The current favorite for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), Storm Flag Flying, gets her final tune up before the World Thoroughbred Championships Saturday when she heads the field in the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
The Storm Cat filly blew away her opponents in the Sept. 15 Matron Stakes (gr. I), winning by 12 3/4 lengths in just her second start. With the defections from the Breeders' Cup of Awesome Humor, Handpainted, and Miss Houdini, Storm Flag Flying is the obvious favorite...at this point anyway.
Storm Flag Flying has a pedigree familiar to Breeders' Cup fans. Her dam is 1995 Juvenile Fillies winner My Flag (by Easy Goer), and her second dam is unbeaten champion and 1988 Distaff (gr. I) winner Personal Ensign (by Private Account).
Storm Flag Flying races for her breeder, Ogden Mills Phipps, and is trained by Shug McGaughey.
Among those set to try Storm Flag Flying is Santa Catarina, who trainer Bob Baffert is shipping from California for the assignment. The Unbridled filly comes off a solid race in the Aug. 31 Del Mar Debutante (gr. I), beaten just a neck by Miss Houdini. Unbridled won the 1990 Classic (gr. I) at Belmont.
In a pedigree twist, while Storm Flag Flying is by Storm Cat, Santa Catarina, who races for Bob and Beverly Lewis, is out of a Storm Cat mare (Purrfectly).
Another to watch in the Frizette is Fircroft, who finished third in the Matron after a troubled trip. Rusty Arnold trains the filly for her breeder, G. Watts Humphrey Jr.
Baffert will also have one of the favorites at Keeneland Friday, when The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Atlantic Ocean goes postward in the Walmac Alcibiades Stakes (gr. II). The Stormy Atlantic filly was an impressive winner last out of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Turfway Park on Sept. 14.
Ruby's Reception, who finished second to Stormy Atlantic at Turfway, is expected to try her again. Trained by Larry Jones for Oasis Racing Stable, she has yet to finish off the board in five starts.
Other probables for the Alcibiades include Junior Champion Stakes winner Final Round, Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) third Midnight Cry, and Natalma Stakes (gr. III) third Sand Springs.
Sending Santa Catarina to New York and Stormy Atlantic to Kentucky does not leave Baffert sitting on the sidelines for the major 2-year-old filly prep in California. He will send out the Lewises Composure in Sunday's Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. II). The Touch Gold filly broke her maiden at Del Mar on Sept. 7 in her third start.
Among those set to oppose Composure is Sea Jewel, who beat Composure in the first race for both of them, on Sept. 28. Sea Jewel then came back to run fourth in the Del Mar Debutante.
The European contingent continues to sort itself out as well, but this corner continues to speak highly of Russian Rhythm. The Michael Stoute trainee runs this weekend as well. The unbeaten Kingmambo filly is among a group of a dozen Friday in the six-furlong Cheveley Park Stakes (gr. I) at Newmarket, England.
Fab Five Contenders:Horse/trainer/owner
1. Storm Flag Flying/Shug McGaughey/Ogden Mills Phipps/Frizette
2. Santa Catarina/Bob Baffert/Robert B. and Beverly J. Lewis/Frizette
3. Russian Rhythm/Michael Stoute/Cheveley Park Stud/Cheveley Park
4. Ivanavinalot/Kathleen O'Connell/Gilbert Campbell/Florida Stallion Stakes
5. Atlantic Ocean/Bob Baffert/The Thoroughbred Corp./Alcibiades