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Raven Run Preview: Fair Maiden Ready for Next Dirt Test
Fair Maiden winning at Churchill Downs in her dirt debut (Credit: Coady Photography)

Raven Run Preview: Fair Maiden Ready for Next Dirt Test

LEXINGTON, KY – Fresh off of her winning debut over the surface last month, Godolphin homebred Fair Maiden returns for her next dirt test in Saturday’s $200,000 Lexus Raven Run Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.

The Raven Run is a 7-furlong dirt sprint restricted to 3-year-old fillies. This year’s edition is the penultimate event on a 10-race card and has a local post time of 5:30 PM.

The Raven Run is considered an unofficial prep for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), which will be held over this same course and distance on November 7. The 2018 Raven Run champion, Shamrock Rose, won the Filly & Mare Sprint in her next start.

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Here’s a look at the full field for the Raven Run:

1. Never Forget 20/1 – Though it took her 7 tries to break her maiden status, the light finally seemed to turn on for her as she then backed it up with a solid third-place showing in the Eight Belles Stakes (G2) last time out. Perhaps it was time and maturity, perhaps it was cutting back to sprinting, or perhaps it was adding blinkers that did the trick – whatever it was, she fits well here.

2. Four Graces 5/2 – If anyone in this field is a 7-furlong specialist, it’s this filly, whose first 4 victories came at this distance and who finished second in the Eight Belles last time out after contesting a hot early pace. Her only prior defeat came when trying to cover a one-turn dirt mile at Gulfstream Park and she fired a 5-furlong work in :59.20 in her last work for this event.

3. Secondary Market 12/1 – She stretches out to the longest distance yet in her 4-race career, which includes a pair of victories while going 6 1/2 furlongs. She found the 6-furlong Prioress Stakes (G2) to be too tough last time out and finished fourth behind Frank’s Rockette, a top contender for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).

4. Finite 8/1 – She went undefeated in 5 starts between last September and this past February, including winning 4 dirt stakes that made up the Road to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) series. She went to the sidelines after finishing fourth in March’s Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and returns to the dirt after finishing last of 11 in Septembers Music City Stakes over the Kentucky Downs lawn.

5. Venetian Harbor 7/5 – She returns to Keeneland after finishing second in July’s Ashland Stakes (G1) and most recently second in the 7-furlong Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. She’s never finished worse than second in 6 lifetime starts and gets a new jockey aboard in Manny Franco after enduring a heavily-criticized riding effort in the Test.

“We are just trying to win a race; that’s the first thing,” trainer Richard Baltas said when asked if the Breeders’ Cup was in the plans. “If she runs well and bounces out of the race OK, we will eye the Breeders’ Cup.”

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6. Reagan’s Edge 8/1 – She ships to Kentucky looking to avoid Frank’s Rockette after finishing second to that foe in both the Victory Ride Stakes (G3) and the Prioress last time out. She came within a head of upsetting the Victory Ride, which at 6 1/2 furlongs is the farthest that she’s attempted to run at this point in her career, and she has tactical speed to either press or stalk.

7. Tonalist’s Shape 12/1 – She began her career winning 5 straight before floundering in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) behind the eventual Preakness Stakes (G1) champion Swiss Skydiver. She’s won only once in her last 4 starts, but she’s fired back-to-back bullets in her most recent works leading up to this start, which will be the third of her current form cycle.

“There are no plans for her beyond this race,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said regarding his filly who’s cataloged as a racing or broodmare prospect in Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale. “I am just curious to see how she would do back around one turn and hoping she will come back to her (good) form.”

8. Fair Maiden 15/1 – As a 2-year-old, she broke her maiden on Arlington Park’s synthetic and won the Catch A Glimpse Stakes on the Woodbine lawn. A rough trip led to a 12th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), but she returned from over 10 months away to defeat a 6-furlong optional claiming field in her dirt debut at Churchill Downs in September.

9. Grand Cru Classe 12/1 – She enters this race still undefeated after winning her stakes debut in the 1 1/16-mile Weber City Miss last time out at Laurel Park. Just as impressive as her having won all 3 starts is that they came at 3 different tracks, on 3 different circuits, at 3 different distances, and with 3 different jockeys aboard; she shoots for #4 in each category here.

10. Secret Keeper 12/1 – The California invader suffered her first lost last time out in the Torrey Pines Stakes (G3) at Del Mar, which came at the hands of Harvest Moon. That rival returned to defeat older females in the Zenyatta Stakes (G2) and punch her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), and Secret Keeper won both prior starts while sprinting on dirt.

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