Friday, October 21, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Raven Run Stakes (G2)

Lucy N Ethel Ready to Roll in 2016 Raven Run Stakes

By: Nick Costa, Trackside with Trackman

A dozen three-year old fillies are entered for the 18th running of the Grade 2 Raven Run on Saturday. First run in 1999, the Raven Run Stakes, which has been sponsored by Lexus since 2005, is named after a nature sanctuary about a half-hour drive from Keeneland Race Course, the site where the race is held. It is a Grade 2 sprint for 3-year old fillies at 7-furlongs with a purse value of $250,000 and is run during the third week of October as part of the race course's annual Fall Meet. The race attained G3 status in 2002, then earned its current Grade 2 designation in 2006.

Let's take a peek from the rail out.

PP -  Horse/Jockey/Trainer
1 -Covey Trace/Brian Hernandez/William Denzik Jr.--She won her first stakes last start in the G3 Charlestown Oaks where her heart was on display as she displayed firm determination in winning by a neck. F.Y.I, last year's Raven Run winner (Sarah Sis) also exited the C.T.Oaks.

2 - Ma Can Do It/Channing Hill/Dale Romans --As a maiden back in the springtime, she finished 2nd at 50-1 odds in the G2 Black Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico. She recently broke maiden ranks in her 10th start last time out. Too slow to win this.

3 - Grace's Treasure/Jesus Castonon/Michael Ewing--Following a six-week layoff, this girl finished third in the Dogwood Stakes last race, her only start at this distance. That was a nice tightener and should move forward.

4 - Lucy N Ethel/Corey Lanerie/Tom Amoss--After healing from ankle surgery, this speedy Pennsylvania-bred filly returned last month to win the G2 Prioress. She has never been headed and now puts her unbeaten record on the line while traveling an additional furlong.

5 - Southern Girl/Florent Geroux/Larry Jones--Gray filly exits a stakes win and has won 4 of her first 5 starts, which includes beating older runners. Has a nice mid-pack running style and should give a good account of herself.

6 - Bellamentary/Martin Garcia/Philip D'Amato--The only filly in this field that can boast of a runner-up finish to Songbird, which was accomplished two starts back at Santa Anita. May find herself in the early mix at this distance, which she is 2 for 2 at.

7 - Malibu Stacy/Gabriel Saez/George Weaver--Stakes-placed closer will try to rebound from a nondescript turf outing last month. Scored going 7-furlongs at the Spa, but against weaker.

8 - Curlin's Aprroval/Tyler Gaffalione/Martin Wolfson--She's been spotted against older runners three times and has come away victorious each occasion. The only defeat hung on her was against her own age group. Speed figures are on the rise and she owns the best last race figure (BRIS) in the field. Has been away since August, but has trained swiftly. Should be involved early.

9 - Coniah/Joe Bravo/Kiaran McLaughlin--G3 placed runner brings plenty of speed to the table, but seems overmatched and the 7f distance doesn't appear to suit her.

10 - Sophia's Song/Robby Albarado/Todd Pletcher--Her graded stakes debut in the C.T.Oaks last month saw her employ closing tactics and just miss by a neck. Was on the lead before giving way to T.C.A. winner, Irish Jasper, when the two met at Saratoga in August. In the money in all six starts.

11 - Takrees/Ricardo Santana/Kiaran McLaughlin-- First level allowance winner closed from last place with a fierce rally to finish third behind Lucy n Ethel when stepped up in company in the 10-horse G2 Prioress field last race. Has yet to race beyond 6 1/2 furlongs.

12 - Lightstream/Julien Leparoux/ Brian Lynch--Reeled off three consecutive wins to begin her career before the streak was halted in  the G1 Mother Goose with a third-place finish. Contested the G1 Test Stakes at Saratoga where she was denied very late. A 3-time winner at the distance.

All eyes, of course, will be watching Lucy n Ethel to find out if the young filly can keep her unbeaten record intact. She's certainly proven fast early and fast late, but the question is, can she repeat the latter feat traveling into unchartered territory? There are a few others in here that can motor quickly also, but although no opponent has put her away thus far, and probably won't here either, the added pressure she will face in the early stages may leave her vulnerable in the final furlong. I'll bet against the winning streak continuing.

No one likes to play a favorite, well, she is on the morning line and very well could be at post time, but Lightstream gets my call. She exits the best races (Mother Goose and Test) that any of these runners came out of. She’s proven at this distance, including a win in the G3 Beaumont over the Keeneland surface this past spring, has trained fast for this, and should get a strong pace to run at.

Longshot play:
Southern Girl should receive a nice trip in behind the front flight and get first crack to take over from the tiring speed. Whether she can hold off my top choice remains to be seen, but with a strong late kick of her own, she has to be afforded a solid chance, especially at nice odds. She's displayed consistency, with 4 wins in 5 starts. This is her first try in graded stakes company and there may be more upside to this gal seeing she is lightly-raced. She has shown steady progression in each start that another move forward could get it done here.

About Nick Costa 
Nick became instantly hooked on horseracing when his father first took him to the racetrack when he was 5 years old. As a racing fan, he attended several Kentucky Derby's and Breeders' Cups, while also traveling to several major and minor tracks throughout the United States and Canada. Back in the year 2000, Nick became a licensed owner and is currently still involved with the sport in that honored capacity. In 2010, Nick added another dimension when he began to try his hand at writing about horse racing by previewing and recapping major events for different racing outlets. You can view much of Nick’s writing contributions on his blog, Trackside withTrackman at Horse Racing Nation.

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