Spinster Stakes Preview

Spinster attracts well-matched cast of 11

A competitive group of 11 distaffers will square off in Sunday's $500,000 Spinster S. (G1) at Keeneland. To a certain extent, the presence of unbeaten dual champion Zenyatta (Street Cry [Ire]) looms over the 1 1/8-mile affair on Polytrack, with RINTERVAL (Ire) (Desert Prince [Ire]) coming off a close second to the superstar at Del Mar, and Zenyatta's stablemate ZARDANA (Brz) (Crimson Tide) shipping in for John Shirreffs. But even more pronounced is the Spinster's turf flavor, courtesy of several grass performers including HOT CHA CHA (Cactus Ridge) and ACOMA (Empire Maker). Hence the Spinster, which has historically served as a stepping stone to the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (G1), figures to have implications for the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) as well.

Rinterval has progressed markedly from an allowance runner to graded stakes threat this campaign. Looking back on her early career in Europe, however, she had shown a touch of class by finishing runner-up to Lush Lashes (Galileo [Ire]) in the 2007 Goffs Fillies Million, and in the process, defeated Carribean Sunset (Ire) (Danehill Dancer). The five-year-old Rinterval has taken some time to round back into her smart juvenile form, but she has been better than ever in her last pair, underscoring her dangerous early speed and her affinity for Polytrack. The Eric Reed trainee led throughout in the July 4 Chicago H. (G3) at Arlington Park and yielded by only a head to champion Informed Decision (Monarchos) while 3 1/2 lengths clear of third. One month later in the Clement L. Hirsch S. (G1) at Del Mar, Rinterval again set the pace, dug in determinedly, and kept a daylight margin over everyone but the unconquerable Zenyatta, who nailed her by a neck.

Rinterval was going to take on Zenyatta again in last Saturday's Lady's Secret S. (G1) at Oak Tree, only to flip over in a scary incident in the Hollywood Park paddock. Withdrawn promptly from the Lady's Secret, but none the worse for the experience, she comes right back Sunday. New rider Patrick Valenzuela will try to help her land her first marquee victory.

Zardana, who recorded her first graded win in the Bayakoa H. (G2) at Hollywood last December, famously spoiled Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra's comeback in the March 13 New Orleans Ladies S. at Fair Grounds. Last seen finishing a distant third to Zenyatta and the valiant St Trinians (GB) (Piccolo) in the June 13 Vanity H. (G1) at her Hollywood base, Zardana will reunite with regular rider Victor Espinoza at Keeneland.

Hot Cha Cha already owns a Grade 1 laurel, having romped by 4 1/2 lengths in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) over the Keeneland turf last fall. Racing exclusively on the grass in the interim, the Phil Sims pupil has hit the board in all five of her outings in 2010, and she exits a runner-up effort in the August 21 Beverly D. S. (G1) at Arlington. Hot Cha Cha would have been a major contender in Saturday's First Lady S. (G1) here over a grassy mile, but Sims ultimately opted for the Spinster in light of its nine-furlong distance.

The versatile Hot Cha Cha is adept on Polytrack too, as suggested by her smashing victory in the 2009 Bourbonette Oaks (G3) and her close third in the Arlington Oaks (G3) last summer. The ultra-consistent four-year-old will have her usual pilot James Graham back in the saddle for the Spinster, which will set her up for the Filly & Mare Turf.

Acoma is another who was originally under consideration for both the First Lady and Spinster. A Grade 2 heroine on turf and a multiple Grade 3 winner on the dirt, the David Carroll pupil will be making only her second career start on synthetic. She captured her lone synthetic attempt right here when breaking her maiden in April 2008.

For all of her back class, though, things haven't gone Acoma's way this season. As the defending champion in the June 5 Mint Julep H. (G3) at Churchill Downs, she finished second to Hot Cha Cha; she was beaten all of a half-length in fourth in the July 3 Locust Grove H. (G3) beneath the Twin Spires; and most disappointing of all, Acoma was a troubled seventh in the Beverly D. The royally-bred five-year-old will hope to turn the corner Sunday, and if she can overcome post 11, she would propel herself into the Breeders' Cup picture. Alan Garcia picks up the mount.

