Six graded/group stakes-winning fillies and mares in a field of eight will battle it out May 1 in the $200,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (gr. IIT). Two entrants, Tizaqueena and Phola, come into the race with two victories already to their credit this year.
Darley Stable’s Tizaqueena, the slight morning-line favorite at 5-2, is following a very similar path that led her to the winner’s circle after last year’s Distaff Turf Mile. In 2009 trainer Michael Stidham won a one-mile optional claiming race and a $60,000 1 1/16-mile restricted stakes at Fair Grounds with the daughter of Tiznow , out of Issaqueena (by Mr. Prospector), before winning the Distaff Turf Mile in near wire-to-wire fashion.
This year she started with consecutive wins at Fair Grounds in the 1 1/16-mile Allen LaCombe Memorial Handicap and the $100,000 Bayou Handicap. Jockey Garrett Gomez has the mount on Tizaqueena, replacing Shaun Bridgmohan, who is racing in New York.
Phola, Johannesburg—Humbling, by Petionville , is third-choice in the field. The 4-year-old filly trained by Todd Pletcher won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park before taking the grade III Hillsborough Stakes on Tampa Bay Downs' turf course March 13. Phola is remarkably consistent, have finished on the board eight times out of her 10 lifetime starts. The filly will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez.
The 3-1 second-choice in the field is Hot Cha Cha, who has the most experience in graded company. The daughter of Cactus Ridge, out of Reduced Sentence (by Broad Brush), has started in eight graded races and either won or placed in six of them. Her victory came in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland last October. James Graham, who has ridden Phola in her last four starts, has the mount.
Other intriguing entries include the Sadler's Wells filly Fantasia, a group III winner who raced in England and France in 2009. Owned by George Strawbridge Jr.’s Augustin Stable, she made her first start in the United States in an April 11 one-mile turf allowance race at Keeneland, where she finished a neck behind grade III winner Keertana.
Also entered is Diamondrella, who reeled off six consecutive turf sprints in 2008-09 before regressing into inconsistency. IEAH owns the Rock of Gibraltar daughter who ended 2009 with a third-place finish in the Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) behind Ventura and Tuscan Evening.
Diamondrella has two starts so far this year. She finished fifth in the San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) and 10th in the Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride surface. Diamondrella’s last victory was Oct. 10 in the grade I First Lady Stakes, a one-mile race on the soft turf at Keeneland in which she beat Tizaqueena.
Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes (gr. IIT), May 1, $200,000, fillies and mares 3 years old and up, Race 7, 2:08 p.m. EST
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. Miss Keller (IRE), J Castellano, 118
2. Phola (KY), R A Dominguez, 118
3. Fantasia (GB), J R Leparoux, 118
4. Hooh Why (FL), R D Allen Jr., 118
5. Tizaqueena (KY), G K Gomez, 118
6. Hot Cha Cha (KY), J Graham, 118
7. Diamondrella (GB), R Albarado, 118
8. Cure for Sale (ARG), J Alvarado, 118