With the defection of defending older filly champion Azeri to the Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I), Ashado and Storm Flag Flying were installed the morning-line favorites for the $2-million Breeders' Cup Distaff – Presented by Nextel (gr. I).
At the post position draw held at Lone Star Park Wednesday morning, Ashado drew post 1 and was listed as the 7-2 favorite by track handicapper Rick Lee. Storm Flag Flying, who drew post 7, was listed at 9-2.
Island Fashion, winner of the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Oak Tree on Oct. 3, drew post 10 in the 11-horse field and was listed as the 5-1 fourth choice.
The consistent Ashado, never off the board in her 13 career starts, will be facing older runners for the first time in the Distaff. She will be reunited with jockey John Velazquez after being ridden by Eibar Coa in her last start, a 2 ¾-length win in the 1 1/16-miles Cotillion Handicap (gr. II) at Philadelphia Park.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Ashado is owned by Jack and Laurie Wolf's Starlight Stables, Paul Saylor, and Johns Martin. The daughter of Saint Ballado was expected to arrive in Texas Wednesday.
Shug McGaughey, trainer of Storm Flag Flying, was happy with his filly's draw. "It's perfect. I'd rather be in the middle, so she can be on the outside to make her run."
Ogden Mills Phipps' Storm Flag Flying arrived on the grounds Tuesday, and had a one-mile gallop over the Lone Star Park surface Wednesday morning.
"She shipped in fine, and is doing fine," said Buzz Tenney, McGaughey's longtime assistant while cooling out Storm Flag Flying. "There looks to be plenty of speed in the race and she should settle and make her run. On paper, there looks to be plenty of pace. Maybe some of the others may want to send their horses now that Azeri isn't in there."
Storm Flag Flying, a homebred 4-year-old daughter of Storm Cat
--My Flag, by Easy Goer, has bounced back strong this year after being on the sidelines most of last year with, as Tenney described it, a deep-seated bruise on her right hind leg. She has a 3-1-3 slate from seven starts this year, winning the Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) in mid-May and the Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 27. Her last race, the one-turn nine-furlong Beldame Stakes (gr. I), resulted in a third-place effort on Oct. 9.
"She's a little more mature," Tenney said of Storm Flag Flying. "She's been through this before. She's run in more top-class races. The two-turns here will set things up differently then they did in the Beldame."
McGaughey said he thought the pace scenario would favor his filly as well, but was quick to point out he feared Tamweel on the front end in the Distaff. Tamwell, trained by Wayne Catalano, gave Azeri quite a tussle until late in the Overbrook Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland Oct. 10, eventually finishing second.
Showing the strength of this year's 3-year-old crop, Irving and Marge Cowan's Society Selection and Stellar Jayne both were listed at 4-1 and 6-1, respectively, on the morning line. Society Selection, winner of the Test and Alabama Stakes (both gr. I) at Saratoga this summer, is coming off a second-place finish in the Beldame.
Stellar Jayne, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, is owned by Spendthrift Farm, Chuck Kidder, Nancy Cole, and Nick Strong. She turned things around dramatically earlier in the year and has since won the Mother Goose and Gazelle Stakes (both gr. I).
"I thought Stellar Jayne's draw was horrible," Lukas admitted. "I didn't like it at all. We are going to have to take a hard look at that race with her. She's been showing speed and normally she would maybe be two or three wide but here, we don't want to take a chance of maybe getting hung out in the parking lot."Breeders' Cup Distaff – Presented by Nextel (gr. I), $2 million, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles, Lone Star Park, Saturday, Oct. 30.
PP – Horse – Jockey – Morning Line
1 – Ashado – John Velazquez – 7-2
2 – Elloluv – Corey Nakatani – 10-1
3 – Tamweel – Rene Douglas – 15-1
4 – Society Selection – Cornelio Velasquez – 4-1
5 – Nebraska Tornado – Edgar Prado – 15-1
6 – Hollywood Story – Tyler Baze – 20-1
7 – Storm Flag Flying – Jerry Bailey – 9-2
8 – Indy Groove – Mark Guidry – 20-1
9 – Bare Necessities – John Valdivia Jr. – 30-1
10 – Island Fashion – Kerwin John – 5-1
11 – Stellar Jayne – Robby Albarado – 6-1