Romantic Vision, Flameaway Win Keeneland FallStars Breeders’ Cup Preps

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Romantic Vision won the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland with Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard and earned a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. (Eclipse Sportswire)

G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s Romantic Vision took command in early stretch and drew clear for a two-length win over Martini Glass in the $500,000 Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes Oct. 8 at Keeneland, earning an automatic berth for the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff at Del Mar Nov. 3.

The Rusty Arnold-trained 5-year-old Lemon Drop Kid mare boasted the best recent form of the Spinster field, earning her first graded stakes win in her prior start in the Locust Grove Stakes at Churchill Downs Sept. 16. Every piece of the puzzle was finally there for Romantic Vision, and she put it all together in stellar order under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. Sunday.

"She likes it here at Keeneland. She trains here, she's stabled here, and she's one of those fillies that just got good at age five," Arnold said. "She's really healthy and she's matured, that's why (Humphrey) raced her as a 5-year-old and it paid off. Today it went really well."

With Duchess of Duke setting fractions of :23.96 and :48.26 for a half-mile over the sealed, sloppy surface, Hernandez had 6.40-1 fourth betting choice Romantic Vision closer than normal as she tracked in second with Martini Glass saving ground on the rail in third.

"Her first step was the quickest one away from there, and she put us in a great spot," Hernandez said. "She traveled really good for me the whole way. Going into the second turn, I was really confident in her. She's just really stepped up her last few races. She seems to be getting better and better."

It became go-time for Romantic Vision as she approached the far turn, and the mare responded with an impressive burst to shoot clear of the rest of the field en route to covering the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:49.70.

Martini Glass finished second with Blue Prize closing to finish third.

Romantic Vision has six wins from 19 starts with $610,086 in earnings. Humphrey didn't commit to a possible meeting with the likes of champion Stellar Wind in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, instead taking the moment Sunday to enjoy the happy quandary his mare presented.

"Let's get her back to the barn, see how she is, and see how she is a week from now," Humphrey said. "We'll do what makes sense for her. We wanted to get through this one and then we'll decide what we'll do next." –Alicia Wincze-Hughes

Mark Casse-trained Flameaway got his nose down on the wire in a sloppy, off-the-turf edition of the $250,000 Dixiana Bourbon Stakes for 2-year-olds earlier on Keeneland’s Oct. 8 card.

The race was automatically downgraded from its Grade 3 status when it was moved to the main track from the grass course because of wet conditions. Breeders' Cup president and CEO Craig Fravel stated after the race that the Bourbon would remain a "Win and You're In" automatic qualifying event for the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

John Oxley's Flameaway survived an objection by jockey Florent Geroux aboard Tap Daddy, who was pinched between the winner on his outside and Tigers Rule to his inside. Tigers Rule was disqualified from second to third for interference when he drifted out midstretch. The three finished within a half-length of each other. Flameaway covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.77 as the 5.40-1 third betting choice with Julien Leparoux aboard.

Prior to his start in the Bourbon, Flameaway broke his maiden in his first start by 2 ½ lengths May 28 at Woodbine. He then won the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga on a muddy track Aug. 18, but then finished sixth in the Sept. 16 Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. The Bourbon was supposed to be Flameaway's first turf effort, and although Casse said he was proud of his charge, he was disappointed his colt didn't get to try the grass.

"I've (wanted) to run him on the grass, so I was a little disappointed," Casse said. "He's getting better and better. He's a big, strong horse, and I'm proud of him today. He's been training really well.”

The victory was the third straight in the race for Casse, who also won with Keep Quiet in 2016 and Airoforce in 2015. –Mary LaRue

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