Regal Glory winning the Matriarch at Del Mar under Jose Ortiz
The Grade 1, $500,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., brings together a field of six fillies and mares, with two of them standouts on class as they have won at the level. Shantisara won the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup last fall on the Keeneland turf, but hasn’t been seen since. Regal Glory won the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes on the turf last November at Del Mar in California and also won the Grade 3 Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational Stakes when last seen in January. Both are trained by Chad Brown, who has won the Jenny Wiley three of the last four years.
Navratilova won the Grade 3 Valley View Stakes on the Keeneland grass last fall and returned to the races following five months off to be third in the Grade 3 Honey Fox Stakes so has room to improve and be competitive in this race. Lady Speightspeare won the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes as a 2-year-old and in only the second start of her career, in the summer of 2020, but has only won once on turf in four tries since then. Waliyak was imported from Europe last fall off a win in the Group 3 Prix Bertrand de Tarragon and was not disgraced when fourth of 10 in the Grade 1 EP Taylor Stakes so may fit here. Scarabea rounds out the field with a one for 10 record and enters the race off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Orchid Stakes.
Analysis and top contenders:
Although Irish-bred Shantisara earned a field high 121 Equibase Speed Figure when winning the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup six months ago, there’s no guarantee she can pick up where she left off following the long layoff. Granted, top trainer Brown has won with 25 percent of his starters coming back from four months or more away from the races in turf routes going back five years, but when making her US debut last June, off a four-month layoff, Shantisara could only manages a second-place finish, and that was in a non-graded race. The Queen Elizabeth II is a race restricted to 3-year-olds only so Shantisara is also facing older horses for the first time. Prior to the win at Keeneland, Shantisara earned a 104 figure winning the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Belmont Park in September, and that’s the effort she may be most likely to repeat, which may not be good enough to win.
French-bred Waliyak ran better in Europe than Shantisara and so will be my top selection in this year’s Jenny Wiley. Last summer at Royal Ascot, Waliyak finished third of seven in a Group 3 race, compared to the fact Shantisara never ran in a group stakes race in Europe. One race later, Waliyak won a Group 3 stakes with a 102 figures, before an even better effort when second of 10 in the Atalanta Stakes behind next out winner Saffron Beach. That earned a 108 figure which Shantisara duplicated winning the Prix Bertrand de Tarragon in September. She was highly regarded enough to face some of the best females on turf in the EP Taylor Stakes at Woodbine in October and checked in fourth of 10, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths for the win. Now rested and working consistently including two drills on the Keeneland turf, Waliyak need only run back to either of her last two races in Europe to win this race. Additionally, she may go to post at decent odds because her trainer, Edward Vaughn, is not well known. However, his Race Lens statistics reveal he’s very competent, with just 50 starters in the past five years but with 17 first- or second-place finishes. Potentially best of all, jockey Umberto Rispoli rides. Rispoli has been in the top three in jockey standings at Southern California tracks for the past few years and is riding in Kentucky for the spring.
Regal Glory, like Shantisara, is trained by Brown, and is in my opinion much more likely than her stablemate to win the Jenny Wiley. Regal Glory has won 10 of 17 races and banked $1.5 million to date. She ran one of the best races of her career when missing by a half-length in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland six months ago, earning a career-best 111 figure, then won the Matriarch Stakes in late November. Returning for her 6-year-old campaign, Regal Glory picked up where she left off with a win in the Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational, earning a very good 109 figure which may be improved upon in her second start of the year .
About the rest: Lady Speightspeare won the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes, a turf route, as a 2-year-old in the summer of 2020 but since then her only win came at seven furlongs, on the all-weather surface at Woodbine, with a 103 figure. She has not progressed in three turf route races since, with 107, 96 and 105 figures and in all three races she lost ground in the last eighth of a mile which does not bode well for her chances in this race. Navratilova won the Grade 3 Valley View Stakes at this distance on the Keeneland turf last fall, leading from start to finish in the same manner as she won the Tepin Stakes four months earlier in June. She has never faced this level of competition and her career-best 101 figure would not be good enough to compete with the best in this field if repeated. Scarabea has only a maiden win to her credit and her last two races at a mile and one-half on turf, with 99 and 98 figures, make it hard to consider her a contender.
Win Contenders, in preference order:
Jenny Wiley Stakes – Grade 1
Race 10 at Keeneland
Saturday, April 16 – Post Time 5:48 PM ET
1 1/16 Miles on Turf
Fillies and Mares, 4 Years Old and Upward
Ellis Starr is national racing analyst for Equibase