Madame Cactus made the most of getting in from the also-eligibles list, winning the Lexus Raven Run Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland (Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).
With the Breeders’ Cup only two weeks away, the key prep races for the World Championships already are in the books and the racing action over the weekend featured mostly horses who will be skipping the big event.
There was a key news items that came about with Breeders’ Cup implications. Multiple Grade 1 winner and top 3-year-old filly Princess of Sylmar will make the trip west for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
The decision was an extremely sporting one by owner-breeder Ed Stanco considering she all-but wrapped up the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly when she soundly defeated two-time champion Royal Delta in the Beldame Invitational Stakes on Sept. 28.
In the Distaff, Princess of Sylmar will meet Royal Delta again and attempt to deny her a third straight win in the race, which formerly was known as the Ladies’ Classic. More importantly for the Eclipse Award chase, Princess of Sylmar will face Beholder again. She defeated that rival in winning the Kentucky Oaks, but Beholder has three Grade 1 wins this year and a pair of stakes wins against older females. If she can beat Princess of Sylmar and win the Distaff, Beholder could make a nice argument for the championship as top 3-year-old filly.
Beholder won last year’s Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly after taking the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and has four wins and two seconds in six races in 2013. She finished just a half-length behind Princess of Sylmar in the Kentucky Oaks after acting up before the race and has won five of six lifetime at Santa Anita. Beholder almost certainly needs a win in the Distaff to seriously threaten for the Eclipse Award since Princess of Sylmar has strung together four straight Grade 1 wins in the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, Alabama Stakes and Beldame.
Regardless of the Eclipse Award picture, a Distaff that features two-time defending winner Royal Delta, Princess of Sylmar and Beholder is a fantastic treat for racing fans.
The key racing from the weekend came courtesy of Keeneland Race Course, where on Saturday a filly who was a longshot to even make the field stole the spotlight.
Madame Cactus was the second of two also-eligible horses when the Lexus Raven Run Stakes drew 16 3-year-old fillies for only 14 starting spots. Trained by Peter Eurton for owners Marc and Vinka Ferrell, Madame Cactus needed two horses to be scratched from the race in order to draw in. When that scenario happened, Madame Cactus capitalized.
Making only her second start of the year, the Cactus Ridge filly rallied from 10th early to nip Eden Prairie by a neck at the finish line. The victory was her second stakes win and first in a graded stakes.
“She’s a filly with a lot of talent,” Eurton said. “Coming in on Tuesday, knowing about 9 o’clock in the morning when I’m getting on a plane that we’re possibly not gonna get in the race and she’s already there. The racing secretary said there’s a good chance we might get a scratch or two, and thank God we did.”
A stakes winner at two, Madame Cactus was sidelined for most of 2013. She finished a close second in the C.E.R.F. Stakes against older fillies and mares in her season debut in September at Del Mar, and she has the look of a very nice sprinter.
On Friday at Keeneland, Overheard picked up a memorable win for her connections when she prevailed by a length in the Grade 3 Valley View Stakes, a race sponsored by her owner-breeder Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud.
Trained by Malcolm Pierce, Overheard shipped in from Canada for the 1 1/16-mile turf race after winning a stakes race this summer at Woodbine and placing in three others. The Valley View was her first graded stakes victory.
OVERHEARD'S CONNECTIONS CELEBRATE HER WIN IN THE VALLEY VIEW STAKES
“There was a lot of pressure today because she sponsors this race,” Pierce said. “We came down here [from Woodbine] thinking we had a chance.
“I knew she’d run big. I didn’t know if she could win this race, but I knew she was ready to run a top race.”
Thursday at Keeneland the signature race – the Sycamore Stakes – was taken off the turf because of rain and therefore lost its Grade 3 status. Najjaar caught Eagle Poise late to record his first career stakes win for owner-breeder Shadwell Stable and trainer Danny Pietz.
The other Breeders’ Cup news came from British Champions Day, where Olympic Glory won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and probably will target the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Adding him to a race that is expected to lure 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan, a strong group of Europeans led by Midnight Cloud, and improving Silver Max makes the Mile that much stronger.