News and STORIES
Four Graces, Venetian Harbor Face Off in Raven Run Stakes
Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Thursday October 15, 2020
There are still some possible Breeders' Cup starters running this weekend at Keeneland, despite the official Breeders' Cup qualifiers coming to an end. Those qualifiers provided free automatic berths into the races.
Two of those possible starters are graded stakes winners Venetian Harbor and Four Graces, who are set to face off in the $200,000 Lexus Raven Run Stakes (G2) on Saturday. They will be joined by a field of 10 sophomore fillies at the Lexington track. If they perform well, both runners have a chance at running in the Nov. 7 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), which will also run at Keeneland.
Both the Raven Run Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint cover seven furlongs.
There is a history regarding the duo of the Raven Run and the Filly & Mare Sprint, specifically with Conrad Farms' Shamrock Rose and her double win two years ago. She was trained by Mark Casse and became champion female sprinter of 2018.
However, Venetian Harbor and Four Graces will first have to fight for the tough Raven Run Stakes victory.
Ian Wilkes is the trainer of Whitham Thoroughbreds' Four Graces.
"One race at a time. I don't want to put the cart in front of the horse," said Wilkes. "There are no pushovers here. There are no gimmes. We'll take this race and go from there."
Nine of the 10 runners among the Raven Run field are either graded-placed or stakes winners. Klaravich Stables' Secondary Market is the only one who is not, but she finished fourth in the Prioress Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course.
Along with Lael Stables' Reagan's Edge, she is exiting the Sept. 5 Prioress and coming into the Raven Run. Reagan's Edge was the runner-up finisher in that race, beaten by 2 1/2 lengths by Frank's Rockette, who went on to win the Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2) next time out.
The likely favorite coming into the Raven Run is Venetian Harbor, who took a big win in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park in February. She then finished second in three straight graded stakes, beaten by names like Swiss Skydiver, Speech, and Gamine.
Trained by Richard Baltas, the daughter of Munnings has earnings of $383,400 for owners Ciagliam Racing, Highland Yard, River Oak Farm, and Dominic Savides.
She is coming off a performance in the Longines Test Stakes (G1), where her connections were disappointed with the ride by Joel Rosario. Now, she will look to increase the speed under rider Manny Franco.
Four Graces will likely run early under jockey Julien Leparoux, breaking from post 2. In the Eight Belles Stakes Presented by Twinspires.com (G2) at Churchill Downs on Sept. 4, she fought for the lead. She fell back to second behind Sconsin, who will skip over the Raven Run.
Wilkes believes Four Graces will run better this time out, thinking she was too fresh following the eight week-break of racing for the filly. Now, she is coming into the race following six weeks without racing, and she posted a five-furlong bullet move on Oct. 8 at Churchill Downs in :59 1/5.
A daughter of Majesticperfection, she performs well over the Keeneland surface. She took her largest margin of victory in the Beaumont Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select (G3), where she won by 4 3/4 lengths on July 10.
Wilkes will ship her from Churchill to Keeneland.
"I don't think we have to take our track with us," he said.
Another top name among the field is Southern California's Secret Keeper, who finished second in the Torrey Pines Stakes (G3) at Del Mar.