A sparkling group of female turf runners, representing both sides of the Atlantic, were pre-entered in the $2-million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT). The race will be run Oct. 24 as part of the all-female card at Santa Anita.
This marks the second time the Filly & Mare Turf, which was added to the Breeders’ Cup menu in 1999, will be run at Santa Anita. In 2003, the Europeans dominated at Santa Anita when Islington, L’Ancresse, and Yesterday accounted for the top three spots in the 11⁄4-mile race.
Four times in nine years, Euros have usurped the Americans, thanks to Islington, Banks Hill (2001), and Ouija Board (2004 and 2006).
This year’s distance is 1 1⁄4 miles. The field will start on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course. After navigating the first of three turns, the runners will briefly cross the Pro-Ride synthetic surface before returning to the grass.
The American contingent is led by Arindel Farm’s Wait a While, fourth in the 2006 Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs and undefeated in three starts over Santa Anita’s turf course, and Robert Scarborough’s Mauralakana, a winner of five stakes this year.
The foreign brigade is headed by Halfway To Heaven, the winner of the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot (Eng-I), Boylesports Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I), and Blue Square Nassau Stakes (Eng-I); Folk Opera, the winner of Canada’s E.P. Taylor (Can-IT); and Prix du Moulin (Fr-I) winner Goldikova, who has first preference in the Mile (gr. IT).
Wait a While, a 5-year-old daughter of Maria’s Mon, won Santa Anita’s Yellow Ribbon (gr. IT) in 2006—the same year she was crowned champion 3-year-old filly—and again this year. This year’s Yellow Ribbon was a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race and afforded Wait a While an automatic starting berth in the race.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Wait a While also won the San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita in January. Wait a While prefers firm footing and with dry weather the norm for California in October, the mare is likely to relish the course condition. The grass was a bog at Monmouth Park last year, and Wait a While was withdrawn from the Filly & Mare Turf.
Mauralakana, a French-bred daughter of Muhtathir, has won five stakes this year on American soil, including the Beverly D. (gr. IT), a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” designated race at Arlington. The 5-year-old is trained by Christophe Clement, who also pre-entered Vacare.
A 5-year-old daughter of Lear Fan, Vacare is owned by Californians Jon and Sarah Kelly. She finished second to Wait a While in this year’s Yellow Ribbon after winning the Palomar Handicap (gr. IIT) at Del Mar in August.
A supplemental fee of $180,000 from Godolphin Stable will be required to start the Irish-bred Folk Opera, who earned a qualifying berth by winning the E.P. Taylor, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race. She is trained by Saeed bin Suroor.
Halfway To Heaven hails from the white-hot stable of the Ireland-based Aidan O’Brien, who trains the daughter of Pivotal for Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Sue Magnier.
Forever Together unleashed a powerful rally to capture the Diana (gr. IT)—a Breeders’ Cup qualifier at Saratoga—and Keeneland’s First Lady (gr. IT) for owner George Strawbridge Jr.’s Augustin Stable. Jonathan Sheppard trains Forever Together, a 4-year-old daughter of Belong to Me. Against his usual modus operandi, Strawbridge purchased her out of a 2-year-old.
The Bill Mott-trained Dynaforce, a 5-year-old daughter of Dynaformer, won Belmont’s Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) to upset favored Mauralakana. Dynaforce, a homebred for Dr. John Chandler, enjoyed an uncontested lead over the water-logged course in the Flower Bowl.
American Oaks Invitational (gr. IT) winner Pure Clan is also a graded winner on dirt. Trained by Robert Holthus for IEAH Stable, Lewis Lakin, and Pegasus Holding Group Stables, Pure Clan is a 3-year-old daughter of Pure Prize.
Veteran Precious Kitten, who also has first preference in the Mile, is trained by Bobby Frankel. Frankel will no doubt have his eyes on Juddmonte Farms’ European invader Visit, currently trained by Michael Stoute, since Frankel often inherits Juddmonte runners when their European careers are over.
Sealy Hill, Canada’s Horse of the Year in 2007, ran third in the E.P. Taylor for trainer Mark Casse and breeder/owner Eugene Melnyk.
Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf Pre-Entries:
Halfway To Heaven
Wait a While
Goldikova has first preference in the Mile
Precious Kitten has first preference in the Mile