The 2-year-old daughter of Laoban handled her first step to top-level company with aplomb, cruising along on the front end of the 1 1/16-mile test and kicking on home full of run under Luis Saez to win by 6 ¼ lengths.
Simply Ravishing is undefeated in three starts for trainer Ken McPeek, who races her in partnership with Harold Lerner and Sherri McPeek's Magdalena Racing. She won her debut at Saratoga on turf by a length in August and then took the P.G. Johnson, moved from turf to the main track at Saratoga, by 6 ½ lengths. On Friday, Simply Ravishing gave McPeek his fifth victory in the prestigious 1 1/16-mile Alcibiades, second-most behind Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas with six.
"I told him a long time ago I was going to win more Alcibiades than him," McPeek said of their friendly banter. "He's 27 years older than me. I got plenty of time."
She sprang to the lead under Saez, set an uncontested pace, and left her six rivals far behind in the stretch, completing the distance on a fast track in 1:43.58.
"I felt like I had a lot of horse all the way," Saez said. "When we came to the straight, she just took off. She did it pretty easy, like normal. Like nothing. It was amazing. She's a very good filly."
The winner's time was the fastest in this race on dirt since champion Silverbulletday sped the distance in a stakes-record 1:42.24 in 1998. The Bob Baffert trainee proceeded to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies that fall, a repeat McPeek aims to accomplish this year.
With the Alcibiades a "Win and You're In" qualifier, New York-bred Simply Ravishing earned an automatic, paid berth into the Nov. 6 Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland, where she could be joined by Crazy Beautiful. McPeek said he was inclined to run both fillies there, though he joked he might take advantage of a restricted state-bred program instead with Simply Ravishing.
"We feel like we could corner the New York-bred money when we get her back up there," he said with a laugh. "Finger Lakes has got a spot. I got it picked out already."–Byron King
Versatile Diamond Oops Continues Success in Phoenix
A horse with a heart the size of Texas, Diamond Oops left his connections the best kind of tough decision to make with a victory in the $200,000, Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes one race prior to the Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland.
The 5-year-old Lookin At Lucky gelding came off a win in the Sept. 4 Twin Spires Turf Sprint Presented by Sysco at Churchill Downs to notch his first Grade 2 on the dirt for trainer Patrick Biancone. With a solid victory on each surface this season, Diamond Oops could compete in either the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint or the Breeders' Cup Sprint next month at Keeneland. The Phoenix was a Breeders' Cup Challenge event, providing Diamond Oops with an automatic berth in the Sprint.
"Knowing Patrick, he'll probably wake up a week out and make a decision based on whatever he's feeling," said Andie Biancone, the trainer's daughter and assistant. "Maybe he'll flip a coin. We'll see."
There was no doubt Diamond Oops was in the right race Friday. With regular rider Florent Geroux in the irons, he stalked along in third behind 3-year-olds No Parole and Empire of Gold, the latter a 51.10-1 shot, through an opening quarter in :22.24. Empire of Gold took the lead into the stretch, but Diamond Oops was charging home three wide with a powerful long rally and wore down his tiring rival approaching the wire.
"I was trying to time it right because when he makes the lead, he'll throw his heels up a little bit and slow himself down," Geroux said. "I was just trying to time it right. When he saw (Empire of Gold) as his target, I knew we were going to get him."
The winner eked out his score by three-quarters of a length in a final time of 1:09.24, with another 3-year-old, Echo Town, two lengths back in third. Multimillionaire Whitmore was fourth, followed by Absolutely Aiden, No Parole, Midnight Sands, Mo Dont No, and Lexitonian to complete the order of finish.
Geroux was also effusive with his praise of Diamond Oops, who improved his record to 7-3-1 from 16 starts with earnings of $1,058,590 for Ivy Hui's Diamond 100 Racing Club, Amy Dunne, D P Racing, and Patrick L. Biancone Racing.
"It's remarkable. He's a tremendous horse, and he can even run longer if you ask him," the jockey said. "He runs on any surface. It's rare to run as good as he did last time on the turf at Churchill and now win a major prep for the Breeders' Cup Sprint."–Claire Crosby