some physical and mental hiccups—most notably the fit she threw prior to her abysmal career debut. Morphed into a graded stakes-winning professional at the age of 5, a new career looms as the daughter of Lemon Drop Kid is set to join owner G. Watts Humphrey Jr.'s broodmare band for 2018.
Nothing shines up a resume like the bold presence of a grade 1 victory. With many of the top distaffers training up to the Breeders' Cup World Championships in November, the Oct. 8 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (G1) at Keeneland represents a spectacular opportunity for Romantic Vision—or one of her dozen challengers—to grab the brass ring.
"She's getting retired at the end of the year so we're going to be aggressive in the last month," trainer Rusty Arnold said. "We'll see if we can get lucky."
Romantic Vision may well be able to get her top-level success on form alone. Of the 13 fillies and mares entered in the 1 1/8-mile Spinister, only the former and Brad Cox-trained Tiger Moth are graded stakes winners, as local divisional stalwart Forever Unbridled is among those training up to the Nov. 3 Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1).
The promise Romantic Vision showed when she won a salty allowance race at Keeneland last October contributed to Humphrey opting to leave her in training for the 2017 season. She repaid that faith two-fold this year, finishing second in the La Troienne Stakes Presented by Spirited Funds (G1) at Churchill Downs May 5 and a 1 1/4-length win in the Sept. 16 Locust Grove Stakes (G3) beneath the Twin Spires.
Patience is something the bay mare has demanded since she first passed the entry box. In her career debut at Gulfstream Park in March 2015, she had a meltdown in the paddock and ended up being eased in the lane by Corey Lanerie.
"She threw a wingding in the paddock that day," Arnold recalled of the mare's first start. "She was probably physically ready to run but mentally wasn't ready. She tried to throw the rider in the post parade and just didn't do any running and possibly even tied up in the post parade. She was just so bad. But she came on and we worked with her and she steadily got a little bit better.
"We took her to Saratoga and she had a foot issue and we stopped on her," Arnold continued. "When we brought her back last year she was a little bit better and Mr. Humphrey said 'I'm going to run this filly at 5.' And boy it paid off. She's been a different horse."
Romantic Vision has won two of her three career starts at Keeneland, including an off-the-pace, two-length triumph in her seasonal bow going 1 1/16 miles in April. She threw in a clunker, eighth behind Forever Unbridled in the June 17 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2), but had a viable excuse when she finished sixth in the Aug. 20 Summer Colony Stakes after going to her knees out of the gate.
"Other than her one race during night racing, they've all been pretty decent races this year," Arnold said. "We put her away intentionally in the summer to get her ready for the fall and here we go."
The representatives of Juddmonte Farms accepted the Spinster trophy on their own behalf in 2013 when their homebred Emollient rallied for the win. They will try and keep the hardware home again Sunday when they run graded stakes-placed Lockdown.
The 3-year-old daughter of First Defence has lost five straight since taking the Jan. 15 Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack, but has been knocking on the door of a breakout effort. She followed her third-place effort in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) with a runner-up finish in the Mother Goose Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park, and she was most recently third in the Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx Racing Sept. 23.
The Bill Mott trainee has a chance to get away from the heavy hitters in her ranks while knocking off elders in the process.
Former Mott assistant Rodolphe Brisset—who counted Emollient among the top mounts he used to pilot in the mornings—will be seeking his first graded stakes win since going out on his own earlier this year. Brisset is set to saddle WinStar Farm's Mo d'Amour in the Spinster and brings the daughter of Uncle Mo off a fourth-place finish in the Locust Grove.
"She ran here in April for Todd (Pletcher) and then I got her in mid-May," Brisset said "She has run three times for me with a second at Indiana Grand and a third at Thistledown. She was fourth in the Locust Grove but she was only beaten two lengths and had a tough trip."
Keeneland, Sunday, October 08, 2017, Race 9
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Martini Glass (KY) Paco Lopez 124 Keith Nations 12/1 2 2Katalust (OH) Ricardo Feliciano 124 Anthony F. Rini 50/1 3 3You Know Too (KY) Alex Cintron 121 Michael E. Gorham 15/1 4 4Duchess of Duke (IN) Luis H. Colon 124 Anthony F. Rini 50/1 5 5Tiger Moth (KY) Corey J. Lanerie 124 Brad H. Cox 6/1 6 6Lockdown (KY) Jose Lezcano 121 William I. Mott 3/1 7 7Turkish Tabby (KY) Robby Albarado 124 Brendan P. Walsh 20/1 8 8Bar of Gold (NY) Luis Saez 124 John C. Kimmel 7/2 9 9Factory of Faith (KY) C.J. McMahon 124 Michael Ann Ewing 30/1 10 10Blue Prize (ARG) James Graham 124 Ignacio Correas, IV 5/1 11 11Romantic Vision (KY) Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 124 George R. Arnold, II 5/1 12 12A Place to Shine (KY) Alex Jimenez 124 Benjamin W. Perkins, Jr. 30/1 13 13Mo d'Amour (KY) Julien R. Leparoux 124 Rodolphe Brisset 10/1
Keeneland, Sunday, October 08, 2017, Race 9