The Grade 2, $250,000 Lexus Raven Run Stakes is one of the last graded stakes for the year restricted to 3-year-old fillies, and it’s a dynamite edition of the race. Of the 11 fillies entered, six come into the race off of first- or second-place finishes and another couple were competitive at the top level earlier this year. Royal Charlotte leads the field in terms of recent efforts as she comes into the race off a victory in the Grade 2 Prioress Stakes this summer at Saratoga and won the Grade 3 Victory Ride Stakes in July as well. Another filly with top credentials is Restless Rider, who returns to the races after a five-month hiatus and a 13th-of-14 finish in the Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks. Restless Rider won the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland one year ago and nearly won the Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland Stakes on this track in April, also off a layoff. Horologist won the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks in August before a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes last month and fits with these, as does Irish Mischief, who enters the race off a fine runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks. Then, there’s the improving Needs Supervision, who won the Silverbulletday Stakes last January before a fifth-place finish, layoff, and decent runner-up in her recent comeback after seven months off. Bell’s the One finished second in the Dogwood Stakes last month to Covfefe, the leader in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint division, and although she was beaten by eight lengths, Bell’s the One ran credibly against perhaps the fastest female sprinter in training. Indian Pride and First Star both try stakes competition for the first time after impressive wins against lesser horses in their most recent starts and could be up to the task. Free Cover and Istan Council finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Dogwood, a few lengths behind runner-up Bell’s the One, and may need improvement to compete here. Oxy Lady finished second in the Busher Stakes in March before a 10th-place finish in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes in April. Coming off a six-month layoff, she may need a race before she is competitive at this Grade 2 level.
I’m choosing Needs Supervision as my top pick to win the Raven Run, even knowing she will go to post at higher odds than many others. Except for her poor effort in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes in February, Needs Supervision has done everything right, with three wins and two runner-up finishes in her other five races. After a half-length defeat in her career debut nearly one year ago to the day, Needs Supervision won three straight races including the Silverbulletday Stakes and was on track to be one of the favorites in the Kentucky Oaks before the Rachel Alexandra. Her trainer then gave the filly nine months off and it appears that did her a world of good as she returned to rally from eighth of nine into second in the Weathervane Stakes last month. Not only should Needs Supervision improve physically in her second start off the layoff, but she has also put in two sensational workouts in preparation for this race, the first on Oct. 5 was the best of 57 on the day and the second workout Oct. 12 was the third best of 35. Needs Supervision already won once on the Kentucky circuit when shipping from her trainer’s home base in Maryland last November to run at Churchill Downs, which resulted in a career-best 100 Equibase Speed Figure. Still, I wondered how trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer did with shippers in these situations overall. STATS Race Lens provided that answer quickly and showed me O’Dwyer also shipped into Kentucky this past May to win the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes with Rookie Salsa at 27-1 odds. As such, I think Needs Supervision can run well enough to win in this situation.
Bell’s the One finished second to Covfefe in the Dogwood Stakes last month at Churchill Downs. Although beaten by eight lengths, that is like winning in my opinion because of the nature of the horse which won the race. Covfefe had set the track record at Pimlico on Preakness Stakes weekend and is being pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint as the probable favorite off the sensational effort in the Dogwood, in which Bell’s the One rallied from fifth to second to be 2 ¼ lengths ahead of the third-place finisher. The effort earned a 106 speed figure, which is the best in this field by any horse to date in their career. Bell’s the One won at Keeneland in her second career start nearly a year ago to the day then won a pair of stakes, one last December and one in March. She also finished second in the Grade 2 Eight Belles Stakes in May. As she is making her second start off a 3 ½-month layoff, Bell’s the One should improve and that makes her a strong contender in the Raven Run Stakes.
Restless Rider has run poorly just one time in eight races, winning three and finishing second four times. The poor effort came in the Kentucky Oaks when well regarded at the betting windows at 4-1 odds. After the 13th-place finish, Restless Rider was given time off to mature and has come back with five excellent workouts in the past six weeks. Considering Restless Rider won as a fresh horse in her career debut and also finished second off a layoff last summer in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes before winning the Alcibiades Stakes with a career-best 97 figure, I think this filly can fire a big shot off the layoff similar to when missing by a neck in the Ashland Stakes this past spring at Keeneland off a layoff. Therefore, she rounds out my three top win contenders in this race.
The rest of the field (with best representative Equibase Speed Figures): First Star (97), Free Cover (101), Horologist (101), Indian Pride (99), Irish Mischief (99), Istan Council (104), Oxy Lady (95), and Royal Charlotte (97).
Although all 11 can win this year’s Raven Run Stakes, the three horses I will consider for win bets first are: