Even with Beholder opting for greener pastures against the opposite sex, the $2 million Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), the anchor of the first day of the World Championships Oct. 30, has attracted a deep field of top runners that have spent much of the year beating up on one another.
The 1 1/8-mile Distaff for fillies and mares 3 and older features a defending champion in Untapable and a host of contenders that make it a fitting headliner for Breeders' Cup Friday.
Godolphin Racing's Wedding Toast will go as the likely favorite and is the morning line choice at 4-1. No other horse in the field has put together the kind of streak she is currently on over her past three races, victories in the Ruffian (gr. II), Ogden Phipps (gr. I), and Beldame Invitational (gr. I), by margins of four, five, and 2 3/4 lengths, respectively.
Wedding Toast, by Street Sense and from a long line of outstanding producers hailing from the famed Elmendorf Farm broodmare band, has proved equally adept on the front end or from a stalking stance. She drew comfortably in post 7. Those picking elsewhere can take solace that her worst race of the season came at Keeneland in the one-turn Madison Stakes (gr. I) in April, in which she was a well-beaten fourth.
"If she runs any part of her last three races we'd be very happy," said Jimmy Bell, president and racing manager for Darley America. "She continues to go from strength to strength. We're hopeful she'll give a good account of herself."
Untapable won the Eclipse Award last year for 3-year-old fillies following her victory in the 2014 Distaff. But where she was six-for-seven a year ago, the 4-year-old seems to have lost a step this season, winning once in six tries, with four runner-up efforts.
Still, Untapable ran well to be second in the Oct. 4 Juddmonte Spinster (gr. I) at Keeneland and hasn't finished off the board this year. But she has lacked her winning kick from 2014, when she went off at 8-5 odds in the Distaff. Foes Got Lucky, Sheer Drama, Stopchargingmaria, and Wedding Toast, all of whom have defeated her this year, line up against her here. Untapable drew post 11 and is the second choice on the morning line at 6-1.
Florida-bred Sheer Drama, a Harold Queen homebred, is putting together a nice streak of her own. She won the Delaware Handicap (gr. I) in July and paired that with a game score in the Aug. 29 Personal Ensign (gr. I). She hasn't been worse than second in seven 2015 starts and has the natural speed to assume a pleasing tracking position. This will be the 5-year-old's first start at Keeneland and she drew outside in the field of 14.
Trainer David Fawkes didn't seem concerned about the outside post draw. "I don't think it will hurt our horse that much," he said. "I think she has a very good rider (in Joe Bravo). I'll think he'll try to save some ground and go from there."
I'm a Chatterbox won her debut at Keeneland last year and the 3-year-old has done little wrong since, having finished in the money in nine of 10 lifetime starts. The Carolyn and Fletcher Gray homebred most recently won the Cotillion (gr. I) for trainer Larry Jones and finished first in the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) only to be disqualified to second in a controversial stewards' ruling. She is consistent and quality but must race from the rail.
Got Luckywon the local prep for the Distaff when she defeated Untapable by a neck in the Spinster to gain her first grade I. Co-bred and co-owned by John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings, Got Lucky sports an impressive female family and is from the last crop of champion runner and leading sire A.P. Indy. She will hope for a fast pace to close into.
Said co-owner and co-breeder John Sikura of Got Lucky's 12 post, "The tactic was to take hold and let the rest of them sort it out anyway. If she were an early runner she'd need to be used from there, but we'll sit off them and hopefully get a clear path and reel in the leaders. This is a great field with a lot of top horses to beat."
Frivolous is a classy 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker who has flashed talent but hasn't displayed the consistency of others in here. She has traded punches with Sheer Drama, defeating that one in the Fleur de Lis (gr. II) in June, but was beaten in the Spinster by Got Lucky, Untapable, and Yahilwa. She can be placed anywhere in the race but needs a career-best effort.
Curalina benefited from the DQ of I'm a Chatterbox in the CCA Oaks, receiving a grade I victory in the process. But I'm a Chatterbox finished well in front of her in the Alabama (gr. I) and Wedding Toast subsequently handled her in the Beldame. She drew well in post 8.
Several Distaff hopefuls have been chasing Beholder's tail in Southern California, including My Sweet Addiction, second to that one in the Zenyatta (gr. I) and a well-beaten fourth in the Clement L. Hirsch (gr. I). She won the Vanity (gr. I) back in May and does possess early lick. Yahilwa, second in the Hirsch, finished a close-up third behind Got Lucky and Untapable in the Spinster at nearly 21-1. She also can be placed close to the pace.
Stellar Wind, the favorite in this year's Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), finished fourth that day, one length behind third-place I'm a Chatterbox. She has been lightly raced with only two starts since, victories in grade II and grade III company. Stopchargingmaria is another with early lick, and ran well to be second in the Madison locally. She faded to fourth most recently in the Personal Ensign.