Caressing provided one of the biggest upsets in Breeders' Cup history last year when she won the Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Churchill Downs in come-from-behind fashion and sparked a $96 payout to win. She also keyed an $18,355.80 trifecta, with 11-1 longshot Platinum Tiara second and 8-1 outsider She's a Devil Due third. It was the second year in a row that the Juvenile Fillies winner was 30-1 or higher, coming on the heels of Cash Run's victory at Gulfstream Park in 1999, when she upset Chilukki and paid $67.
But in the 17 runnings of the race, there have been eight winning favorites, 47%, well above the racing norm of 33%. Five of the winning favorites were at odds of less than even-money (some were part of an entry with one or more stablemates).
With several key prep races remaining and favoritism easily swayed by one good or bad performance, it's too early to say with any confidence who the Juvenile Fillies favorite will be. However, if the race were being run today, the betting choice might be the lightly raced Tabasco Cat filly Habibti, who was impressive breaking her maiden for trainer Bob Baffert at Del Mar in July, and who then came back to win the grade I Del Mar Debutante over seven furlongs. Third behind Habibti in the Debutante was Tempera, trained by Baffert's former assistant Eoin Harty. Tempera was the 1-2 favorite over Habibti following back-to-back victories, including a nine-length tally in the Sorrento Stakes (gr. II), also at Del Mar. Habibti is owned by Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corp. and Tempera carries the blue silks of the Maktoum family's Godolphin Racing.
Leading contenders in the East are You, who began her career in maiden claiming races at Churchill Downs and won the Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga in her third start, and Cashier's Dream, who defeated You in an allowance race before losing the Adirondack by a neck.
Interestingly, both You and Cashier's Dream were purchased privately after making their second career starts. Edmund Gann bought You after the You and I filly finished three lengths behind Cashier's Dream June 20 at Churchill Downs. Cashier's Dream, a daughter of Service Stripe, was purchased after that same race by Team Valor and Heiligbrodt Racing Stable. Both appear headed for their third face-to-face meeting in the Oct. 6 Frizette Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park, run over the same 1 1/16-mile, one-turn course as the Juvenile Fillies.
Trainer Robert Frankel had been pointing You for the Matron Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park Sept. 16 but that race was scrapped and not rescheduled when officials cancelled racing as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. "They've left me no choice," said Frankel, alluding to the cancelled Matron and the upcoming Frizette.
Steve Asmussen trains Cashier's Dream, a Michigan-bred who was not nominated to the Breeders' Cup by her breeders, James and Laura Jackson, who also owned the filly for her first two starts, with James Jackson as trainer. Barry Irwin of Team Valor said he was not inclined to supplement Cashier's Dream to the Juvenile Fillies, a move that would cost $90,000. "The Frizette is our Breeders' Cup," said Irwin, who is hoping that a victory in the race might earn Cashier's Dream an Eclipse Award. She currently is four-for-five, with victories in the Debutante Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill and the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. She won the Spinaway following her lone defeat versus You in the Adirondack. Irwin blamed that defeat on the running style of Cashier's Dream, who prefers to race close to the rail, and the fact the rail was especially deep that afternoon.
Baffert had planned to send Habibti to New York for Frizette, but he cancelled those plans and will give both Habibti and his unbeaten colt, Officer, their final World Thoroughbred Championship preps in California. Habibti will go in the one-mile Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) on Sept. 30, where she will be rematched against Tempera.
Harty has another top Godolphin prospect for the Juvenile Fillies in Imperial Gesture, who broke her maiden at Saratoga, then returned to California. Harty had hoped to send her to Belmont Park for the Matron Stakes (gr. I) on Sept. 16 but now has her scheduled to run in the Arlington-Washington Lassie (gr. II) Sept. 22. Imperial Gesture is a Langfuhr filly who finished a troubled fifth behind Habibti in a maiden race, then romped by 10 3/4 lengths over maidens at Saratoga on Aug. 24.
Arlington's one-turn mile Lassie will feature a rematch of Vicki Vallencourt and Don't Ruffle Me, who finished 1-2, respectively, in a Sept. 1 prep at the Chicago-area track. Vicki Vallencourt was up in deep stretch to win by a head for trainer Ken McPeek and owners Dr. and Mrs. Smiser West and Mr. and Mrs. Mack Miller. Vicki Vallencourt is by Regal Classic and Don't Ruffle Me is by Pine Bluff.
Another expected to run at Arlington is Exotic Wager, a Saint Ballado filly who won her only start by 22 1/4 lengths at Turfway Park for trainer Bernie Flint and owners Bertram and Elaine Klein. Unbeaten in two starts is Asmussen trained Miss Indiana, who broke her maiden by a nose at Keeneland in April, then won a Saratoga allowance Aug. 29. The Clever Trick filly is owned by Oceanfront Property and Steve's father, Keith Asmussen.