Two prominent horses being pointed to this year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (gr. I), Judy the Beauty and Midnight Lucky, will enter the seven-furlong race off long breaks. Fortunately for their supporters, both have shown an ability to win off extended layoffs.
Judy the Beauty has not raced since passing two horses in the stretch to post a clear win in the Rancho Bernardo Handicap (gr. III) Aug. 17 at Del Mar. The Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park will be her first start in more than 11 weeks.
Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman's Midnight Lucky will have taken even more time off, as the 4-year-old Midnight Lute filly will startt for the first time since her 4 1/2-length romp in the Humana Distaff Stakes (gr. I) May 3 at Churchill Downs. The Nov. 1 Filly and Mare Sprint will end a 26-week stretch without a race.
Through Oct. 6, Owner-trainer Wesley Ward has prepared Judy the Beauty with a series of four official workouts on the Keeneland turf, including an Oct. 9 five-furlong breeze in 1:01 4/5, which was fastest of 10 moves at the distance. The 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare has breezed five furlongs on the Keeneland turf each Thursday since Sept. 18.
Judy the Beauty's biggest career wins have come on synthetic surfaces, including a victory in this year's Madison Stakes (gr. I) in the spring at Keeneland, which was the final Keeneland meet featuring a Polytrack main track. But she has raced well on the Santa Anita dirt, closing out last season there with a runner-up finish in the Filly and Mare Sprint and opening this season with an easy win in the Las Flores Stakes (gr. III) March 9.
The 4 3/4-length Las Flores victory came off a break of more than four months, as the start in the six-furlong race was Judy the Beauty's first since her 2013 Breeders' Cup run, where she finished a half-length behind champion Groupie Doll.
Judy the Beauty boasts five stakes wins, four graded, and seven other stakes placings in her four seasons of racing. A winner of her 2011 maiden special weight debut in a 4 1/2-furlong race at Keeneland, she has registered $1,112,122 in career earnings.
Midnight Lucky will be entering the Filly and Mare Sprint off back to back grade I victories, but those consecutive wins date to last year. Midnight Lucky won the Acorn Stakes (gr. ) by 6 1/4 lengths May 27, 2013, and then did not start again for nearly 11 months. She returned with the front-running 4 1/2-length Humana Distaff romp. That nearly year-long break was to allow her time to recover from bone bruising.
Like the Filly and Mare Sprint, the Humana Distaff is conducted at seven furlongs. That gives Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert confidence in the filly whose only loss in five starts came in the 1 1/8-mile Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), where she finished fifth last year.
"She's a great filly; a great filly. I wasn't concerned about putting her in a race like this off the layoff (her last race was more than 11 months ago). She's that kind. I know she can run on, but I'm going to keep her under a mile. That's where she's really good," Baffert said after this year's Humana Distaff. "Going a mile or less, this filly is as good as any I have ever had."
From Aug. 31—Oct. 5, Midnight Lucky turned in six recorded workouts while stretching out in distance. After registering three-furlong moves Aug. 31 at Del Mar and Sept. 9 at Santa Anita, she followed with a pair of four-furlong works Sept. 17 and 24 at Santa Anita and then a five-furlong move there Sept. 30, and a six-furlong move Oct. 5.
In that six-furlong run, Midnight Lucky worked handily from the gate, completing three-quarters of a mile in 1:11 3/5, which was sixth-fastest of 24 works that day.
A year ago Baffert saddled Pegram, Watson, and Weitman's Secret Circle to a victory in the XpressBet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) in just his second start of the year. Secret Circle, who also won the 2011 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint and is targeting the Sprint again this season, entered last year's Sprint off an Oct. 14 allowance-optional claiming race win at Santa Anita, which had been his seasonal debut.