The past two years, a homebred filly has come into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) with three straight wins and exited the World Thoroughbred Championships with four victories, a win that made history, and being an easy choice for an Eclipse Award.
Can Sweet Catomine make it three years in a row?
Well, not quite, because first of all, she hasn't won her three races. She finished second in her maiden voyage July 31 at Del Mar. But the way she won her second and third outings made you easily forget about her debut.
The daughter of Storm Cat
won the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) by three-quarters of a length in her second start--after hopping at the start and being last in the field of nine in the early going--and had the look of a horse that wanted two turns. She proved that assessment was on the mark Oct. 2 in the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita. In the 8 1/2-furlong Oak Leaf, she won by four lengths in 1:42.98, leaving little doubt she will be a force on Breeders' Cup day with the Juvenile Fillies the same 1 1/16-mile distance.
Two years ago, it was Storm Flag Flying who won the Juvenile Fillies for Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps. Also by Storm Cat
, Storm Flag Flying made the kind of move not often seen by young horses--she was headed in the stretch and came back to win drawing away. In the process, Storm Flag Flying made history, becoming the first three-generation Breeders' Cup winner. Storm Flag Flying's dam, My Flag, won the Juvenile Fillies, and her dam, Personal Ensign, won the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I).
Last year, it was Halfbridled who was the favorite in the Juvenile Fillies based on her three wins, including the same two prep races, Del Mar Debutante and Oak Leaf Stakes, won by Sweet Catomine. A daughter of Unbridled owned and bred by the Wertheimer family, Halfbridled made history when she won the Juvenile Fillies because her jockey, Julie Krone, became the first woman to ride a Breeders' Cup winner (other than the steeplechase).
Sweet Catomine is also a homebred, racing for Marty and Pam Wygod, who bred her in Kentucky. She was foaled and raised at Mill Ridge Farm in Kentucky, where her dam is carrying a full sibling to her. She is trained by Julio Canani. The only difference between Sweet Catomine and Storm Flag Flying and Halfbridled is Sweet Catomine comes into the race off an 89 Beyer Speed Figure (her highest) while they each won the race off of two consecutive numbers in the 90s.
Canani has never had a starter in one of the Breeders' Cup races for 2-year-olds, but he knows how to win a Breeders' Cup race. He has twice won the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), with Silic in 1999 and Val Royal in 2001. Seven of his nine starters have raced in turf races, the other two in the Distaff and Sprint.
One thing you can look for in the Juvenile Fillies is plenty of runners. In the 20-year history of the event, the average field size has been 11.45. Only four times have there been fewer than 10 starters. Half of the 20 races have been won by the favorite, with the average payoff over the 20 years being $19.33.
There is another way history could be made in this year's Juvenile Fillies. Balletto, winner of the Frizette Stakes (gr. I), could become the first Breeders' Cup winner bred in Dubai. The daughter of Timber Country, who races for Sheikh Mohammed's Darley, has won three of four starts, her only loss a second-place finish in the Matron (gr. I) to Sense of Style.
Sense of Style lost her first race in four outings in the Darley Alcibiades (gr. II) at Keeneland, when she finished fifth behind Runway Model.