Sure, a solid favorite has been established, but there are still many questions to be answered in the week's time before pre-entries are taken Oct. 15 for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).
One thing is for sure, Storm Flag Flying will be the easy public's choice when the dollars are churned through the windows Oct. 26 to establish the odds for the race.
But, trying to answer some questions regarding the rest of the field gets a bit trickier. Of those who have now failed in their attempts against Storm Flag Flying, how many will want to try again? Who will decide it is too early to run their 2-year-olds nine furlongs, the distance of the juvenile races this year at Arlington Park? How many will ship from Europe? Who is lurking out there that has yet to be mentioned as a pre-entry candidate?
First, the sure thing. With her win in the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park Oct. 5, Storm Flag Flying made sure she will be the favorite in the Juvenile Fillies, which is the second race on the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. Post time is 12:55 p.m. (central time).
With her three-for-three record, including a 12 3/4-length win in the Matron (gr. I), one would think Storm Flag Flying will certainly be lower than 2-1, possibly as low as 7-5.
Storm Flag Flying has impeccable breeding. She is by Storm Cat and out of the Easy Goer mare My Flag. Of course My Flag won the 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. The second dam of Storm Flag Flying is her most famous relative, unbeaten champion Personal Ensign, who won the thrilling 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) over Winning Colors.
The Juvenile Fillies favorite is a homebred for Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps and is trained by Shug McGaughey. Her regular rider is John Velazquez.
Trainer Bob Baffert's barn is an obvious place to look for 2-year-olds, and he should have at least two in the Juvenile Fillies. One is Santa Catarina, who ran second to Storm Flag Flying in the Frizette, beaten two lengths. Prior to that, she had also run second in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I), losing by a nose to Miss Houdini.
Baffert's other sure starter will be Composure, who won the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita on Oct. 6. The Touch Gold filly was easily best and has now won two of four starts. She is out of the stakes winning Alleged mare Party Cited.
Both Santa Catarina and Composure are owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis.
Most horses have had their final prep races, but one filly has not. That would be Invanavinalot, who runs this weekend in the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder. She may not have the breeding of, say a Storm Flag Flying, but she has won four of five starts and should not be overlooked. By West Acre, Ivanavinalot races for her breeder, Gilbert Campbell, and is trained by Kathleen O'Connell. Only one woman has trained a Breeders' Cup winner, Jenine Sahada, who has trained two (Lit de Justice and Elmhurst).
The top two finishers in the Walmac Alcibiades Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland Oct. 4 are expected to run in the Breeders' Cup. The winner on a sloppy track was Westerly Breeze, while Ruby's Reception was only three-quarters of a length back in second. Favored Atlantic Ocean, another Baffert-trained filly, ran fourth.
Westerly Breeze is owned by A. Steven Miles Jr. and trained by Carl Nafzger. The Gone West filly has won two of her four starts. Ruby's Reception is a model of consistency, with six starts, three wins, two seconds and a third. She is owned by Oasis Racing and trained by Larry Jones.
Several others may come out of the Alcibiades, should their connection decide to throw out their efforts due to the off track.
In Europe, Russian Rhythm was beaten in the Cheveley Park Stakes (Eng-I) and her connections said she will not ship to Arlington.
Fab five contenders:
1. Storm Flag Flying/Shug McGaughey/Ogden Mills Phipps
2. Santa Catarina/Bob Baffert/Robert B. and Beverly J. Lewis
4. Ivanavinalot/Kathleen O'Connell/Gilbert Campbell
4. Composure/Bob Baffert/Robert B. and Beverly J. Lewis
5. Ruby's Reception/Larry Jones/Oasis Racing