The connections of Pianist celebrate her victory in the Given Stakes on Sept. 20.
The Valley View Stakes (G3) will be run in two divisions this year with a total of 24 strong contenders. While the second division seems slightly stronger in terms of consistent talent, the first division is wide open.
Drawing the rail is Closing Range, the least experienced runner in the field but managed perfectly by Phil Oliver. Meanwhile, Graham Motion brought two fillies in to contest the Valley View and his better chance would appear to be Nayarra, a daughter of Cape Cross who has run well enough in the U.S. that she should be strong against this group.
The favorite is Medolina who was undefeated in the first three starts of her career and has had several near misses in graded stakes company. Also sitting at short prices are Colonial Flag, a Grade 3 winner at Woodbine last out, Miss Cato from the always strong Roger Attfield barn, and Tim Hills' Cosmic Energy, who has reeled off strong efforts since breaking her maiden three starts back.
In the second division, none of the 12 runners has set a hoof on the Keeneland lawn in the afternoon.
The morning-line favorite is Pianist, a daughter of More Than Ready who is looking for her third straight victory and second consecutive stakes score. The chestnut has gone off as favorite in all five lifetime starts and has never been off the board.
PIANIST WINNING GIVEN STAKES
If Pianist is vulnerable, it may come down to the fact that she's never raced outside of New York and her only two losses have come at the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Valley View.
Battling for the lead will be a pair of ballerinas: Dancing Solo is a freshened Grade 3 winner from the Todd Pletcher barn who hasn't had the greatest of trips in her last two starts; meanwhile, Welcome Dance is in great form, excels at the route distances, and has been training well on the Keeneland synthetic PolyTrack surface.
Also training well is the Team Block homebred, Leading Astray. The bay daughter of Belong to Me has stepped up to meet every challenge asked of her, despite troubled trips and other problems that can plague a closer. She has done her best running on the Arlington Park turf, as has Freedom Reigns. The former claimer's race record isn't as fancy as others in the field, but she is a dead closer. Trouble finds her when she's weaving her way from out of the clouds. Since moving to the lawn earlier this year, Freedom Reigns has three wins and has not been beaten by more than a length.
This is an ultra-consistent group of fillies, including the rail drawn Miz Ida. The daughter of Proud Citizen has a lone loss this year and that was behind a freakish performance from Stephanie's Kitten on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) undercard. She has since reeled off back-to-back stakes victories, including an emphatic score over older females last out.
1st Division: Cosmic Energy, Medolina, Closing Range, Colonial Flag
2nd Division: Pianist, Leading Astray, Welcome Dance, Freedom Reigns