Long Weekend, Keeneland's Haggin Turf Course Hosts A Trio Of Graded Races

Last year's Franklin S. at the break, won by Caravel | Coady Photography

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Keeneland's lawn debuted during the 1985 Fall meet in an era when American turf courses were just coming into vogue.

According to a back issue of the track's media guide, through 2016 they had two names for their grass course. The Keeneland Course referred to the one with rail up, while the normal configuration with it down was called the Haggin Course.

Named for Louis Lee Haggin II, who was not only Keeneland's President from 1940-1956, but the decade before had purchased the 550-acre Sycamore Farm in Woodford County. Serving as board chairman of the Keeneland Association beginning in 1970, he was a decedent of the gold rusher and California stud farm innovator James Ben Ali Haggin.

As for the Keeneland turf course records, they recognized various distances and rail settings, but for the 2016 Fall meet, the inside rail was replaced on the Haggin Course with a portable fence that can be placed a variety of distances to protect the inside portion of the course. So, beginning with the 2017 Spring meet, Keeneland amalgamated records into one set based on distance.

Now that we mowed through a bit of turf history, the Haggin will take center stage starting on Friday, as the Association cards a trio of graded grass races which will headline another weekend of racing action.

On Friday at Keeneland, a key distance test will be renewed when turf specialists contest the GIII Sycamore S. going 12 furlongs. Grizzled veterans like GISW Red Knight (Pure Prize) and MGISW Channel Maker (English Channel) are present, but so are up and comers like MGSP Limited Liability (Kitten's Joy) and GSP Red Run (Gun Runner). Add in Godolphin homebred Bold Act (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}), who is group stakes placed in England and France for trainer Charlie Appleby, and this should set up as quite a late scramble.

Lindy | Coady Photography

Heading to Saturday in the Bluegrass, it is the annual invitation-only GI Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup S. for 3-year-old fillies. The nine-furlong run over the Haggin includes several invaders with European form. Elusive Princess (Fr) (Martinborough {Jpn}) made her U.S. debut a good one when she captured the GIII Saratoga Oaks Invitational Aug. 4 after running second in the G1 Prix Saint-Alary S. at ParisLongchamp May 14 and when she was fifth behind G1 Prix de l'Opera Longines heroine Blue Rose Cen (Churchill {Ire}) in the G1 Prix de Diane S. June 18 at Chantilly.

Shifting from Jean-Philippe Dubois to Arnaud Delacour, the bay filly will face another who recently changed yards in Lindy (Fr) (Le Harve {Ire}). She made the switch from Christophe Ferland to Brendan Walsh over the summer after finishing second in the G1 French 1000 Guineas S. to Blue Rose Cen and then a well-beaten eighth in the Prix de Diane. Under Walsh, she successfully shipped into Kentucky Downs and won an optional claimer at a short price going a mile.

Other imports into this field include Sounds of Heaven (GB) (Kingman {GB}), who was third at the Royal Meeting in the G1 Coronation S. for Jessica Harrington, French stakes winner for Jean-Claude Roget Elounda Queen (Ire) (Australia {GB}) and finally, Mawj (Ire), who was last seen winning the G1 1000 Guineas S. at Newmarket May 7 for Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor. Incidently, this will be bin Suroor's first trip to Keeneland since 2014.

“You have to send the right horse to run here,” bin Suroor said. “This is the right place for her. This was the plan to come here and then go to the Breeders' Cup. Either the [GI Breeders' Cup] Mile or the [GI Breeders' Cup] Filly & Mare Turf. I want to see how she runs here and then on to L.A. Mawj had a little chest infection before Ascot [in the summer] and she had a break,” bin Suroor said of the five months between starts.

As for the American contingent, Chad Brown will be well-represented with pair of entries in GSW Liguria (War Front) and GISP Prerequisite (Upstart). Brown has won four of the last five editions of this race.

Finally, on Sunday it will be time to go sprinting at Keeneland when the GII Franklin S. goes off at five and a half furlongs for older females. MGISW Caravel (Mizzen Mast) returns to her favorite course, the site of her upset win last fall in the GI Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, as she attempts to repeat in the Franklin S. for trainer Brad Cox. The accomplished 6-year-old, who will be offered at the Keeneland November Sale, will once again face GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint victoress Twilight Gleaming (Ire) (National Defense {GB}). The 4-year-old bay filly is looking to get back on track for Wesley Ward after an unsuccessful trip to Del Mar July 28 in the Daiseycutter S. Also of note is the presence of GII Ladies Turf Sprint winner Bay Storm (Kantharos), who had her own way at Kentucky Downs, and the untested Godolphin homebred from England for Charlie Appleby, Star Guest (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}).

Eternal Hope | Chelsea Durand

The stakes docket is not restricted to just Central Kentucky as both Aqueduct and Woodbine host their own graded races on Saturday.

With rain in the forecast later in the day and Sunday's GIII Knickerbocker S. moved to next week as a consequence, we will get to see the GII Sands Point S. early on the Belmont at the Big A card. Out of 10 entrants and three also-eligibles, Neecie Marie (Cross Traffic) will get another crack at Godolphin's Eternal Hope (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}), who bested her by only a neck in the Sept. 16 GIII Jockey Club Oaks Invitational.

Joining the fray are a pair of alums who ran second and third in last month's Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs. Jeff Drown's Root Cause (Into Mischief) and Don Alberto homebred Alpha Bella (Justify) have proved they can handle nine furlongs as they look to win their first graded race.

Ranging up the Canada, Woodbine has a pair of Grade IIIs scheduled over their Tapeta on Saturday when SW Mouffy (Uncle Mo) takes on MGSW Souper Hoity Toity (Uncle Mo) in the Ontario Matron S. and GSW Loyalty (Hard Spun) battles MGSW Our Flash Drive (Ghostzapper) in the Ontario Fashion S.

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