Last year, Kenny McPeek watched Simply Ravishing and Crazy Beautiful turn in stunning performances in the Alcibiades at Keeneland. That he watched his 2-year-old duo go 1-2 in the Grade 1 race while at Pimlico was a minor annoyance.
McPeek, like everyone else coping with the pandemic, could handle minor annoyances. Watching his two fillies dominate the Alcibiades field from Pimlico came with the pandemic-rescheduled territory. Last year’s Alcibiades ran the day before the rescheduled Preakness, which explains McPeek’s Pimlico presence, tending to eventual Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver.
This year, McPeek is back at Keeneland for the opening day of the track’s fall meet. And he’s back with two contenders for the 1 1/16-mile featured event: Mama Rina and Penny Saver. The Alcibiades is the penultimate race on Keeneland’s 10-race opening-day Friday card. Along with its $400,000 purse comes a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Nov. 5 at Del Mar.
This gives McPeek two chances at tying D. Wayne Lukas’ Alcibiades record of six victories, which the Hall of Fame trainer racked up between 1983 and 2003. McPeek won his first in 2000 with She’s a Devil Due. He won two in three years with Simply Ravishing last year and Restless Rider in 2018.
Penny Saver banked herself a big victory
His candidates this year come into the 12-horse field from different paths. Penny Saver comes in two weeks after a 9 ½-length, gate-to-wire bludgeoning of a maiden special weight field at Churchill Downs. Her 85 Beyer Speed Figure and 94 Equibase Speed Figure as the 3/5 favorite from that race lead this field. The daughter of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver is 1-1-0 in her three races.
Mama Rina, on the other hand, got her stakes debut in last month’s Grade 3 Pocahantas at Churchill Downs. There, she finished 9 ¼ lengths behind winner Hidden Connection, who awaits the winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. But Mama Rina turned in a strong stretch drive, picking off two horses to get a piece of the board.
If you’re looking for graded-stakes winners in this deep field, you won’t find any. You will, however, find three stakes winners, led by Miss Interpret, who won the off-the-turf, Black-Type P.G. Johnson at Saratoga Sept. 2. The Todd Pletcher charge comes in with a two-race winning streak.
Alcibiades gives us a Mattress Mack sighting
There’s Diamond Wow, who took the Black-Type Our Dear Peg at Gulfstream Park for her second win in as many races. That came against only four other horses, but her 82 Equibase from that outing is competitive in this field.
And there’s Runup, owned by Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale. The daughter of McIngvale’s Runhappy enters the fray off a three-length victory in the Black-Type Sorority at Monmouth Park at 14.50/1. Like Diamond Wow, Runup rides in with a two-race winning streak.
It wouldn’t be a stakes race at Keeneland without a Brad Cox sighting. He has two contenders: Juju’s Map and Matareya. Both come in after maiden-breaking romps at Ellis Park. Juju’s Map broke her’s by nearly six lengths as the 3/5 favorite Sept. 3, clocking a strong 91 Equibase. Matareya broke her’s Aug. 20 by 4 ½ lengths in her debut.
The Alcibiades’ free-for-all nature and deep field means its winner merits immediate attention as one of the top juvenile fillies in the country. Basically, any one of the aforementioned could capture that Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies ticket and surprise nobody along the way.