BREEDERS' CUP FEATURE
OCTOBER 14, 2012
by James Scully
Here is an early preview of the six Breeders' Cup races on the November 2 Championship Friday program at Santa Anita.
Ladies' Classic: Anticipation runs deep for this year's Ladies' Classic, which serves as a beacon for what the Breeders' Cup is all about with a sensational cast of eight Grade 1 winners expected for the 1 1/8-mile race.
Royal Delta looked like she belonged in the Breeders' Cup Classic when romping to a 9 1/2-length victory in the Grade 1 Beldame Stakes September 29, but the Bill Mott-trained 4yo filly will instead defend her Ladies' Classic title. It's fitting that Mike Smith, who guided the legendary Zenyatta to multiple Breeders' Cup wins at Santa Anita, has the assignment on the probable favorite.
Awesome Feather and My Miss Aurelia are unbeaten champions in razor-sharp form. Awesome Feather tuned up with a striking 11 1/4-length victory in the September 20 Nasty Storm at Belmont, her first start since late January, and netted a 107 BRIS Speed rating. She could keep moving forward off that highly-encouraging performance. My Miss Aurelia exits an outstanding head win over Questing in the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes, her second start of the year for trainer Steve Asmussen, and promises to be a major factor with further improvement.
Questing was the best 3yo (of any gender) on the grounds at Saratoga, posting dynamic open-length victories in the Grade 1 Coaching Club and Grade 1 Alabama, and set fast fractions in both races. She slowed down early while setting the pace in the Cotillion and could not withstand My Miss Aurelia, who was able to closely track her rival down the backstretch. Expect a change in tactics in the Ladies' Classic, with Questing attempting to open up a daylight advantage on her nearest challenger while ripping through wickedly-fast opening splits, and the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee will attempt to keep on rolling like she did at Saratoga.
Include Me Out, winner of both the Grade 1 Santa Margarita and Grade 2 La Canada at Santa Anita earlier this season, will look for redemption following a third in the Grade 1 Zenyatta on September 29. Grace Hall will enter on the upswing, recording a smashing 5 3/4-length tally in the Grade 2 Indiana Oaks. Her final time for the 1 1/16-mile distance was more than a half-second faster than Grade 2 Indiana Derby winner Neck 'n Neck one race later.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has a pair of contenders in Zenyatta heroine Love and Pride and In Lingerie, an impressive two-length winner of the Grade 1 Spinster on Keeneland's Polytrack (but is also under consideration for the Filly & Mare Turf). Three-time Grade 1 queen It's Tricky would add further depth to the stellar line-up, but her connections are reportedly leaning slightly toward the seven-furlong Filly & Mare Sprint .
Royal Delta, Awesome Feather and My Miss Aurelia are the brightest stars entering the race -- all three own tactical speed and will attempt to rally into contention on the far turn -- but I wouldn't dismiss Questing's chances if the track is favoring speed.
Filly & Mare Turf: Euros vs North America is a familiar storyline to the Filly & Mare Turf, with the former holding a 7-6 lead on the scorecard, and this year's 1 1/4-mile event could go either way.
The Fugue, a 3yo filly who captured the Group 1 Nassau two back and exits a neck second in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, will be a top contender if she shows up as expected for trainer John Gosden. English-based Nahrain, the 2011 Filly & Mare Turf runner-up, is back on track for trainer Roger Varian, prepping for her return visit with a victory in the recent Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont. Aidan O'Brien has mentioned Group 2 victress Up as a candidate.
Sunday's Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine could also yield some international flavor to the Filly & Mare Turf.
Marketing Mix is the leading American-based contender for Tom Proctor. A rallying head second in the Grade 1 Beverly D. two back, the 4yo filly showed an affinity for the Santa Anita turf when posting a commanding 2 1/4-length score in the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive on September 29. Brown will ship in Flower Bowl runner-up Zagora, a three-time graded winner this season, and talented 3yo filly Lady of Shamrock, winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks and Grade 1 American Oaks in her last two outings, is a candidate to fire fresh for conditioner John Sadler.
Juvenile Fillies: A pair of unbeaten youngsters -- California-based Executiveprivilege from the Bob Baffert stable and New York-based Dreaming of Julia from the Pletcher barn -- will be the main attractions in the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile Fillies.
Executiveprivilege should be a solid favorite. The bay filly posted her first four wins on synthetic tracks, including an all-out nose decision in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante two back, but she displayed a real affinity for dirt when making her Santa Anita debut in the Grade 1 Chandelier on September 29, leading wire to wire in a spectacular 6 1/4-length score. Expect a forwardly-placed trip with Rafael Bejarano.
After cruising to double-digit length wins in her first two starts, Dreaming of Julia was severely tested in the Grade 1 Frizette last out, dueling through the stretch before putting her head in front on the wire, but the unexpected outcome (she was favored at 1-9) could prove beneficial. Dreaming of Julia needed plenty of determination to get the job done and is eligible to show more at Santa Anita. She figures to be sitting just off the early leaders with John Velazquez.
The rest of the Juvenile Fillies field will be up against it.
Juvenile Fillies Turf: Sky Lantern exits a win in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud in Ireland and was scratched from a Group 1 event on Arc weekend in favor of the Juvenile Fillies Turf. The Richard Hannon-trained gray should compete for favoritism with Grade 3 Miss Grillo winner Watsdachances and Santa Anita stakes winner Flashy Ways, who needs to be supplemented to run.
Watsdachances began her racing career in Ireland before being transferred to Chad Brown, who captured the 2008 Juvenile Fillies Turf and has a pair of top contenders (Balance the Books and Noble Tune) for this year's Juvenile Turf. The bay filly posted a game win in the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga in her U.S. bow and unleashed a visually-impressive turn of foot to easily score by 2 1/4 lengths in the Miss Grillo. Watsdachances will be running late with Javier Castellano.
Flashy Ways rolled to a 5 1/4-length win when opening her career in a $50,000 maiden claiming race at Del Mar and made an excellent transition to turf in the October 8 Surfer Girl, rallying from just off the pace to win going away by 2 1/2 lengths over the same one-mile trip as the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Unbeaten Spring Venture, a sharp 1 3/4-length winner of the grassy Grade 2 Natalma Stakes at Woodbine, can't be dismissed from consideration and Group 3 heroine Waterway Run will add further depth if she ships in from England.
Marathon: The 1 3/4-mile Marathon won't be mistaken for a major race -- it helps fill out the 15-race Breeders' Cup bonanza -- and generally sets up well for an upset, with many short-priced horses bringing either declining form or questionable credentials for the extended distance.
This will be the fifth running and all the past winners paid more than $14 -- Muhannak (12-1), Man of Iron (6-1), Eldaafer (10-1) and Afleet Again (41-1). It's easy to recommend shopping for a price.
Pool Play, Worth Repeating, Eldaafer and Juniper Pass are regarded as top prospects for this year's Marathon.
Juvenile Sprint: The complexion of the Juvenile Sprint field remains in flux, and a couple of promising fillies -- Kauai Katie and Beholder -- will attract plenty of support if they wind up the six-furlong test.
Kauai Katie is unbeaten in three starts for Pletcher, easily capturing the Grade 2 Matron and Grade 2 Adirondack in her last two outings, and Del Mar Debutante runner-up Beholder exits an 11-length allowance romp over the track and distance for Richard Mandella.
Bern Identity, winner of the Grade 2 Sanford at six furlongs and third most recently in the Grade 2 Hopeful Stakes, is a logical contender if entered and unbeaten Merit Man must be respected off his 5 1/2-length victory in the October 6 Tim Conway Stakes at Santa Anita.