LEXINGTON, Ky. - The sunshine boys, indeed. As nice as the weather has been since the Keeneland fall meet began Oct. 8, the old guys who figure as major contenders in the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes will be in fitting roles when the sun is beaming into the grandstand on yet another sensational afternoon here Thursday.
Cloudy's Knight, the defending champion at 10, will square off against 9-year-old Brass Hat, 8-year-old Musketier, and 7-year-old Presious Passion in a compelling 16th running of the $100,000 Sycamore, a 1 1/2-mile turf race with all kinds of storylines aside from the obvious one.
The status of Cloudy's Knight was in doubt until early this week, when his Hall of Fame trainer, Jonathan Sheppard, determined the $2.5 million earner had recovered sufficiently from a minor setback.
"He kind of reaggravated a suspensory injury from last spring, but if he's in there, you'll know he's fine," said Sheppard, who has won the Sycamore five times.
Rosemary Homeister will be back aboard Cloudy's Knight, who won the 2009 Sycamore with a flashy late rush. The gelding will be making his first start since finishing second in the Kentucky Cup Turf at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 11 when he breaks from post 9 in a three-turn race that drew a field of 14, although only as many as 12 can start.
Brass Hat, a $2.1 million earner and another stretch-runner, will break from post 5 with Calvin Borel aboard when seeking his first win in 17 months. The gelding sharpened last week with a bullet workout at Keeneland.
"If anyone saw his last work, they would have to know that he will be super tough in a very well-matched field," trainer Buff Bradley said.
Musketier (post 7, John Velazquez), trained by Canadian icon Roger Attfield, has been unraced since he was here to win the spring counterpart to the Sycamore, the Grade 2 Elkhorn, by 1 3/4 lengths over Brass Hat. The German-bred gray has had eight workouts at Woodbine in preparation for his return.
Presious Passion (post 6, Elvis Trujillo) is always fun to watch with his free-wheeling style, and he is sure to set the pace Thursday. The $2.6 million earner "looks like he needed" a Sept. 22 race at Delaware Park, according to trainer Mary Hartmann.
The Sycamore goes as the eighth of nine races. The forecast calls for sun and a high of 71.