Fun and Feisty, Wonder Wheel Lead 14-Horse Alcibiades


Photo: Coady Photography
Fun and Feisty captures the Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs

It wouldn't be opening day of the fall meet at Keeneland without its customary feature, the $500,000 Darley Alcibiades Stakes (G1), and for that matter, without the presence of a Kenny McPeek-trained filly or two in the 1 1/16-mile dirt race.

The 60-year-old trainer, who grew up in Lexington and went to school at Tates Creek High School and the University of Kentucky, is a regular participant in the traditional fall meet headliner. More than a participant, actually—often a winner.

Five times McPeek has won the race, most recently with Simply Ravishing  in 2020, and he has two opportunities to win a sixth Friday when he starts Fun and Feisty  and Stellar Lady  in the 14-horse scramble. A win from either filly would pull McPeek into a tie with Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas for most Alcibiades victories with six.

The Alcibiades is a Breeders' Cup Challenge race that offers the winner an automatic, paid berth in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), this year at Keeneland on Nov. 4. Four Alcibiades winners have gone on to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, the last being British Idiom  in 2019.

Lucky Seven Stable's Fun and Feisty will be among Friday's favorites, having won two in a row, including her latest, the Pocahontas Stakes (G3) by a widening 3 1/2 lengths at Churchill Downs Sept. 17. Stellar Lady, who races for Tommie Lewis, James Chambers, Craig Benoit, and Sherri McPeek's Magdalena Racing, is a longshot, coming off a nose maiden win last month in a mile turf race at Kentucky Downs.

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Video: Pocahontas S. (G3)

Julien Leparoux rides Fun and Feisty, and Brian Hernandez Jr. is on Stellar Lady.

Other leading contenders in the Alcibiades are established stakes competitors Chop Chop , Just Cindy , Kaling , and Wonder Wheel, plus promising maiden winners Infinite Diamond  and Raging Sea .

Fun and Feisty, who ran sixth and second in her first two starts before rattling off her two victories, is the only graded stakes winner and winner on dirt at 1 1/16 miles.

"She's been begging to go longer," McPeek said of the Midshipman   filly. "I was pleasantly surprised when she won going short. We kind of did anticipate that she would want more ground. She ate it up when she did run further. I think the Alcibiades is a great next stop for her."

Stellar Lady won't be such as obvious threat in the eyes of the betting public, but McPeek believes she could improve with a shift from turf to dirt. He believes she won her latest at Kentucky Downs with her talent, not necessarily because running on grass is her preference.

"I think she really wants dirt; she doesn't want turf," he said.

Like his previous Alcibiades winners, Fun and Feisty and Stellar Lady were selected by McPeek as agent in public auctions. Fun and Feisty was a $100,000 yearling purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July Sale last year from the Machmer Hall Sales consignment. Stellar Lady, a Shackleford  filly, was bought by McPeek for $40,000 from the Eaton Sales consignment during the Kentucky October Yearling Sale at Fasig-Tipton last year.

Typical of a race for juveniles at this time of year, most of the entrants are untested at the distance.

Wonder Wheel wins 2022 Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs
Photo: Coady Photography
Wonder Wheel wins the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs

D. J. Stable's Wonder Wheel hasn't raced beyond seven furlongs, but the Into Mischief   filly does have experience in top company, having been second to Leave No Trace  in the Spinaway Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course Sept. 4 for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse. Before that start, she won two sprints comfortably at Churchill Downs.

She appears poised to save ground from post 1 in the Alcibiades, which like other two-turn, 1 1/16-mile dirt races at Keeneland, begins and ends at what is usually the sixteenth pole.

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Kaling, third in the Spinaway, competes for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. The Practical Joke   filly was a debut winner at Saratoga before the Spinaway.

Alpha Delta Stables' Raging Sea looks like a filly likely to relish additional ground, being by Curlin   out of the unraced Storm Cat  mare Stormy Welcome. Her second dam, grade 3-winning Welcome Surprise (Seeking the Gold) is a half sister to classic winners Summer Squall and A.P. Indy. 

Raging Sea - MSW - SAR - 080722
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Raging Sea (black cap) scores in her debut at Saratoga Race Course

Raging Sea rallied from fourth to break her maiden at first asking over seven furlongs at Saratoga Aug. 7.

Previously entered in the one-mile Frizette Stakes (G1) at Aqueduct Racetrack Oct. 1, she was scratched by trainer Chad Brown. Brown gave her a workout the morning of the Frizette and zeroed in on the Alcibiades.

The Alcibiades is the last of three stakes at Keeneland on opening day, all of them Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" qualifiers. Carded as the ninth race on a 10-race card, the Alcibiades is preceded by the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (G2T) and the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (G2). Post time for the Alcibiades is 5:16 p.m. ET.

Entries: Darley Alcibiades S. (G1)

Keeneland, Friday, October 07, 2022, Race 9

  • Grade I
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $500,000
  • 2 yo Fillies
  • 5:16 PM (local)
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1Wonder Wheel (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Tyler Gaffalione 122 Mark E. Casse 9/2
2 2Chop Chop (KY) Joel Rosario 122 Brad H. Cox 12/1
3 3Stellar Lady (KY) Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 122 Kenneth G. McPeek 30/1
4 4Raging Sea (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Jose L. Ortiz 122 Chad C. Brown 6/1
5 5Xigera (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Joseph Talamo 122 Philip A. Bauer 5/1
6 6Mustang Lady (KY) Rafael Bejarano 122 Troy Newton 50/1
7 7Essaouira (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 122 H. Graham Motion 15/1
8 8Infinite Diamond (KY) Florent Geroux 122 Patrick L. Biancone 10/1
9 9Fun and Feisty (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Julien R. Leparoux 122 Kenneth G. McPeek 7/2
10 10Kaling (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate John R. Velazquez 122 Todd A. Pletcher 6/1
11 11Just Cindy (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Luis Saez 122 Eddie Kenneally 20/1
12 12Take Charge Briana (KY) Flavien Prat 122 D. Wayne Lukas 15/1
13 13Sabra Tuff (LA) Paco Lopez 122 Dallas Stewart 50/1
14 14Boss Lady Bailey (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Reylu Gutierrez 122 John Alexander Ortiz 50/1