The major players for the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) remained on the sidelines over the past weekend, waiting for the Overbrook Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland and the Beldame Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park the first weekend of October. However, a couple of horses looking to have an impact at the World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 27 were in action at Belmont and at Turfway Park.
At Belmont, several distaffers returned Sept. 19 in a high-class allowance race that helped filled the void left by the cancellation of the Ruffian Handicap (gr. I). Secret Status, winner of last year's Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), and a long-distance specialist, encountered heavy traffic during the stretch run, but did rally for second in the 1 1/16-mile race. The added distance of the Distaff, run at 1 1/8 miles, should be more suitable to her talents. Not to take anything away from the winner, Pentatonic, a New York-bred 6-year-old who is a multiple grade III winner and grade I-placed at Belmont. The daughter of Cure the Blues was also scheduled to run in the Ruffian, and if she surfaces in the Beldame and performs well, could make a run at the Distaff.
At Turfway in the Turfway Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II), another Ruffian refugee, March Magic, had a very rough trip along the rail, backing up in the stretch after trying to make several early moves in the 1 1/16-mile race. The Richard Violette-trained 4-year-old should get another chance between now and Oct. 27 to show if she belongs.
Spain, attempting to defend her Turfway Breeders' Cup title while the 6-5 favorite, had a wide trip throughout, finishing a distant third. In her defense, she was just making her second start off a four-month break, and the smallish-looking daughter of Thunder Gulch will continue to train on to the Distaff. No one in the history of the Breeders' Cup has been more successful than trainer D. Wayne Lukas and never discount him when the money is on the table -- Spain won last year's Distaff at 55-1 off a second-place finish in the Spinster.
The Turfway Breeders' Cup winner, Claiborne Farm's Trip, is more suited to seven furlongs up to 1 1/16 miles. The Distaff is a longshot for the Frank Brothers-trained daughter of Lord At War. The Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap (gr. II) at one mile on Nov. 3 is the most likely next target.
As the Oak Tree meeting opens this week, one major West Coast filly may be taking a step toward the Distaff while tackling the turf. Tranquility Lake has proven to be a steady performer on grass this summer in Southern California and will be sent out after the 1 1/4-miles Yellow Ribbon Handicap (gr. IT) on Sept. 29. Despite her affinity for the turf, she may go from the Yellow Ribbon back to the main track for the Distaff.