Stakes races highlight Friday cards

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Ted Black

October 1st, 2015

Those interested in both the upcoming Breeders Cup Championship races for thoroughbreds and the Breeders Crown events for trotters and pacers will get an early taste of what to expect on those occasions on Friday when Keeneland Race Course hosts a pair of lucrative, graded stakes and Dayton Raceway offers a pair of Derby's, one each for trotters and pacers.

Friday afternoon's feature at Keeneland, coincidentally the site of the Breeders Cup races on Friday, Oct. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31, will be the $400,000 Phoenix, a six-furlong affair for three-year-olds and up gearing for the Breeders Cup Sprint at the end of the month.

Much of the attention will be on the talented three-year-old Runhappy, a Street Sense colt trained by Maria Borell. A winner of three straight races, Runhappy emerged on the scene - as did his trainer - by capturing the Grade I, $500,000 King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga on the Travers Stakes undercard in August. Not only did Runhappy win the event in wire-to-wire fashion on a day when speed horses did not have an advantage, he whistled the seven panels in 1:20.54, faster than his older rivals would travel in another Grade I on the card.

But while Runhappy looms the one to beat from the rail - not always an advantageous starting spot in sprints - those looking to beat him will likely opt for Work All Week, last year's Breeders Cup Sprint winner and Eclipse champion sprinter who also happens to be the defending champion of this event. Work All Week notched his lone victory of his current campaign at Mountaineer Park on the West Virginia Derby undercard after running second in a pair of graded stakes. He has won 13 of 18 lifetime starts and only been worse than second once in those outings.

Another fleet-footed runner looking to upend both Runhappy and Work All Week is Holy Boss, the beaten favorite in the King's Bishop. A Street Boss colt trained by Steve Asmussen, Holy Boss has won four of six starts this year and five of nine career outings and should be in an ideal striking position throughout and would gladly pick up the pieces - at a generous price - if the top two are not on their game.

One race later on the card, the two-year-old fillies prepping for the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies will be in the spotlight in the Grade I, $400,000 Alcibiades Stakes. A trio of talented ladies, Lookout Sister, Dothraki Queen and Just Wicked, will vie for the favorite's role, but railbound Como and Marquee Miss both have upset chances. Dothraki Queen has won both of her starts, Just Wicked has has twice in four outings and Lookout Sister owns two wins in three tries. Marquee Miss won the Arlington-Washington Lassie in her career debut and merits respect in this spot.

That same evening Dayton Raceway in Ohio will host a pair of lucrative events for older horses, one each for trotters and pacers, and many of the sport's best will be on hand.

In the $135,000 Dayton Trotting Derby, listed as the 10th race on the card, Shake It Cerry (Yannick Gingras) will be the likely favorite although this trotting filly trained by Jimmy Takter has not returned to form after being the sport's best three-year-old filly trotter a year ago. She certainly looks vulnerable in this spot.

Looking to upend Shake It Cerry are a pair of talented older trotters who have grown accustomed to facing the best horses in the land. Wind Of The North (Dave Palone) owns a 5-6-1 slate and was second to Bee A Magician last weekend at Hoosier and the Daryl Bier trainee earned an invitation to the Elitlopp in Sweden last spring. Obrigado (Mark Macdonald) has been among the most consistent older trotters in the land for several years and arrives with a 3-5-3 slate from 14 starts this year and boasts 33 wins in 58 lifetime tries.

But the best race of the night follows in the 11th when Dayton offers the $140,000 Dayton Pacing Derby. Headlining the event is State Treasurer (David Miller), the best older pacer in the land this year with eight wins from 15 starts for trainer Dr. Ian Moore. But looking to topple him are two Run Burke trainees, All Bets Off (Matt Kakaley) and the incomparable Foiled Again (Gingras), who was a gritty second in the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington on Sep. 21. Doo Wop Hanover (John Campbell) will be a major player from post nine and Shamballa (Rick Zeron) will be looking to atone after settling for third as the even-money choice in the Quillen.