Eskimo Kisses, Blue Prize Among Big Names in Keeneland's Spinster Stakes
There’s a good chance that when the dust settles after Sunday’s $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, a new Grade 1 winner will have been crowned.The 1 1/8-mile race has attracted a deep, competitive field of eleven fillies and mares—all vying for the winner’s share of the purse plus a “Win and You’re In” berth to the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I)—but despite the overall quality of the field, only one entrant has previously succeeded at the Grade 1 level in North America.
That one runner is Eskimo Kisses, who took advantage of a fast pace to a score a late-running 6 ½-length victory in the 1 ¼-mile Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga this summer. Trained by Kenny McPeek, the three-year-old daughter of To Honor and Serve was much the best against a strong field that included the next-out graded stakes winners She’s a Julie and Midnight Bisou, though it remains to be seen whether Eskimo Kisses will enjoy such a perfect pace setup again in the Spinster.
Certainly the connections of Talk Veuve to Me are hoping for a different setup. Talk Veuve to Me finished fourth in the Alabama after carving out the pace, but she was beaten just a half-length for second place in a strong performance. She had previously won the Indiana Oaks (gr. III) in decisive fashion, and the cutback in distance for the Spinster should help Talk Veuve to Me stretch her speed more successfully than in the Alabama.
Chocolate Martini and Sassy Sienna are other three-year-old fillies facing older runners after enjoying successful campaigns against their own age group; both won graded stakes races this year and competed in the Kentucky Oaks, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. Skeptic didn’t run in the Kentucky Oaks, but she did score a breakthrough victory over Sassy Sienna in the Monmouth Oaks (gr. III) this summer and appears to be on the rise.
Among the older mares, Blue Prize and Champagne Problems—separated by a nose when running 1-2 in the Locust Grove Stakes (gr. III) last month—are among the major players. Both are graded stakes winners this year, and Blue Prize finished third in last year’s Spinster prior to emerging as a graded stakes star, so it would come as no surprise to see Blue Prize improve on her Spinster finish this time around.
Pacific Wind, winner of the Ruffian Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont in the spring, ships in from New York for trainer Chad Brown and will seek to rebound from a couple of disappointing efforts in her last two runs. Tiger Moth, a veteran graded stakes winner, and Fuhriously Kissed, third in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) in April, are among the tried-and-true veterans of the field with lots of racing miles under their belts. Completing the field is Fuhriously Kissed’s speedy stablemate Southernperfection, who figures to act as a pacemaker while stepping up sharply in class.
The Spinster Stakes is the ninth race of the day, with a post time of 5:45 p.m. Eastern.