An overdrawn field of 16 juvenile fillies will look for graded stakes glory this Wednesday in the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (G2) at Keeneland. The 1 1/16-mile turf event will serve as the final Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race of the 2019 season.
Headlining this large field 2-year-olds is the Brad Cox-trained Jezebel’s Kitten, who is perfect in two career starts. After winning on debut at Ellis Park, she shipped to Kentucky Downs and cruised home to a 4 3/4-length score in the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies Stakes. Jockey Florent Geroux hopped aboard the Kitten’s Joy filly for that start and retains the mount again for this one. She will break from post 5 for this newest challenge.
The winner of the JPMorgan Jessamine Stakes will receive an automatic position in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) this fall at Santa Anita Park. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of California will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
Here is a look at the full field:
#1 Morning Gold – Trainer Kenny McPeek will put this filly back on the turf after a failed dirt experiment last time out in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. Two races back, she was an impressive maiden special weight winner at Saratoga, which should have her ready to run well in this spot. That last start was also at the same distance as what she’ll run here, so she has passed the two-turn test.
#2 Envied – This American Pharoah filly was impressive on debut at Ellis Park, winning a 1-mile maiden special weight by a neck. She then tried the Happy Ticket Stakes at Louisiana Downs, where she ran third at odds of 2/1. American Pharoah’s babies have been solid on turf so far this season and she has worked well over the Keeneland turf.
#3 Fujariah – After three races at Gulfstream Park, this filly will ship up to the Bluegrass State for her first start against graded stakes company. Two races back, she broke her maiden by 4 lengths in her turf debut, then ran second last time out in the Sharp Susan Stakes. That experience should help her as she moves up in class.
#4 Indochine – It wouldn’t be a big turf race without trainer Chad Brown, who will be represented by this War Front filly. She ran a solid third on debut at Saratoga going 5 1/2 furlongs, but she looked much better in her next start at Belmont Park, stretching out to a mile and picking up a nice victory. John Velazquez keeps the mount after her maiden score.
#5 Jezebel’s Kitten – She’ll likely be the favorite in this difficult spot after dominating the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies Stakes last time out at Kentucky Downs. Trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux have teamed up for many big wins in recent years, and this filly looks like another big-time prospect.
#6 Sweet Melania – Since moving to the turf, this Todd Pletcher-trained filly has been a solid performer. She was able to break her maiden at Saratoga two starts back by 1 1/4 lengths before finishing second in the P. G. Johnson Stakes. That type of effort should give her a big shot in this spot, as she now has plenty of two-turn turf experience on her resume.
#7 Takeitback – This filly will look to rebound after running seventh last time out in a Churchill Downs allowance event. It will be a quick turnaround for her, though, as that was just 11 days ago. She is likely to set the pace, so expect her to play a factor in the outcome of this event.
#8 Witez – It took her three starts to do it, but she was impressive when breaking her maiden last time out at Kentucky Downs. Give her a pass for losing two starts back, as she was only a length behind Jezebel’s Kitten in an Ellis Park maiden special weight. Both of those efforts suggest that she has the ability to be a player in races of this magnitude.
#9 Diamond Sparkles – Last time out, she made her North American debut in the Natalma Stakes (G1) at Woodbine, finishing a close fourth. Trainer Mark Casse seemed high on her after the race, so expect her to show improvement in her second start on this side of the pond. Her breeding suggests that she’ll love the slightly longer distance here.
#10 Soothsaying – A nice debut win at Ellis Park earned her a shot against stakes company. Trainer Bill Mott is usually conservative with his juveniles, so it is a good sign that he likes this one enough to run her in a stakes event so soon. This is another filly who should like stretching out in distance.
#11 Swanage – This filly seemed to put it all together last time out at Kentucky Downs, earning a wire-to-wire victory in a tough maiden special weight. It took her four starts to find the winner’s circle, though she has been facing some stiff competition this summer. She won’t be intimidated by this field.
#12 High On Gin – In both career starts, she has been double-digit odds, yet she came out of each one victoriously. At odds of 11/1, she debuted winning over the Evangeline Downs dirt, then took the Happy Tickets Stakes at 23/1 odds on the Louisiana Downs turf. This move up in class will be a test, but she has proven that she can outrun her odds.
#13 Eye of a Solider – She completely destroyed a maiden special weight field at Monmouth Park last time out by 15 1/4 lengths. That race was on the dirt, though, which makes this start on the turf a question mark. However, she was decent on debut when running on the lawn, finishing second in a separate Monmouth Park maiden special weight.
#14 Ask Bailey – We’ll see if she can turn the tables on Jezebel’s Kitten after running second to her last time out at Kentucky Downs. She has never been worse than second in three starts, including a solid maiden special weight score two back at Ellis Park. The 14-hole might be the biggest negative, but her running style is to drop back and make one run, so she might be able to overcome the poor post.
Also Eligible: #15 Lemon Scat, #16 Hollee Peach
The JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes is the final race of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events. Now, it is on to the actual Breeders’ Cup, which will be held on November 1 and 2 at Santa Anita Park. “Future Stars Friday” will highlight the 2-year-olds with five Juvenile Breeders’ Cup events. The action continues on Saturday with nine more Breeders’ Cup Races, including the $6 million Longines Classic (G1).