LEXINGTON, Ky. – A well-matched field of 11 2-year-old fillies, most trying stakes company for the first time, and several trying two turns for the first time, will look to springboard into the Breeders’ Cup in the Grade 2, $150,000 Jessamine Stakes on Wednesday on the Keeneland turf.
The Jessamine is the feature on an eight-race Wednesday card that begins the first full week of racing at the Keeneland fall meet, which began last Friday and runs through Oct. 24. The Jessamine is the final race of the meet offering an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup, in this case the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Keeneland will host the Breeders’ Cup for the second time on Nov. 6-7.
Batyah comes to the Jessamine off a debut victory going a mile Sept. 19 at Belmont Park for Graham Motion, who saddled Sharing to win the 2019 Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita. Motion opted for the Jessamine over the Grade 3 Miss Grillo last Sunday at Belmont Park for Batyah, as it offered better spacing between races.
In her debut, Batyah broke from the outside post in a field of 10 and rallied from 10 lengths off the pace to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths. She earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 71, and is one of five in this field to crack the threshold of 70.
“I was super impressed with her,” Motion said. “I can’t say I was completely surprised as I had breezed her with Alda, my other nice 2-year-old filly, the week before and I thought she handled it really well. We expected good things, but you never expect them to win quite like she did first time.”
Batyah has the opposite draw this time, as she landed the inside post under David Cohen.
Spanish Loveaffair has won both her starts going a mile at Gulfstream Park for trainer Mark Casse. She followed an 11-length front-running debut victory with a stalking win in the Sharp Susan Stakes, earning a Beyer of 78, the top number in this field. Tyler Gaffalione gets the call on Spanish Loveaffair, who drew post 10 of 11.
Beautiful Star is one of the few others in this field with stakes experience. After winning her maiden in her second start going a mile on the Ellis Park turf, she came back to finish fifth in the Juvenile Fillies at Kentucky Downs. This will be her first start for trainer Steve Asmussen after being transferred from the barn of Brad Cox.
Aunt Pearl, Gambling Cat, Ingrassia, and Lazy Summer Day all won maiden races at either a mile or 1 1/16 miles. Gambling Cat owns a Beyer of 73, while Aunt Pearl has posted a 72.
Arm Candy, Momentous Miss, Navratilova, and Taylor’s Tourist all own maiden wins sprinting on the turf and will be trying two turns for the first time. Taylor’s Tourist came out of her maiden win to finish second in the Untapable Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs on the Kentucky Downs turf, earning a 75 Beyer.