Wait a While Faces Tough FM Turf Field
Wait a While was installed a tepid 3-1 favorite and drew post five of 10 entered in the $2-million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) Oct. 24 at Santa Anita.
Arindel Farm’s Wait a While will be ridden by John Velazquez. The 5-year-old daughter of Maria’s Mon is trained by Todd Pletcher, who seeks his first win in the Filly & Mare Turf. Wait a While ran fourth behind Ouija Board in the 2006 running at Churchill Downs.
"We’re pleased with the post," said Pletcher, who didn’t attend the Oct. 21 post position draw because he was at his Santa Anita barn awaiting the arrival of horses.
Wait a While has an unblemished record in three starts over Santa Anita’s turf. She won the Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT) in 2006 and 2008, as well as this year’s San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT).
Wait a While will have her work cut out for her as she meets a deep field in the 1 1/4-mile Filly & Mare Turf, which will be on Santa Anita’s downhill grass course and is run around three turns. Following the first turn, the runners will briefly cross over the Pro-Ride synthetic surface. The contenders include grade I winners Dynaforce, Folk Opera, Forever Together, Halfway To Heaven, Mauralakana, Pure Clan, and Vacare. Completing the field are the Great Britain-based Visit, and Sealy Hill, the 2007 Horse of the Year in Canada.
Second choice in the morning-line at 4-1 is the Aidan O’Brien-trained powerhouse Halfway To Heaven. Owned by Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith, Halfway To Heaven has won three group I races in Europe this year: the Boylesport Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I), Blue Square Nassau Stakes (Eng-I), and Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes (Eng-I).
European runners have accounted for wins in four of the nine runnings of the Filly & Mare Turf. In 2003, the only time the race has taken place at Santa Anita, the top three finishers in the race were foreign-based runners: Islington, L’Ancresse, and Yesterday.
Johnny Murtagh rides Halfway To Heaven, a 3-year-old daughter of Pivotal. She drew post 8.
Trainer Christophe Clement entered Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT) winner Mauralakana and Yellow Ribbon runner-up Vacare.
Mauralakana, the third choice at 5-1, is owned by Robert Scarborough. She will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux from post seven. Vacare, owned by Californians Jon and Sarah Kelly, will be piloted by Jose Valdivia Jr. from post two.
Nicholas Bachalard, Clement’s assistant trainer, said he was pleased with both draws.
"Vacare can save ground, and Mauralakana is in the middle of the pack and will have time to get position," Bachalard said. "They are good posts for both."
The Bill Mott-trained Dynaforce, the Flower Bowl (gr. IT) winner, will be ridden by Alan Garcia, who won last year’s Filly & Mare Turf aboard eventual champion Lahudood. Dynaforce is owned and bred by Dr. John Chandler.
Folk Opera won the E.P. Taylor (gr. IT) at Woodbine for Godolphin Stable and trainer Saeed bin Suroor. Back in the saddle is Frankie Dettori, who rode a crafty race to steal away to an uncontested lead aboard Folk Opera at Woodbine. Dettori won the Filly & Mare Turf aboard Ouija Board in 2006.
Forever Together is in superior form for George Strawbridge Jr.’s Augustin Stable and trainer Jonathan Sheppard. Her major victories this year took place in the Diana Stakes (gr. IT) at Saratoga and First Lady Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland.
Pure Clan, a 3-year-old, captured the American Oaks (gr. IT) for her connections, Lewis Lakin, IEAH Stable, and Pegasus Holding Group. She is trained by Bob Holthus.
Visit, a 3-year-old Juddmonte homebred, won the Oak Tree Stakes (Eng–III) at Goodwood in August for Sir Michael Stoute, the trainer of Islington.
Sealy Hill, who ran third in the E.P. Taylor, has been blanked in five stakes starts this year for trainer Mark Casse and owner Eugene Melnyk.
Dynaforce, Folk Opera, Halfway To Heaven, and Wait a While each have demonstrated the ability to be on or near the lead, and it should be interesting to see who will inherit the early lead in the scramble leaving the first turn.
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