Dynaslew On Course for Filly & Mare Turf
Photo: Coglianese Photos

Live Oak Plantation’s homebred Dynaslew holds the unique distinction of being the first entrant for the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) on the grounds at Churchill Downs. Even though she’s pegged as a 20-1 shot and is currently on the also-eligible list, pencil her in and color in Seth Benzel as a trainer who likes her chances.

It’s highly likely she’ll make the field as three other runners figure to start in other World Championships events. Flaxman Holdings’ Aruna will probably start in the 11/8-mile Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) on the main track and both Juddmonte Farms’ Midday and the Aga Khan’s Sarafina have first preference in the next day’s 1 1/2-mile Emirate Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT).

The Filly & Mare Turf will be run at 1 3/8 miles and has an approximate post of 6:50 p.m. EDT Friday evening.

As an owner, Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation has had five runners in the Breeders’ Cup, winning the 2006 Mile (gr. IT) with homebred Miesque’s Approval. My Typhoon finished sixth in that year’s Filly & Mare Turf. This year Weber holds a strong pair with Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) winner To Honor and Serve   in the Classic (gr. I).

Benzel, who came up under Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and sure-fire Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, has a bit of Breeders’ Cup experience under his belt since he’s gone out on his own. Last year his Gabriel's Hill finished third, and was elevated to second via disqualification in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (gr. III) at Churchill Downs.

“He went in a longshot but proved he belonged in that race,” Benzel said. “We were thrilled to death with that.”

Benzel would be even more thrilled with a big effort from Dynaslew, who was a top filly and mare runner last year and has been working her way back to peak form as a 5-year-old late this summer in New York.

At Saratoga last year Dynaslew was on the losing end of a blanket finish in the nine-furlong Diana Stakes (gr. IT), finishing just behind multiple grade I winner Proviso, Shared Account—the eventual winner of the Filly & Mare Turf last year—and 2008 female turf champion Forever Together. Dynaslew then won Saratoga’s Ballston Spa Handicap (gr. IIT) before fading to sixth in the one-mile First Lady Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland to end her 2010 campaign.

“Last year she showed she was comfortable in grade I competition,” Benzel said.

Winless in five starts this year she wasn’t comfortable early in the campaign, but has been rounding to form.

“This year hasn’t played out the same way, but it might be even better that’s she’s coming on and has been later to develop this year,” Benzel said.

The Florida-bred daughter of Dynaformer—Slews Final Answer, by Seattle Slew, ran last Jan. 29 the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream, then was off to late April where she ran fourth on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs.

“She didn’t have a great winter,” Benzel said. “Nothing went right for her in the Sunshine Millions and it was an experience that set her back a couple of months. The Tampa race was a chance to see where we were. She wasn’t quite up to par but we felt she was on the way back and it was definitely worth pressing through the rest of the year.”

Saratoga, for horses and humans alike, often delivers the right tonic for a turnaround. Dynaslew thrived at Benzel’s barn at the Spa and responded in her second start back with a runner-up effort in the Sept. 5 Glens Falls Stakes (gr. IIIT) and a sneaky-good third-place finish behind likely Filly & Mare Turf favorite Stacelita in Belmont’s Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (gr. IT). Both efforts came with a new running style for Dynaslew: on the lead.

“We put her on the lead and it was a really positive race except for the filly catching us,” Benzel said of the Glens Falls effort. “That was a big step for us and validated that we were on the right track with her. In the Flower Bowl, (jockey) Corey Nakatani said she was struggling with the (yielding) course, so we’re moving forward with some confidence into the Breeders’ Cup.

“If you are a believer in three-race cycles, she’s right there.”

Benzel is not alone when he says Martin Schwartz’ Stacelita is the one to beat in the Filly & Mare Turf; back-to-back wins in the Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT) and Flower Bowl bear that out. However, beyond the favorite, Benzel sees it as wide-open race.

“Besides Stacelita, there is no dominate horse and we’ve already run against her and competed fairly well,” the exuberant trainer said. “I’m excited about the prospects.”

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