The second week of Keeneland’s fall meet begins today, highlighted by the $200,000 Grade 2 Jessamine Stakes for 2-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
The race is the last and 10th Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” event at Keeneland, with the winner receiving an automatic berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita on Friday, Nov. 1.
The field of 14 (although 16 have entered) is slotted as race 7 of the 8-race card with an approximate post time of 4:24 p.m. ET.
#6, Sweet Melania, Jose Ortiz, 9-2
Jose Ortiz returns for his third straight mount aboard Sweet Melania, who will be making her fifth career start (1-1-2). After two straight thirds in her first two starts at Belmont and Monmouth Park respectively, she won her first with Ortiz aboard by 1 ¼ lengths over Morning Gold in a $90,000 maiden special weight at Saratoga on July 14. Six weeks later, she finished runner-up by a neck to Crystalle in the $100,000 P.G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 29 for trainer Todd Pletcher. A couple of things in her favor: the last 5 Jessamine winners and nine of the last 10 have exited prep races either at Saratoga or Belmont and 7 of the last 8 winners have exited preps one mile or longer (1 1/16 miles for Sweet Melania’s last start). Only drawback, this will be her first graded stakes race. I like the rest of the resume and believe she can continue her string of solid performances. The pick.
#5, Jezebel’s Kitten, Florent Geroux, 4-1
Jezebel’s Kitten has an unblemished record thus far after two first-place victories at Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs respectively in Aug. She broke her maiden with a head win over Edgee Angel in a $50,000 maiden special weight at Ellis Park on Aug. 10 and followed up with and followed up with an impressive 4 3/4 length victory over Ask Bailey as the second choice in the $500,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Kentucky Downs on Aug. 31. Geroux gets back on for his second straight start and that’s a huge positive for trainer Brad Cox, who is 2-2-0 in eight starts at Keeneland this meet, good for second entering today’s card. It doesn’t hurt either that her sire is 2013 Jessamine winner Kitten Kaboodle. Runner-up by a small margin.
#9, Diamond Sparkles, Tyler Gaffalione, 6-1
After winning in her second career start at Thirsk Racecourse in North Yorkshire, England on July 26, she made her way across the pond to finish fourth in the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes where she was gaining late in a stretch drive with three other horses on Sept. 15 at Woodbine. Abscond ($21.00) won the race by a nose over Walk in Marrakesh (IRE), who finished a nose over Fair Maiden, who finished a neck ahead of Diamond Sparkles. The Natalma race will help her down the road and Gaffalione coming back for his second mount also helps. This will be her first race in the states and her first two turn test. Contender.
#4, Indochine, John Velazquez, 5-1
Indochine comes off a three-quarters of a length win over Velvet Crush in a $75,000 maiden special weight at Belmont on Sept. 14 for her first triumph in two career starts. In her first start, she finished third with Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard in a $90,000 maiden special weight at Saratoga on Aug. 9. Trainer Chad Brown goes back to Velazquez in this spot and this will certainly better the chances for a filly who is on the improve and is stepping up against previous stakes-tested contenders. In the mix.
By Lou Monaco