LEXINGTON, Ky. -- It is not unprecedented for someone to walk through the glass doors of the Keeneland jockeys' room with unbridled confidence. Pat Day did it for years, and riders such as Jerry Bailey, Gary Stevens, and Shane Sellers also knew the feeling well.
Robby Albarado has every right to be brimming with confidence as the 17-day Keeneland meet begins Friday - and so he is. That's what winning major races aboard Curlin and becoming a perennial leader among North American jockeys will do to a guy.
"Life is good right now," Albarado said earlier this week on his way to the golf course. "Real good."
In nearly 20 years of riding professionally, Albarado, 35, has known plenty of success at Keeneland and elsewhere. He has won riding titles here (2002-03 spring) and at most major Midwest tracks, including Churchill Downs, Arlington, Fair Grounds, and Oaklawn. To date, his career totals have surpassed 3,800 wins and $140 million in mount earnings.
But only within the last few years, in the very prime of his career, has Albarado been breathing the rarefied air of the elite. His services are regularly sought for some of the best horses in the world, none more notable than Curlin. It was with Albarado aboard that Curlin recently won the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup to become the all-time leading money-winning horse in North American racing history.
"What he's done in such a short time is pretty exceptional," said Albarado.
As opposed to spring meets at Keeneland, when top jockeys from New York ride here daily, regular fare at fall meets is left mostly to locals. Still, Albarado would never be one to disparage his everyday competition, which this fall will include Kent Desormeaux, Julien Leparoux, Calvin Borel, Jamie Theriot, and Miguel Mena.
"I'll be riding every day except for when we leave for the Breeders' Cup," sometime during the week leading up to the Oct. 24-25 event, said Albarado. "So I guess we've got a chance to be leading rider, which would be real nice. I just want to stay healthy, get the right mounts, keep this thing going."
Shakis, War Monger top Shadwell
Lineups were set Wednesday for the five Saturday stakes at Keeneland. Here is a brief rundown:
* Grade 1, $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile (race 8): Shakis and War Monger, the one-two finishers in the Bernard Baruch six weeks ago, meet again in the Shadwell, which drew 13 older horses (only 12 can run). Other contenders in a terrific 23rd running include Thorn Song, Rahy's Attorney, Karelian, and a pair of European invaders, Lord Admiral and Lovelace.
* Grade 1, $500,000 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (race 7): Pioneerof the Nile, Majestic Blue, Terrain, Reynaldothewizard, and Advice rank among the top contenders in a wide-open running of this 1 1/16-mile race, which drew a field of 11 2-year-olds. British trainer John Best has three starters.
* Grade 3, $300,000 Thoroughbred Club of America (race 9): Indyanne, last seen incurring her first career defeat on the Aug. 23 Travers undercard at Saratoga, drew the rail in a field of 10 in the six-furlong TCA, which drew such seasoned filly-mare sprinters as Graeme Six, Sugar Swirl, Wild Gams, Any Limit, and Sweet Hope.
* Grade 3, $250,000 Phoenix (race 5): Talent Search, unraced since running second in the Grade 1 De Francis Dash last November, has Noonmark and Greeley's Conquest among his 11 opponents in a competitive running of the six-furlong Phoenix
* $150,000 Woodford (race 6): Smart Enough, unraced since April, will try to leapfrog to the BC Turf Sprint as part of a full field in this 5 1/2-furlong turf race for older horses.
Fall meet has some twists of its own
There are a few subtle differences between the spring and fall meets at Keeneland, although not enough to make them entirely distinct. Some of the more prominent New York trainers and jockeys who use the Keeneland spring meet in April as a way to bridge the end of Gulfstream with the start of Belmont tend to stay closer to home during the fall meet. Also, 2-year-old races are more plentiful and diverse than in the spring, when only 4 1/2-furlong dashes are carded.
"There are a few things different about each meet, but basically we'd like to think we're offering great racing and great scenery at both meets," said Keeneland director of racing Rogers Beasley.
Amanwella could extend maiden streak
Since this will be the third fall meet conducted at Keeneland since Polytrack was installed in the summer of 2006, this will mark the third time the Alcibiades has been run on the new surface.
Interestingly, only Amanwella has a chance Friday to duplicate what Bel Air Beauty did in 2006 and Country Star did in 2007: win the race as a maiden. That's right - only maidens have won the Alcibiades since the surface switch.
Amanwella, with Jeremy Rose riding for Graham Motion, has run in three maiden races, all at Saratoga.
Arnold confused by Stream Cat's loss
Stream Cat, a dismal last of six as one of the co-favorites in the Kentucky Cup Classic last weekend at Turfway Park, still had trainer Rusty Arnold shaking his head several days later.
"I can't explain it," said Arnold. "I can't remember a time when I had a horse doing as well as him before a race, and then the day of the race everything kind of falls apart on you."
* The FallStars weekend at Keeneland concludes Sunday with the last two of the nine opening-weekend stakes, the $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster and $150,000 Woodford Reserve Bourbon. Both are Win and You're In races for the Breeders' Cup - for the Ladies' Classic and Juvenile Turf, respectively. Entries for both were to be drawn Thursday.