In one of the least surprising stories of this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships, Juddmonte Farms will have two contenders for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
Khalid Abdullah's international breeding and racing juggernaut has started a whopping 14 fillies and mares in the race since it was included on the World Championships roster in 2000, bringing home trophies with Banks Hill in 2001, Intercontinental in 2005, and Midday in 2009.
Four years in between wins, which brings us to 2013.
If ever there was a filly bred to win this race, it is Romantica, a 4-year-old daughter of Galileo out of the aforementioned Banks Hill, by Danehill. Romantica has made all 10 of her starts to date in France, where this past August she brought in the Darley Prix Jean Romanet (Fr.-I). She began the season with a victory in the Prix Allez France (Fr.-III), and in 2012 won the Prix de la Nonette Shadwell (Fr.-II).
"I've asked (racing manager) Teddy Grimthorpe about her, and it seems she's a filly that was nice as a foal, nicer as a yearling, but nobody was getting carried away about her," said Garrett O'Rourke, who manages Juddmonte's Kentucky farm. "Talent-wise they thought she'd be listed-caliber at 2, but she's just kept on getting better with age.
"(Trainer) Andre (Fabre) feels he hasn't gotten the very best out of her yet. There's hope she's ready to step up a little bit more. We'll see on the day. But as she's won a group I, the Breeders' Cup would be the cherry on the cake. With her pedigree, she's got every entitlement to be a Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner."
Romantica has won on firm turf as well as good-to-soft footing, so the homebred should be suited to what likely will be firm going in Southern California. The English-bred typically runs in mid-pack early in her races, showing a substantial kick inside the final furlong in her better efforts. A victory by Romantica would be an historic one, as Banks Hill would join the select list of Hollywood Wildcat, Personal Ensign, and My Flag as Breeders' Cup winners who produced Breeders' Cup winners.
Emollient also has faced the starter 10 times, but all of her efforts have come stateside. The 3-year-old Empire Maker filly, out of the Touch Gold mare Soothing Touch, races as a homebred for Juddmonte under the care of Bill Mott. Seven of her races have come this season, with four victories. Emollient opened eyes with her nine-length crushing of the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland last April, and has since shipped to California to win the American Oaks (gr. IT) before returing to Keeneland to take the Spinster (gr. I), a race sponsored by Juddmonte.
"The Breeders' Cup would be a bonus for her because the plan for the year since she won the Ashland was to come back and win our own sponsorship," noted O'Rourke, "which we were fortunate enough to accomplish. She has won three grade I races, so she doesn't owe us anything, but we'd sure love for there to be a Breeders' Cup (victory) in there as well."
A cursory reading of Emollient's running lines leaves the impression that she puts forth a top effort and follows up with a subpar one. She ran eighth in the Garden City Stakes (gr. IT) in between her American Oaks and Spinster scores, and sixth in the Black Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) between the Ashland and American Oaks.
"She's a filly that used to be in heat a lot, which had something to do with her lesser performances," said O'Rourke. "She's also lost weight after some of her starts. But Bill is a great judge of her, and he said that going into the Spinster she was the best she'd been all year, and she ran accordingly. And she hasn't missed a beat since, so we're hopeful she'll maintain that form and run another good one."
Emollient won the Spinster after sitting dead last the first half of the race; she won the American Oaks while tracking in second; and the Ashland on the lead. Her versatility is not in question.