Appalachian Stakes Preview: Horse-by-Horse Analysis of Saturday's Grade II Race @KEE

The Grade II Appalachian Stakes is a highlight for 3-yr-old fillies on the Super Saturday Keeneland card. See J.N. Campbell's analysis and how the race might shape up for its entrants.
The Grade II Appalachian Stakes is a highlight for 3-yr-old fillies on the Super Saturday Keeneland card. See J.N. Campbell's analysis and how the race might shape up for its entrants.

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1 Mile (Turf), Appalachian Stakes (G2), Purse $200k, 3F

The bookend to the Transylvania Stakes for young 3-yr-old colts is the Appalachian for 3-yr-old filles. The contest, sponsored by Japan Racing, has brought together some winners over the years that are second-to-none. These include Jimmy Toner’s Winter Memories, Chad Brown’s Dayatthespa, Lady Eli, Rushing Fall, and Mark Casse’s Catch a Glimpse and La Coronel. Regularly with a full field, and numerous betting options, this turf race exhibits all the wonderful aspects of running on the Haggin Course at Keeneland.

Now, let’s find out about this salty field…


#1 Jouster (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: T. Pletcher):

Starlight Racing, an excellent outfit if there ever was one, owns this St. Elias bred filly out of Noble Mission. Those runners that hail from this sire can handle the turf and then some… I actually like the dam even better in this instance, and clearly Todd Pletcher does too. He sent her into the Florida Oaks (G3), which by tradition, is one of those contests that yields some solid turf routers that you will see this year. In that race she led all the way with Luis Saez guiding her at every turn. Nipped at the wire by Domain Expertise, a Chad Brown-trained filly, that was her only miscue. It was a costly one. She returns to the grass as fit as can be, and if she is on her game out front, then she is going to be very difficult to wrangle. I would play against based on that last miss.

Grade: B-


#2 Spanish Loveaffair (Jky: C. Landeros/Trn: M. Casse):

Looking back at a horse’s PPs, you like to see some of the signature races in the division behind them. Even if they did not win them, or even hit the board, that experience as a 2-yr-old can make all the difference a season later. This Mark Casse entry has competed in some of the best inter-divisional sod routing there is… it is a veritable clinic of solid contests that include the Jessamine (G2) and the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), which were on the Haggin Course @KEE. To top it off, this daughter of the great Karakontie (JPN) was 1st last time out in the Herecomesthebride (G3) @GP. Getting the hot Chris Landeros speaks volumes, but I am not sure where Tyler Gaffalione is riding on Saturday. It is not anywhere in the country. Strange… At any rate, when I see Gary Barber and Michael Hernon forming an alliance with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, I am in awe. None of these entities, including Casse do anything halfway. It looks like the HOF trainer could have another Appalachian win added to what is already a legendary career.  

Grade: A-


#3 Flown (Jky: J. Graham/Trn: B. Walsh):

Trainer Brendan Walsh sent one of his prime sprinters over to Dubai, and Extravagant Kid promptly won the Al Quoz Spring on the grass at 6F. Now, he sends a filly into Keeneland one week later to try and win another “Graded” race on the grass. This Kitten’s Joy runner might like to channel some of the Ramsey mystique since she was bred not too far down the road in Nicholasville. The last time she was at Keeneland back in October, she won a MSW70k race against a large field. It was not an easy race, but she proved she could handle the distance and the competition. Based on that effort, she is likely to take some money, especially with James Graham riding, but I should think that coming off the shelf like this is not going to be easy. There are other, more experienced entries in here, that seem much better prepared. Walsh knows how to defy the odds, so you never know what his charges can do when given the chance. Frankly, I am scared to death to play against him.

Grade: B-


#4 Plum Ali (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: C. Clement):

Here is another entry coming from a layoff, and a trainer who when pressed is very good. Christophe Clement and Joel Rosario form a strong partnership, and we have seen them take over meets when they get red hot. This daughter of First Samurai did not have a chance to do much running when she last hit the track in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) back in November. That was because she ran up against, in this case behind, Brad Cox’s Aunt Pearl, who was brilliant running away with the crown. Now, after some good ole Payson Park training, she is ready to go once more. This is not a bad race to start her 2021, since she has handled major threats with ease in the past. I wish she had a tick in “ran last time” box, but no matter, if anybody can get them ready for action, it is Clement.  

Grade: B+


#5 Gift List (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: B. Lynch):

Brian Lynch is bringing over an import from the UK for Amerman Racing Stables, and he is hoping she is ready to dip her hoofs into this race. It is hard to tell if this class level, Grade III, is where she needs to be. I can say that those contests she tried at Ripon, Newcastle, Redcar, and Newmarket were not exactly stellar affairs. This makes me wonder if an average horse was sold as a top-notch runner, in the hopes of getting someone to buy into what could be. Euros with good grass bloodlines can turn out to be excellent though, and if you had to give one to a jockey to ride the first-time-out on the Haggin, then you want the greatest turf jockey of all-time—Javier Castellano. Name someone better in North America, I dare you… I am waiting.

Grade: B


#6 Saranya (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):

This would not be a “Graded” turf race in North America without an entrant from Chad Brown or Brad Cox’s barns, or both… Cox sends this entrant into Keeneland for her first try on the Keeneland turf. In her 6 attempts at racing, she always has hit the board. In fact, not only that, but she has gotten tremendously over bet. That will not happen this time around because her class is a question as she steps up to “Graded” Co. She has some major plusses though that are in her corner. For instance, she is a half-sister to another accomplished Cox router—Factor This. That is saying something after the 2020 he had. Also, she gets Florent Geroux back to ride her, and Cox is probably hoping that makes a difference. In a NG75k race last time at the Fair Grounds, she did everything well considering that she had to go 7-wide at the top of the stretch. That was a nice turn-of-foot, showcasing the multitude of gears she possesses. Still, I am not sure if she is quite ready to win a race like this one. Playing against Cox can be dangerous at a place like Keeneland, but it is probably necessary considering the options. Caveat emptor…

Grade: B-


Join us Saturday for all of our Keeneland selections, as Handicapper Sean and Turfwriter J.N., go head-to-head in what promises to be a fabulous Handicapping Challenge! Should be a great set of races as the April Meet gets underway!

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