WinStar Farm's Awesome Humor and Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's Yell, a pair of leading 3-year-old fillies, loom as major contenders in a field of 10 entered in Saturday's $200,000-added Churchill Downs Distaff (gr. II).The Distaff, which matches fillies and mares ages 3 and up at the demanding one-turn mile distance, is scheduled as the featured ninth event on a 10-race card.Three-year-olds have fared well in the Distaff.
Bare Necessities fell a neck shy of beating the 4-year-old Softly in last year's Distaff, which snapped a win string by 3-year-old fillies in the race. Nasty Storm in 2001 and Chilukki had taken the previous two renewals to raise the number of Distaff wins by 3-year-olds to eight since its inaugural running in 1986.
Awesome Humor, trained by Elliott Walden, was one of the stars of her generation at 2, when an unbeaten campaign that included wins in the Spinaway (gr. I) at Saratoga and the Debutante (gr. III) at Churchill Downs was ended prematurely by surgery to remove bone chips from each of the filly's front ankles. The daughter of Distorted Humor returned at 3 to compile a 2-3-0 record in six races, including a win in the recent Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. III) at Hoosier Park and runner-up efforts in the Alabama (gr. I), Delaware Oaks (gr. III) and Turfway Park Breeders' Cup gr. III).
"I think realistically that she's gone from a filly that was one of the top two or three fillies in the country last year as a 2-year-old to being one of the top 10 at three," Walden said. "She's been first or second in 10 of 11 starts and that's pretty impressive."
Larry Melancon replaces the injured Robby Albarado as the rider of Awesome Humor, who will carry highweight of 118 pounds. She is the 7-2 second choice in the Distaff's morning line.
Although Awesome Humor is the more accomplished 3-year-old, the Shug McGaughey-trained Yell is the 7-5 morning line choice. Third to Bird Town in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), the A.P. Indy filly snapped a five-race losing streak with an impressive win in the seven-furlong Raven Run at Keeneland. Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day will ride at 116 pounds.
Trainer Carl Nafzger sends a pair of 4-year-old fillies into the Distaff in Lead Story, winner of the HBPA Handicap at Ellis Park, and the streaking Mayo On The Side, who has won three consecutive races.
$200,000-added Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap (gr. II), fillies & mares 3 7 up, 1 mile
PP. Horse (Weight), Jockey, ML Odds
1. Born To Dance (113), Rafael Bejarano, 15-1
2. Meteor Miracle (113), Shane Sellers, 12-1
3. My Trusty Cat (112), Terry Thompson, 15-1
4. Awesome Humor (118), Larry Melancon, 7-2
5. Lakenheath (114), Corey Lanerie, 5-1
6. Salzurita (116), Cornelio Velasquez, 15-1
7. Lead Story (114), Calvin Borel, 15-1
8. Yell (116), Pat Day, 7-5
9. Mayo On The Side (115), Dean Butler, 6-1
10. Rhiana (116), Brice Blanc, 20-1