LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The 12-horse lineup for the $200,000 Perryville Stakes starts with one major contender and ends with another. Remarkably, most of the other horses who will start outside of Likely and inside of High Finance also qualify as viable contenders, making Friday's eighth running of the Perryville the deepest in its brief history.
Besides Likely and High Finance, the Grade 3 Perryville also drew such talented 3-year-olds as Court Folly, Latent Heat, Lewis Michael, and Praying for Cash. To illustrate the depth of the Perryville, which is run at the Beard Course distance of seven furlongs and 184 feet, some of the wagering outsiders figure to include Reigning Court, winner of the recent Kentucky Cup Sprint, and Midnight Lute, a promising West Coast invader trained by Bob Baffert.
"Those are some very accomplished horses we're up against," said Scott Blasi, trainer of Reigning Court. "On paper, they appear to be very fast. It looks like an extremely deep race."
Likely, a nine-length winner of the Lafayette Stakes in the spring, returns to Keeneland as a member of the hottest stable on the grounds. His trainer, Patrick Biancone, sent out four winners on opening weekend and has the numbers and quality at his disposal to figure prominently throughout the meet.
"We are here to run," said Biancone. As for Likely, who had a troubled trip as the favorite behind Reigning Court in the Kentucky Cup, "he will run better Friday, if we have better luck," he added.
High Finance ships in off a sensational allowance victory on the Aug. 26 Travers Stakes undercard, a race that earned him a 108 Beyer Speed Figure and makes him a truly exciting middle-distance prospect.
"We have ambitious plans for him," said Jeff Lifson, the director of Midwest operations for the colt's owners, West Point Stable. "His race on Travers Day was extremely impressive, and he has been training very well since then."
Of the others, Court Folly won the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga this summer, Latent Heat is entered off two sensational allowance triumphs, Lewis Michael was narrowly beaten in the Grade 2 Peter Pan in May, and Praying for Cash makes his first start for trainer Todd Pletcher after finishing second to Bluegrass Cat in his most recent start, the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational in August.
Friday is College Scholarship Day, meaning Keeneland will be filled with youthful horseplayers-to-be hoping to win one of 10 scholarships that will be raffled off throughout the afternoon.