The buzz in the 2-year-old filly ranks since August has centered on Halfbridled, the oversized daughter of Unbridled. Unbeaten in three starts, all in Southern California, including a 4 1/2-length romp in the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. II) over the Santa Anita surface, Halfbridled's super-sized reputation figures to make her the shortest-priced favorite on the World Thoroughbred Championships card.
Her stature and pedigree put her at the head of the class. Halfbridled's second dam is At the Half, a major winner at two and dam of millionaire Lu Ravi. Halfbridled was bred in Kentucky by her owners, Wertheimer and Frere.
Trained by Richard Mandella, Halfbridled has been compared to another of the trainer's Amazonian juvenile fillies, Phone Chatter, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) in 1993 over the same Santa Anita surface. Her prep for the $1-million race was a victory in the Oak Leaf (then grade I).
"She's a lot like Phone Chatter," Mandella said of Halfbridled prior to the Sept. 28 Oak Leaf. "She's a tall, rangy-looking filly. She moves like a gazelle. She's got great action. In her starts, she couldn't have acted more professional. She acts like she's done this all her life."
Her Oak Leaf victory confirmed her perfect form. And form has proven historically significant in the Juvenile Fillies. In the previous 19 runnings, nine favorites have won, or 47.4%, which is higher than the overall Breeders' Cup winning favorite slate of 37.2%. Six out of seven odds-on favorites have captured the Juvenile Fillies--the lone loser being You in the 2001 running at Belmont Park.
With the Breeders' Cup being held at Santa Anita, conventional wisdom suggests a West Coast bias, but that is not the case. In the five previous Breeders' Cups in Southern California, two of the Juvenile Fillies winners were local, and three prepped in the Midwest and East Coast.
The Frizette Stakes (gr. I) has been the prep of choice, producing seven winners. The Alcibiades Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland has been the springboard for four winners. Tempera, the 2001 winner, is the lone filly since Outstandingly in the inaugural running to win the Juvenile Fillies without running first, second, or third in her prep race.
The Frizette winner, Society Selection, certainly has the credentials. An Irving and Majorie Cowan homebred, Society Selection won the Frizette off just one start, an Aug. 18 maiden victory at Saratoga. Trainer Allen Jerkens rarely sends young horses into stakes competition off one start, so she must be something special. By Coronado's Quest, Society Selection is out of graded stakes winner Love That Jazz, who was second in the 1996 Juvenile Fillies for trainer Nick Zito. The Cowans have picked their spots well in the Breeders' Cup, with two winners (Hollywood Wildcat and her son War Chant) from six starters. Society Selection blew past Victory U. S. A. in the final furlong of the Frizette. Victory U. S. A., by first-year sire Victory Gallop, was third behind Halfbridled in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I).
The Darley Alcibiades winner, Be Gentle, must be reckoned with as well. Tom VanMeter II's Tale of the Cat filly wired the field in her first start at the Juvenile Fillies distance of 1 1/16 miles and hails from the barn of Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas, the all-time Breeders' Cup-leading trainer by wins and money, has led over four Juvenile Fillies winners.