By: Marty McGee
LEXINGTON, KY – Silsita and Lighthouse Bay both have had eight career starts that yielded a few bang-up efforts. For Silsita, her best race probably came when she won the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park in her lone start over a synthetic track. For Lighthouse Bay, it was her 21-1 upset in the Grade 1 Prioress over the main track at Saratoga.
Those two New York shippers are among an extremely well-matched and oversubscribed field of 3-year-old fillies set to clash Saturday at Keeneland in the Grade 2, $250,000 Raven Run Stakes, a seven-furlong Polytrack race that also drew Ciao Bella Luna, winner of the spring-meet counterpart at Keeneland, the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes.
Silsita earned a career-high 92 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Bourbonette in March, and after fading to sixth in the Lake Placid nine weeks ago on the Saratoga turf, it was about time for the gray Macho Uno filly to be pointed to a return to the Polytrack, said trainer Todd Pletcher.
“She’s trained well and has had success on the synthetics,” said Pletcher, whose 39 career stakes wins at Keeneland rank second only to his former boss, D. Wayne Lukas (50).
Silsita will break from post 4 when ridden by Mike Smith, the Hall of Famer who won the Raven Run in 2000 on Darling My Darling. Pletcher also has won the race once before, in 2010 with Hilda’s Passion.
Lighthouse Bay, with Joe Rocco Jr. to ride, will start right alongside Silsita in post 5. She is trained by George Weaver, who worked under both Lukas and Pletcher before opening his own stable in 2002. Weaver had Lighthouse Bay in the ungraded Catinca Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 2, but then the filly acted up in the gate, sustained a superficial injury, and was a late scratch.
“I thought that was a lay-up race for us, and obviously it was unfortunate we had to scratch,” said Weaver. “Even if we’d run that day, we were intending to run back in the Keeneland race. The filly’s been doing just fine. She’s fresh and ready to go. This is a good opportunity to run in a Grade 2 race against sophomores and maybe learn something further about her.”
Ciao Bella Luna (post 9, Ricardo Santana Jr.) will be attempting to become just the second filly to sweep the Beaumont and Raven Run, following Gypsy Robin last year. Ciao Bella Luna will be making her first start since being sold to new owners and turned over to Wayne Catalano, who has had her on a regular work pattern since mid-August. Catalano has been among the hottest trainers in North America over the last couple of months.
Among the multitude of fringe contenders in the Raven Run is My Option, an Illinois-bred making an interesting turn-back in distance from two-turn grass stakes at Arlington Park.
“She’s run a couple of pretty good races on the Poly around one turn,” said trainer Chris Block, who has won 14 stakes on the Kentucky circuit since the fall of 2006, including two Grade 1 events at Keeneland. “My thought was that this was worth a try, especially since it’s probably the last time she’ll get to run against straight 3-year-olds before going against older mares.”
Other considerations in this 15th running of the Raven Run include Sittin At the Bar, a star Louisiana-bred with an 8-for-13 career record; Jewel of a Cat, in from New Jersey for Bennie Perkins off a victory in an ungraded stakes on the Saratoga turf; Irish Lute, a multiple graded-placed filly trained by Dallas Stewart; Primed for Passion, a four-time synthetics winner for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard; and Finding More, a four-time winner owned in part by noted bloodstock agent Dan Kenny.
In all, 16 fillies are entered, with up to 14 allowed to start. The also-eligibles are Fully Living and Madame Cactus.
The Raven Run, named for a 374-acre nature sanctuary located just outside of Lexington, is carded as the ninth of 10 Saturday races on a program that also includes three allowances (races 3, 6, 8). First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the Raven Run going at 5:23.
Sponsored by Lexus since 2005, the Raven Run was inaugurated in 1999, when Dreamy Maiden won for Pat Day and Elliott Walden. Subsequent winners include such standouts as Sightseek (2002) and Informed Decision (2008). The longest-priced Raven Run winners have been Satans Quick Chick, a 23-1 shot in 2009 for trainer Eric Reed, and Leah’s Secret, 18-1 in 2006 for Helen Pitts.
After Sunday, just two more stakes remain at the 17-day fall meet: the $125,000 Dowager on Sunday, and the $200,000 Fayette on closing day, Oct. 26. Churchill Downs opens its fall meet Oct. 27.