By Amy Owens —-
Near-Record Crowd Enjoys Spectacular Fall Meet Opening Day at Keeneland
Heavenly Love Romps in Darley Alcibiades
Whitmore Wins Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix by a Nose
LEXINGTON, KY (Oct. 6, 2017) – Indian summer weather and exciting racing combined to produce a near-record crowd of 19,204 for opening day of the Keeneland Fall Meet. On-track wagering rose eight percent to $1,470,920, and all-sources handle increased two percent to $8,756,822.
Debby Oxley’s homebred Heavenly Love shook clear at the top of the stretch and drew off to win the 66th running of the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades (G1) for 2-year-old fillies by 5½ lengths over favored Princess Warrior.
Also on Friday, Robert LaPenta, Southern Springs Stables and Head of Plains Partners’ Whitmore won the 165th running of the $250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2).
Trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Julien Leparoux, Heavenly Love covered the 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track in 1:45.32. It was the third victory in the Darley Alcibiades for Casse and the second for Leparoux.
The victory provided Heavenly Love with a fees-paid berth to the $2 million 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) to be run Nov. 4 at Del Mar.
Heavenly Love rated in second place in the early running behind stablemate Dancing, who led the field of 10 through fractions of :23.94, :48.38 and 1:13.81. On the far turn, Heavenly Love surged to the lead and began to widen on the field at the head of the lane.
The victory was worth $240,000 to Heavenly Love, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Malibu Moon out of the Deputy Minister mare Darling My Darling, a two-time Keeneland stakes winner. A winner of two of three starts, Heavenly Love increased her earnings to $322,000.
Heavenly Love returned $13.40, $5.80 and $4.40. Princess Warrior, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., returned $3.40 and $3 and finished 1 ½ lengths in front of Dancing, who paid $6.60 to show under Manny Franco.
It was another 1½ lengths back to Sassy Sienna who was followed in order by Kelly’s Humor, Bet She Wins, Caroline the Great, Arabella Bella, Over Thinking and Pacific Gale.
Quotes from the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades (G1)
Click here for a replay of the race followed by post-race interview with the winning connections
David Carroll (assistant to Mark Casse, winning trainer of Heavenly Love)
“Awesome performance. She trained beautifully. Great ride by Julien (Leparoux), and we’re so happy for the Oxleys; they’re unbelievable owners.” (Heavenly Love is owned by Debby Oxley, whose husband, John, owns two winners earlier on the Keeneland card. All three are trained by Casse and were ridden by Leparoux.)
On whether the filly will advance to the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1)
“I’m sure Mark and Mr. Oxley and Mrs. Oxley will talk about that. As long as she comes back good I don’t see why not.”
Julien Leparoux (winning rider)
“We had a great trip, sitting second (early in the race). She exploded (and took the lead around the final turn) but we still had some left. When she gets to the lead, she kinda looks around. She’s still a little baby, but she’s a very nice filly. She impressed me at Kentucky Downs when she won (a maiden race by 5 lengths on Sept. 17). She repeated it today.”
Brian Hernandez Jr. (rider of runner-up and beaten favorite Princess Warrior)
“Our filly ran good. This was her second start, first time around two turns. She stepped up really nicely today. You always want to win these races, but we’ll have to take second today. We have to be proud of her.”
Kenny McPeek (trainer of Princess Warrior)
“She ran good, real good. She ran like she was an experienced filly, and first time going two turns. I’m pleased.”
On whether she will continue to the Breeders’ Cup
“I don’t know. We’ll talk about it.”
Manny Franco (rider of third-place finisher Dancing)
“She surprised me. She broke sharp and took me to the lead. I just let her go and didn’t fight her. I thought she ran a good race. She was comfortable and it was a decent pace.”
Luis Saez (rider of fourth-place finisher Sassy Sienna)
“She was traveling pretty good. I thought she was going to win the race. But when she really had to make the move, she didn’t really respond to me. I was following the winner, and she was right there with the winner. I thought we had her. She’s still young, she’ll be OK.”
