Halfbridled, morning-line favorite in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Halfbridled, morning-line favorite in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Looking Past Halfbridled in Juvenile Fillies

There is little doubt Halfbridled looms large over her 13 rivals in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) both from a size and form perspective. However, the supersized daughter of Unbridled won't find a field she can push around on Saturday.

Halfbridled, a perfect three-for-three all in Southern California, was installed the 7-5 morning line favorite for the Juvenile Fillies. And that was after she drew post 14, not a good draw for the 1 1/16-miles race with it's short run to the first turn.

A few trainers that know something about winning the Juvenile Fillies, think they have legitimate shots to upend the Wetheimer family's homebred Halfbridled: Bob Baffert and Eoin Harty.

Baffert, who saddled Silverbulletday to win the 1998 Juvenile Fillies with stablemate Excellent Meeting running second, will have a two-ply entry again this year in Padua Stables' Class Above and Tom VanMeter II's Victory U.S.A.

Class Above, also undefeated in two starts, broke her maiden on Aug. 23 at Del Mar going 5 1/2 furlongs and then won the one-mile Kentucky Cup Juvenle Fillies at Turfway Park on Sept. 13 by a whopping 16 lengths.

"Both of her races have been fantastic," Baffert said Thursday morning. "There is a lot of speed in the race with a lot of sprinters going long for the first time. The first turn is going to be hectic. It all depends on who gets a break and a clean trip to the first turn."

Class Above will break from the middle in post 7.

Victory U.S.A. has tried Halfbridled, running third in the seven-furlong Del Mar Debutante (gr. II) on Aug. 30. She then skipped the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. II), the traditional West Coast 2-year-old filly prep that was also won by Halfbridled. Instead, Baffert shipped Victory U.S.A. to New York, where she had the lead in deep stretch, but was run down by Society Selection in the Frizette Stakes (gr. I).

"Her race at Del Mar, that wasn't her," Baffert said of the Debutante, where she finished five lengths behind Halfbridled. "In New York, she was running against a bias and the track was too deep.

"A lot of people are forgetting about Victory U.S.A., but she's a good filly and she's training well. I wouldn't be surprised if she won."

Harty, a former assistant for Baffert, won the 2001 Juvenile Fillies with Tempera, with stablemate Imperial Gesture running second. He'll saddle Zosima on Saturday. The daughter of Capote, the 1986 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner, is coming off a victory in the one-turn mile Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes (gr. III)at Arlington Park. She has a 3-1-0 slate from four starts, all of which came at Arlington.

"She doesn't have distance limitations," Harty said of the added distance and turn of the Juvenile Fillies. "I've got a serious contender.

"Halfbridled's form speaks for itself but she got a horrendous draw. We didn't get much better (post 11), but we got better than her."

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is the all-time leader in the Juvenile Fillies with four wins. He's also got a pair for this year's running in Be Gentle and Renaissance Lady. Halfbridled's trainer, Richard Mandella, won the 1993 Juvenile Fillies with Phone Chatter.