Sheep Pond Partner’s brilliant mare Lady Eli will make her 2017 debut on Saturday when she headlines a field of eight fillies and mares entered for Saturday’s 29th running of the Grade 1, $350,000 Coolmore Jenny Wiley at Keeneland.
Run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, the Coolmore Jenny Wiley will go as the 10th race on Saturday’s 11-race program with a 6:12 p.m. ET post time.
Trained by Chad Brown, the 5-year-old Lady Eli will be making her first start since a nose defeat in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita in November. The daughter of Divine Park has compiled a record of 9-7-2-0, with Grade 1 victories coming each year that she has competed.
Lady Eli missed nearly 14 months of racing as she battled back from laminitis, returning to competition last August with a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga and a victory in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational prior to the Breeders’ Cup.
Irad Ortiz, Jr., has the mount on Lady Eli. In her lone Keeneland start, Lady Eli won the Grade 3 Appalachian in 2015 to kick off her 3-year-old campaign.
#1 Lady Eli – You can’t say enough good things about this horse, and everybody knows the incredible story of her comeback to the races. I say this every time she runs, and it still holds true: Lady Eli is winning just by running in the race. However, she’s returned to the races so sharply that there’s been no reason to celebrate moral victories! She won a Grade 1 race two back and was an ever-so-close runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf Stakes last time out. She returns here off of a layoff, but if she’s ready, she should win in this spot.
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#4 Dickinson – This mare has turned into a beast recently, winning four out of her last five races, including a Grade 3 and Grade 2 in her last two starts. It’s obvious that the turf is Dickenson’s thing after she started her career with so-so efforts on the dirt. She couldn’t be coming into this race any better and could get the jump on Lady Eli, who has been off since the Breeders’ Cup.
#2 Goodyearforroses – She comes into this one on an absolute roll, having won three straight races, including the Grade 2 Santa Ana Stakes last time out. All three of those wins were easy, so she’s ready for the challenge of a race of this magnitude. The only downside is the fact that she’s been running in longer races, so this cut back in distance is a little bit of a question mark. That being said, the positives certainly outdo the negatives.
#7 Illuminant – She made her 2017 debut off of a long layoff and won a small stakes race going downhill on the the Santa Anita turf course. That should serve as a great prep for this one and also proves that she has come back fit and in good form. Before her long layoff, she took home the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita over a solid field. Those are enough good signs for me to give her a big chance in this one, and the outside draw suits her well.
#6 Time and Motion – I nearly put her in the category above, but as she’s entering from a little bit of a layoff, I wanted to give her a race before I go all-in on her. At the end of last year, she had turned into a monster, so she should be set up for a big 4-year-old season. However, I think the longer, the better with this horse, so the 1 1/16-mile distance might be a little short for her. Still, this horse deserves respect and should be a nice underneath play in her seasonal debut.
#3 Catch a Glimpse – She is undoubtedly up against some tough ones today, but last out, she finished second to Celestine in the Sand Springs Stakes at Gulfstream Park. That has me thinking that she is returning to form a little bit; she’d tailed off at the end of last year after enjoying big-time success in the first half of the season. At her best, she can compete with these types, and there is an outside chance of her sitting a decent trip today. If the pace sets up in her favor, she can take them a long way on the lead.
#5 Kitten’s Roar – She’s a really nice filly who had solid success at Fair Grounds this past winter. This will be her toughest spot yet, though, so I’m thinking that she might not match up as well with the giants in this division.
#8 Quidura – There’s nothing wrong with this filly, but this is a tough spot for her as she returns off nearly a five month layoff. She’s two-for-two in her only American starts, so there’s no doubt that she could play a factor in the outcome of this one.