Just as the Saratoga and Del Mar race meets are synonymous with summer in the sport of horse racing, Keeneland’s annual October race meet is synonymous with the arrival of fall.
This year’s much-anticipated fall meet kicks off on October 6th, and as usual, the stakes schedule is packed with “Win and You’re In” prep races for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The feature race on the opening-day card is the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I), which offers the winner a free spot in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), and the allure of Keeneland has resulted in a full field for the 1 1/16-mile event. More than full, actually, since two of the sixteen entrants are on the also-eligible list.
Leading the charge is Restless Rider, who overcame a rough trip to win the June 30th Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs by nearly a dozen lengths. Subsequently, the daughter of Distorted Humor shipped to Saratoga and proved her class against tough competition by finishing a strong second in the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I).
Her trainer, Kenny McPeek, has won the Alcibiades three times before, but in Restless Rider, he believes he might have an extra-special filly. “Of all the horses I have run in the Alcibiades, she may have the most raw talent of any of them,” McPeek told Keeneland the day before entries were drawn.
Bella Ciao, Reflect, and Catherinethegreat—who finished fourth, sixth, and ninth in the Spinaway Stakes—will join Restless Rider in the Alcibiades field, with Catherinethegreat looming as one of the shorter-priced contenders since she had won Saratoga’s Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III) impressively prior to her disappointing effort in the Spinaway. The unbeaten Into Trouble, winner of the Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes over the Polytrack at Arlington, and Boujie Girl, third in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) last time out, are other logical contenders.
But those are hardly the only stakes-experienced runners in the Alcibiades field—Meadow Dance steps up for trainer Brad Cox off a third-place finish in the Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes, My Wynter Rose seeks improvement from her recent fourth-place finish in the Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II), Kim K ships in from California off a win in the Barretts Debutante Stakes at Los Alamitos, Malocchio travels from the East Coast after finishing second in Monmouth Park’s Sorority Stakes, Somewhere hopes her second stakes try goes better than her fifth-place finish in the Ellis Park Debutante Stakes, and Chocolate Kisses tries dirt after finishing third in the P.G. Johnson Stakes over the Saratoga turf course.
Completing the main body of the field are Lady T N T, an impressive winner of two sprints at Saratoga and Churchill Downs, and Abbo, a maiden winner at Laurel Park. Champagne Anyone and Khairiya are the two also-eligibles.
The Alcibiades Stakes is the ninth race on the card, with a post time of 5:30 p.m. Eastern.