Fashion Alert's talent was obvious from the moment she began training and became indisputable once she started racing.
The filly is 2-for-2, both outings against stakes company and both ending with her winning handily.
However, raw talent can take a horse only so far. How far Fashion Alert wants to go is the question her connections hope will be answered in a positive manner when she starts in the Grade I, $400,000 Darley Alcibiades against a dozen other juvenile fillies on Friday, opening day of the Keeneland Fall meet.
The 11⁄16-mile Alcibiades is the feature on a 10-race card that kicks off Keeneland's 17-day meet, the track's first over its newly installed dirt surface that replaced the synthetic Polytrack that had been in place since Fall 2006.
Though Fashion Alert broke her maiden over the main track at Belmont Park — winning the Astoria Stakes by 43/4 lengths on June 14 — trainer Todd Pletcher and co-owners George Bolton and Barry Hall thought the Alcibiades, raced over two turns, would tell them more about the filly's future than if they put her in Sunday's Grade II, 6-furlong Matron Stakes at Belmont.
It is hard not to look ahead given what the bay filly has done. In the Grade III, 6-furlong Schuylerville at Saratoga on July 18, Fashion Alert dueled with fellow Alcibiades entrant Take Charge Brandi through taxing fractions of 22.41 seconds and :45.21 before edging away in the stretch to win by 11/2 lengths.
"Obviously she's talented," Bolton said. "We knew this spring that she was quicker and faster than the rest of them. We didn't know how far she'd go, but when we sent her to Todd we were like 'Have you worked her yet? Did you work her yet?' because we hoped what we saw on the farm would translate.
"In terms of her two sprint races already, both very impressive, both well in hand. She can't do anything more on her résumé than be 2-for-2. We're trying a two-turn race to see if she can go further. A one-turn race at Belmont doesn't solve anything in terms of next year, so we're trying this one."
Fashion Alert developed a hock problem after the Schuylerville that took her out of a possible start in the Grade I Spinaway on Aug. 31. Her works since then, including a bullet 4-furlong move over the Saratoga training track in :49.16 on Sept. 6, signaled that problem has been cleaned up.
She still needs to learn to get out of the gate cleanly, something she has not done in her two starts.
"She didn't have the easiest time of it either time so hopefully she breaks a little sharper and (jockey John Velazquez) can rate her," Bolton said. "That's the whole goal is to break cleanly and she'll get herself into the race being as quick as she is. Then we just pray they don't put too much pressure on her and she can finish."
Having landed in post No. 1 for Friday, Fashion Alert probably will have to flash early speed again to get good position. She is the only graded stakes winner entered in the Alcibiades.
Naval Command, winner of the Happy Ticket on the grass at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 6, is the other stakes winner in the field while Taylor S, impressive maiden winner at Churchill Downs on Sept. 14, figures to show early speed having wired the field during her 33/4-length triumph.
"(The Breeders' Cup) is the ultimate goal, but I've been in this long enough to know we have to get through Friday first," Bolton said. "There will probably be some cheap speed in the race. But if we did get lucky enough to air it out in this thing, we're definitely going to California."