Other Spinster entrants who are better known as turf horses are Grade 2 winner TIZAQUEENA (Tiznow), who posted a front-running score in the May 29 Arlington Matron H. (G3) in her only previous try on synthetic, and SILVER REUNION (Harlan's Holiday), who nearly upset the August 28 Ballston Spa H. (G2) in her return from a 10-month layoff. Both are pace factors who figure to mix it up with Rinterval early.

The lone sophomore in the field, IT'S TEA TIME (Dynaformer), was a barnstorming runner-up to Evening Jewel (Northern Afleet) in the Ashland S. (G1) over the track back in April. A sharp entry-level allowance winner on the Saratoga turf two back, the Rusty Arnold trainee most recently dominated the off-the-turf Lake Placid S. (G3) against only two rivals at the Spa on August 22.

The respective second- and third-place finishers from the Doubledogdare S. (G3) during the spring meet, FUNNY MOON (Malibu Moon) and STRIKING DANCER (Smart Strike), will cross swords again after going in different directions over the summer. Funny Moon, queen of the 2009 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), returned to the dirt for trainer Christophe Clement, taking the Shuvee H. (G2) and finishing third in both the Ogden Phipps H. (G1) and the July 17 Delaware H. (G2) last time out. La Canada S. (G2) victress Striking Dancer has raced only once since the Doubledogdare, running evenly in fourth in the grassy Glens Falls H. (G3) at Saratoga on Labor Day.

Rounding out the field are two with Canadian form. Last year's Canadian champion three-year-old filly, MILWAUKEE APPEAL (Milwaukee Brew), has gone winless in four starts this season and was twice beaten by Funny Moon. Her best effort came on Polytrack, a second in the Hill 'n' Dale S. at Woodbine in her reappearance, and she is eligible to do better back on synthetic. ASKBUT I WON'TTELL (Horse Chestnut [SAf]) was previously no match for Hot Cha Cha or Tizaqueena, but came within a neck of presumptive Canadian champion three-year-old filly Biofuel (Stormin Fever) in the August 22 Belle Mahone S. at Woodbine.

One race earlier on Sunday, two-year-olds will seek to stamp their tickets to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) with strong performances in the $100,000 Bourbon S. (G3) over 1 1/16 grassy miles. An overflow field of 14 was entered, but only 12 are allowed to start. Top contenders in the main group include Woodbine shipper STORMY RUSH (Stormy Atlantic), who won his first two outings before checking in third in the September 18 Summer S. (Can-G3);  FORUM (Roman Ruler), who faded to sixth in the Summer; unbeaten Chenery S. hero Z APPEAL (Ghostzapper), who stretches out past 5 1/2 furlongs for the first time; MESONIC (Sky Mesa), a closing third as the 3-2 favorite in the September 6 Cradle S. at River Downs; and impressive Delaware allowance winner MONZON (Thunder Gulch).

Several promising juveniles are stepping up off maiden scores, most notably the Shug McGaughey-trained VOODOO STORM (Storm Cat), a son of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Voodoo Dancer (Kingmambo), and fellow Saratoga winner ROGUE ROMANCE (Smarty Jones), who had finished fourth to eventual Pilgrim S. (G3) winner Air Support (Smart Strike) first time out. COZY KITTEN (Kitten's Joy) overcame a rough start to rally from far back in his debut at Monmouth, while OCASTA (Cherokee Run) rolled by four lengths at Kentucky Downs in his fourth career outing, but first on turf.

The also-eligibles are Belmont maiden winner BANNED (Kitten's Joy) and Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3) runner-up ROUGH SAILING (Mizzen Mast), with the latter scheduled to run in Saturday's Breeders' Futurity (G1) instead.

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