In the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix, Whitmore ran down the pace-setting Awesome Banner to win by a nose with favored Limousine Liberal finishing another neck back in third.
Trained by Ron Moquett and ridden by Manny Franco, Whitmore covered the 6 furlongs on a fast main track in 1:09.90 and added $150,000 to his bankroll. The victory was the first graded stakes triumph at Keeneland for Moquett and Franco.
With the victory, Whitmore earned a fees-paid berth to the $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) to be run Nov. 4 at Del Mar.
Awesome Banner led the field of 11 through fractions of :22.27 and :45.75 with Seventh Sense (TUR) and Mr Manning in closest pursuit.
On the far turn, Whitmore angled to the outside and got first run at Awesome Banner with Limousine Liberal rallying even wider. Those three dueled to the wire as a team with Whitmore narrowly prevailing.
Whitmore posted his third graded stakes victory of 2017 and increased his earnings to $1,172,000 with a record of 15-8-2-3.
Whitmore is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred gelded son of Pleasantly Perfect out of the Scat Daddy mare Melody’s Spirit.
He returned $8.80, $4.80 and $3.40. Awesome Banner, ridden by Jose Lezcano, returned $13.80 and $7.80 with Limousine Liberal, ridden by Jose Ortiz, returning $3.40 to show.
Threefiveindia finished another half-length back in fourth and was followed in order by Loose On the Town, Uncontested, Favorite Tale, Richard the Great, Mr Manning, It’s the Journey and Seventh Sense.
Quotes from the $250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2)
Click here for a replay of the race
Ron Moquett (winning trainer of Whitmore)
“I’m very proud for him. He’s an awesome horse. I’m glad he got to show it today.”
On whether Whitmore will continue to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1)
“I’m going to relish this Phoenix win. The Breeders’ Cup has been our goal. So if everything’s great, we’re going.”
Manny Franco (winning jockey)
“He broke sharp. Ron and I spoke before the race. I was 2-3 lengths behind. When I made my move, he was game. Never give up. Still running. We did it.”
Jose Lezcano (rider of runner-up Awesome Banner)
“He tried real hard, we just got beat. They went really fast early on.”
Jose Ortiz (rider of third-place finisher Limousine Liberal)
“Maybe he was a little wide but I did not have any trouble. No excuses. He ran very good. We might have been off (a step slow at the start) but the plan was to take him back anyway because there was a lot of speed in the race and it worked out well.”
In Friday’s third race, Robby Albarado became the third jockey to win 500 races at Keeneland when he guided Breeze Easy’s Silver Defense ($13.80) to a head victory.
Albarado, who scored his first Keeneland victory during the 1996 Fall Meet, is the third-leading rider here by wins behind Pat Day (918) and Don Brumfield (716). Albarado has been the leading rider four times (Spring 2002, Spring 2003, Fall 2008 and Fall 2009).
“It’s a big honor, because considering all the great jockeys that come through Keeneland, it’s a feat in itself,” Albarado said while holding his young son, Liam. “Just to continue to ride for 27 years of my career and continue to ride at the highest level is such a pleasure and an honor – I mean, I can’t explain it. And (having) Pat Day in front of me and Don Brumfield in front of me – Hall of Famers – it’s just special. It’s a special place here.”
Asked about his favorite Keeneland memory, Albarado answered, “Every win. Fans don’t discriminate whether it’s a claiming race or a stakes race. They treat it just like every one (is the same). Just the fans here, the quality of the horses – it’s everyone’s favorite place.”
Keeneland honored 95-year-old Elias “Shug” White, the oldest known horseman from the old Kentucky Association track, which was located in downtown Lexington and operated for more than 100 years.
White was just 11 years old when he exercised racehorses at the Kentucky Association track, which closed in 1933. Keeneland opened three years later.