Distaff Update (10/1): Final Preps on Tap

How the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) shakes out will largely be determined this week when the country's top fillies and mares enter their final preps for the Oct. 26 championships.

The action begins promptly on Wednesday when Azeri, the bedrock divisional leader in the World Thoroughbred Rankings, will run in the $200,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup (gr. II). The 1 1/16-mile race is on the opening day card of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meet.

Azeri faces seven other fillies including Mystic Lady, a New York-based shipper who finished second in the Turfway Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) Sept. 14; Argentina-bred Netherland, who won the Piedra Foundation Handicap at Del Mar Aug. 30; and Angel Fire who was second to Azeri in the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. II).

Trainer Laura de Seroux said she has been pleased with the way Azeri has worked up to the race. The daughter of Jade Hunter, out of Zodiac Miss, worked six furlongs in 1:11.8 at the San Luis Rey Downs training center Sept. 21.

"Her last work was her signal," de Seroux told the Daily Racing Form. "She knows when I give her a work like that a race is coming up." Azeri is the highweight at 127 pounds, the most she's carried in her nine-race career. The 4-year-old filly is owned by the Allen Paulson Living Trust and was bred by the late Paulson.

Mystic Lady is trained by Mark Hennig who said he expects the chestnut daughter of Thunder Gulch to run back well in the Lady's Secret. Hennig said he was pleased with the filly's last start and believes she is well-suited to 1 1/16 miles. He said Trip, who won the Turfway Breeders' Cup, seemed to handle Turfway Park surface better. Mystic Lady is owned by Lee Lewis.

Hennig will have distaff contenders running on both coasts this week. His big guns will be at Belmont Park where he'll start Summer Colony in the $750,000 Beldame Stakes (gr. I) on Saturday and Raging Fever in the $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) on Sunday.

Summer Colony faces a very deep field that includes graded stakes winners Allamerican Bertie, Bella Bellucci, Imperial Gesture, Mandy's Gold, and Minister's Baby. Also expected to start is Transcendental who has finished second in three grade I races and stakes winner Unrestrained.

Still, Summer Colony, a 4-year-old daughter of Summer Squall, is expected to have the edge. The Edward Evans homebred has won graded stakes at five different tracks in the past 10 months and comes into the Beldame off a 4 1/2-length victory in the Personal Ensign Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga. She breezed five furlongs at Belmont in a sizzling 58.61 on Sept. 29.

Recent works of Summer Colony's top contenders are as follows: Bella Bellucci, four furlongs in :48.76 at Belmont; Mandy's Gold, four furlongs in :49.60 at Delaware Park; and Imperial Gesture, four furlongs in :52 at Belmont.

The rankings in the distaff division has not changed much at the top. Summer Colony and Alabama Stakes (gr. I) winner Farda Amiga are tied in second place. Farda Amiga is not racing this weekend. Her trainer Paulo Lobo has said he intends to train the filly up to the Distaff. The 3-year-old daughter of Broad Brush worked four furlongs in :49 at Hollywood Park Sept. 28.

Take Charge Lady is fourth in the rankings. She has returned to Keeneland, where she is undefeated in three starts, for the $500,000 Overbrook Spinster Stakes (gr. I) on Oct. 6. Her challengers in the 1 1/8-mile test are expected to include Go For Wand Handicap (gr. I) winner Dancethruthedawn, Test Stake winner and Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) runner-up You, and Victory Ride, who finished third in the Shuvee Handicap (gr. II). Others expected are Lakenheath, winner of Arlington Matron Handicap (gr. III); Atelier, who beat Summer Colony in the Molly Pitcher Breedes' Cup Handicap (gr. II); and Printemps, who finished third in the Spinster last year; .

Take Charge Lady, who is trained by Kenny McPeek and owned by Jerry and Feye Bach's Select Stable, worked four furlongs in :49.02 at Belmont Park on Sept. 29.

Dancethruthedawn, a homebred running for Sam-Son Farm, worked five furlongs in :59.8 at Woodbine Race Course. The Canadian champion by Mr. Prospector out of champion Dance Smartly, is trained by Mark Frostad.

You, who has won three grade I stakes this year for trainer Robert Frankel, worked four furlongs Sept. 26 at Belmont Park in :49.2. You is owned by Edmund Gann.

Fab Five Contenders:

1)Azeri/ Laura de Seroux/Allen Paulson Living Trust
Next start: Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap, Santa Anita, Oct. 2

2)Farda Amiga/Paulo Lobo/Jose Laudo DeCamargo, Julio Camargo, and Marcos Simon/
Next start: Breeders' Cup Distaff

3)Summer Colony/Mark Hennig/Edward Evans
Next start: Beldame Stakes on Oct. 5

4)Take Charge Lady/Kenny McPeek/Select Stable
Next start: Overbrook Spinster Stakes on Oct. 6

5)You/Robert Frankel/Edmund Gann
Next start: Overbrook Spinster Stakes.