By Christina Bossinakis
A competitive group of 10 sophomore fillies line up in Saturday’s GII Lexus Raven Run S. at Keeneland. Among the expected favorites for the seven-furlong test is Whitham Thoroughbreds’ Four Graces (Majesticperfection). Trained by Ian Wilkes, the homebred has won four of five starts at the Raven Run distance, including Churchill’s GIII Dogwood S. in June followed by the GIII Beaumont S. over the local Beard Course July 10. Given some time off following that effort, she speed-loving filly weakened late to be second behind Sconsin (Include) in the Sept. 4 GII Eight Belles S. and most recently posted a bullet five-furlong move at Churchill in :59.20 at Oct. 8. Julien Leparoux, who has been in the saddle for all five on-the-board finishes, gets the call.
Also likely to join Four Graces on the front end early is Ciaglia Racing, Highland Yard, River Oak Farm and Dominic Savides’s Venetian Harbor (Munnings). A runaway winner of the GII Las Virgenes S. at Santa Anita in February, the Colts Neck Stables-bred filly finished behind Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil) in the May 1 GIII Fantasy S. and played the bridesmaid again, this time behind Speech (Mr Speaker) in the July 11 GI Central Bank Ashland S. at Keeneland. In her most recent trip to the post, she found the talented Gamine (Into Mischief) seven lengths too tough in Saratoga’s GI Test S. Aug. 8.
“We are just trying to win a race; that’s the first thing,” said trainer Richard Baltas. “If she runs well and bounces out of the race OK, we will eye the [GI] Breeders’ Cup [Filly and Mare Sprint].”
Manny Franco has the mount on Venetian Harbor and will break from post position five.
Looking to regain some of her earlier form is Slam Dunk Racing, Doug Branham and Legacy Ranch’s Tonalist’s Shape (Tonalist), who began her career with five consecutive victories in one-turn races for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. The chestnut took six of seven starts in South Florida from September through May, including this winter’s GIII Forward Gal S. followed by the GII Davona Dale S. Off the board in the Mar. 28 GII Gulfstream Park Oaks, she bounced back to win the May 15 Hollywood Wildcat S. before finishing fourth in the nine-furlong GI Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga July 18. Most recently, Tonalist’s Shape was a troubled fifth in the GIII Charles Town Oaks Aug. 28.
“[The CT Oaks] was two turns and she did have trouble in that race,” Joseph said, referring to Tonalist’s Shape being checked approaching the sixteenth pole.”
He added, “There are no plans for her beyond this race. I am just curious to see how she would do back around one turn and hoping she will come back to her [good] form.”
Since the Charles Town Oaks, Tonalist’s Shape has worked twice at Gulfstream–a best-of-78 half-mile in :47.03 Sept. 27 and a best-of-seven 5/8ths in 1:00.62 Oct. 1.
“The two weeks between works was by design to keep her fresh,” Joseph explained.
The 3-year-old has been entered as a racing or broodmare prospect in Keeneland’s upcoming November Breeding Stock Sale and is catalogued as hip 155 in Book 1.