Last week I gave my thoughts on the male Breeders' Cup races so this week I thought I'd finish things off by doing the major female races. My plan is to rotate back and form like this each week all the way to the Breeders' Cup.
1. Icon Project
3. Music Note
4. Careless Jewel
Among the major Breeders' Cup Female races we have a rather unique situation. Three defending champions (four if you count Goldikova) are coming back and all of them will be expected to win. Zenyatta, Ventura and Forever Together could all be favored in their races but do we really accept the fact that these races will all be won by defending champs at short prices? I had to do a rethink on each race just to get away from that notion because I think it's easy and logical to go with the defending champions in each race but it's not going to happen. The Breeders' Cup talent pool is too deep for that to happen.
Zenyatta has never lost a race and she likely won't have lost a race by the time the Breeders' Cup rolls around. I have always thought that Zenyatta's weakness would be trying to run down top quality stalkers if the pace was not really quick. Coming from the back of the pack as she does that's always a risk and she's had a few close calls. I have her second in this group because I think her number will finally get called this fall and her unbeaten record will be sullied.
I think the filly to finally tame the wild Amazon will be Icon Project. She's a big powerful filly in her own right and she is in otherworldly form this year. As a daughter of Empire Maker she was never likely to be that choosy about surfaces. She has done reasonably well on the grass and originally it looked like her connections wanted to keep her on the turf. After all at one point she actually finished within 3/4 of a length of Dar Re Mi who is one of the finest turf fillies anywhere. But when the New York Handicap was washed off the grass a new career was born and Woflson found out that Icon Project was unbelievable on the main track. Three races on the dirt and she's earned nice Beyer's each time. Her only loss was because of a tactical blunder on a speed favoring track. Valdivia let Swift Temper get everything her own way at Delaware and it was far too late by the time she got going. It cost him the mount. Her Personal Ensign victory was reminiscent of another Phipps horse, Inside Information. Icon Project is a star on the rise and I think she'll love synthetics. She is a big tough filly capable of brilliance and she has the tactical advantage on Zenyatta. She's my #1.
Music Note looked horrendous in her first start back as a 4yo but she laid the fears about not training on to rest in the Ballerina. She was dominant over Indian Blessing and Informed Decision who will both be main contenders in the Filly and Mare Sprint. Connections might be tempted to keep her at 7f but I think she's going to stretch out. I expect to see her in the Beldame alongside stablemate Seventh Street. I think she's the far better filly of the two and with her Santa Anita form already set from last year she is the more logical pick for the Ladies classic as well.
Careless Jewel has gone from zero to hero in a remarkably short span of time. She was thought to be a pretty good thing by bettors at Keeneland in her debut. Josie Carroll first timers rarely take money at places like Keeneland but Careless Jewel was made the favorite. I feel back for her backers because that was the only day of her career that she didn't take home the money. She won a couple of races on Woodbine's Polytrack before setting off to Delaware and Saratoga where she earned Beyers of 104 and 106 in dominating stakes performances. We already know that she handles synthetics, now we know that she's a very dangerous speed horse even against stakes types. She could be controlling the pace on Breeders' Cup day and no horse has ever caught her once she's hit the front.
Acoma is something of a pet project of mine for this race. I probably have more faith in her than her connections do but I see all the tools being in place for her. She is another daughter of Empire Maker and have proven to be adept on all three surfaces. Most of her races have come on dirt but oddly enough dirt is the only surface she's ever lost on. She is undefeated on turf and synthetics. I like the quick move she has and some of her dirt form shows that she has the class to compete with the best.
Filly and Mare Turf
1. Dar Re Mi
3. Forever Together
4. Gozzip Girl
5. Pure Clan
This is another event where the defending champion will loom large. Forever Together has still never lost a two turn Turf race. It's going to be a tough thing for her competition to overcome. But the one thing that has me rating her a bit lower at this stage is the fact that she has not been as dominant this year and that even at the height of her powers she never had to deal with a first class European. Horses like Caribbean Sunset have challenged her this year and that form does not look great.
Dar Re Mi is a first class European and might well be on her way to North America. She suffered a somewhat dubious DQ in her last race but if you consider the result as it should have been, a win for her, then she'd be 4-3-1-0 on the year with three straight G-1 wins. Her only loss came in her debut by a short head. Dar Re Mi has accounted for Sariska and Stacelita, the two sophomore fillies that looked like potential superstars. Her win over Stacelita was taken from her but I'm more concerned about the level of talent she showed to hit the line first. There is no question that she was the better horse. Dar Re Mi handles any ground and is an extremely tough horse. John Gosden had success shipping to Santa Anita last year and he could as well this year.
I also like the Henry Cecil trained Midday. She has really been coming into her own over the last few months. I think she is better on firm ground although she hasn't had much firm ground of late. The Juddmonte farms are normally supporters of the Breeders' Cup so I expect that this filly will be pointed to Santa Anita after perhaps one more race in Europe.
Gozzip Girl suffered a pretty bad reverse in the Garden City stakes this past weekend but I still believe that she has the talent to be competitive here. Being steadied repeatedly then nearly going down on the first turn is enough of an excuse for me. I also think that ultimately her best races will be run on firm ground. Watch for her in her form recovery mission in either the Flower Bowl or QE II at Keeneland. I'd much prefer the Flower Bowl as a prep because I think the timing is far better but the lure of facing only fillies her own age may be too great.
It seems like Pure Clan's season hasn't really gotten off the ground yet but she's still a good horse. She might require a bit of pace to be effective but it's not unreasonable to think that she could get a pace on Breeders' Cup day. I think the Female turf routers in North America are kind of weak this year aside from Forever Together. She's as likely as anyone to get a piece.
Filly and Mare Sprint
2. