Fleet Indian is right where her owner, Paul Saylor, wants her to be in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I). The 5-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie
has the No. 7 post position for Saturday's race at Churchill Downs, where she will try to extend her eight-race win streak before being offered at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
"I like our spot, right in the middle of the pack," Saylor said. "We didn't want to be on the rail; we didn't want to be all the way on the inside. We just hope everybody comes out of there (the starting gate) straight."
Fleet Indian is the $2-million Distaff's 8-5 morning line favorite after capturing all six of her races this year, including the Beldame (gr. I) and Personal Ensign (gr. I) Stakes. But even though her credentials are impressive, Saylor didn't expect his mare's odds to be so low given the strength of the Distaff's field. All but one of Fleet Indian's 13 rivals are grade I winners.
"It's a great field," Saylor said. "Whoever gets the trip wins this one. I'm surprised that she's 8-5 frankly. It's that good of a field. I thought she probably would have been 2 or 3 to 1."
Fleet Indian is trained by Todd Pletcher, who will saddle two other Distaff starters: Round Pond and Spun Sugar. Jose Santos will be aboard Fleet Indian.
"I would be surprised if we were on the lead; there's enough speed in there," Saylor said. "We're not going to gun and go. We'll probably be laying anywhere between second and fourth, not far out of it. We've got three super closers in there that we're going to have to worry about. Hopefully, we won't have to go around anybody like we did in the Beldame (gr. I). We're hoping to find a hole laying off of it, and we'll let her do her thing. She had a great last work, and she's in good shape."
Saylor was a member of the partnership that raced Ashado, who won the Distaff in 2004 and finished third in the race last year. She brought $9 million at the Keeneland November sale, setting a world record for a broodmare or broodmare prospect sold at public auction.
But even though Saylor has previous experience as an owner of a Distaff competitor, he's still nervous.
If anybody tells you they are cool, calm, and collected in this situation, don't listen to them because it's not true," Saylor said. "It's harder for me this time around. "With Ashado, I had two partners I could unwind with."
Balletto, who pushed Fleet Indian hard while finishing second by only a head in the Beldame Stakes, is in post No. 14 for the Distaff. Churchill's handicapper Mike Battaglia made her the morning line's 6-1 third choice, behind 3-year-old Pine Island at 5-1.
Happy Ticket is in the 13 hole instead of the middle of the field, where her owner, Stewart Madison, had wanted her to be. But he was trying to look at the situation from a positive standpoint. Madison is hoping that Happy Ticket can improve on her 11th-place finish in last year's Distaff, when she suffered an entrapped epiglottis. Since undergoing throat surgery, she's won once and has been second three times in her six races this year.
"It's better outside than inside for us," Madison said. "We will probably be one of the last to load, which is good for us. And she's got tactical speed, so that helps. We would rather have been 5, 6, 7, or 8, but with 13, we're probably not going to have any trouble out there. It gives her a chance to do what she needs to do. I'm not real disappointed. In a big field like this, we much prefer the outside to the inside."
Added Happy Ticket's trainer, Andy Leggio: "She'll load kind of late. She won't be in the starting gate very long before they're on their way, and she's got enough speed to get where she needs to be. She's very versatile. We don't have to rush or we don't have to pull her back. We'll just let her fall out of there and find a position."$2 Million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I, Race 8, 3:55 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Round Pond (KY), 123, Edgar S. Prado
2. Pine Island (KY), 120, Javier Castellano
3. Healthy Addiction (KY), 123, Victor Espinoza
4. Sharp Lisa (KY), 123, Patrick A. Valenzuela
5. Lemons Forever (KY), 120, Mark Guidry
6. Spun Sugar (KY), 123, Michael J. Luzzi
7. Fleet Indian (NY), 123, Jose A. Santos
8. Baghdaria (KY), 120, Rafael Bejarano
9. Pool Land (KY), 123, John R. Velazquez
10. Hollywood Story (KY), 123, David R. Flores
11. Bushfire (FL), 120, Alex O. Solis
12. Asi Siempre (KY), 123, Julien R. Leparoux
13. Happy Ticket (LA), 123, Garrett K. Gomez
14. Balletto (UAE), 123, Corey S. Nakatani