Distaff Preview (9/12): An Imperial Gesture

Goldolphin Racing's Imperial Gesture became one to watch in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Champion distaff division when she won the Gazelle Handicap (gr. I) in near gate-to-wire fashion Sept. 7.

The daughter of Langfuhr held off a challenge at the top of the stretch by Take Charge Lady, who was making her first start after a three and half month layoff, and won pulling away by 2 1/2 lengths. She won the nine-furlong race in 1:47.12, faster than Lido Palace ran the same distance (1:47.75) in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) later that afternoon.

The victory earned Imperial Gesture a spot among the top 10 leaders in the World Thoroughbred Ranking's distaff division. Previously unplaced in the standings, she moved into eighth place tied with Affluent as of Tuesday.

Tom Albertrani, the New York assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, said Imperial Gesture came out of the race in good shape. No definite plans have been made for her next start, but he expects she will be nominated to the $750,000 Beldame Stakes (gr. I) to be run Oct. 5 at Belmont Park.

Take Charge Lady's trainer Kenny McPeek said he wanted to see his filly win, but didn't want to see her deliver her best to do it.

"I want to see her improve off this race," McPeek said.

The daughter of Dehere, who is fourth in the distaff division's World Thoroughbred Rankings, is expected to start next in the Overbrook Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland. Take Charge Lady is undefeated in three starts at Keeneland. Her last victory came in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I). Take Charge Lady is owned by Jerry and Feye Bach's Select Stable.

Raging Fever, who is fifth in World Thoroughbred Rankings, will again face one of Bohemia Stables' homebreds Shine Again or Shiny Band in Saturday's $300,000 Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) at nine furlongs. Edward Evans' multiple-grade I winning filly has raced against Shiny Band four times this year and leads the head-to-head 3-1. Shiny Band's one victory came in the Shuvee Handicap (gr. II). Raging Fever comes into the race off a half-length loss to Shine Again in the Ballerina Handicap (gr. I) on Aug. 25 at Saratoga. Shine Again, the 5-year-old half sister to Shiny Band, also won the Ballerina last year.

Other starters in the Ruffian could include multiple grade I winner You, who is tied for fifth in the rankings with Raging Fever, Minister's Baby, winner of the Gardenia Handicap (gr. III), and Mandy's Gold who finished third in the Ballerina.

Shine Again and Shiny Band also are listed as possible starters in Saturday's $100,000-added Floral Park Stakes (gr. III) at six furlongs. If one of them starts in this race, she would face Carson Hollow, Gold Mover, La Galerie, Sweet Nanette, and possibly Cat Cay.

Possible Distaff starters also will be racing at Turfway Park Saturday in the $200,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III). Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is bringing Magic Storm, winner of the Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. II). Two years ago, Lukas won this race with Spain who went on to win the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I).

Magic Storm will face stiff competition from Trip, who won this race last year against Spain, and Mystic Lady who won the Banshee Breeze Handicap and finished second in the Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) this year. Other probably starters include Gal On The Go, Happily Unbridled, Lotta Rhythm, Red N' Gold, and Softly.

Fixed solidly one-two at the top the World Thoroughbred Rankings are the California phenomena Azeri and Alabama Stakes (gr. I) winner Farda Amiga.

Azeri tops the standings based on her five consecutive victories in predominantly grade I stakes. The chestnut filly by Jade Hunter will train up to the Distaff off an easy victory in the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar, according to trainer Laura de Seroux. The filly last worked four furlongs handily in :47 over a fast San Luis Rey Downs training center track on Sept. 7. Azeri was bred by the late Allen Paulson and is owned by the Allen Paulson Living Trust.

Farda Amiga first earned her spot at number two with a huge upset win in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at odds of 20-1. The daughter of Broad Brush anchored her position Aug. 17 by winning the Alabama Stakes (gr. I). Farda Amiga, owned by Brazilian partners Jose Laudo DeCamargo, Julio Camargo, and Marcos Simon, returned to California where trainer Paulo Lobo will train her up to the Distaff.

Tied for second in the rankings is Summer Colony, winner of the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) on Aug. 23. Trainer Mark Hennig said Summer Colony will likely run next in either the Beldame or the Spinster. The filly breezed five furlongs at Belmont Park on Sept. 7 in 1:02.25 on a fast track.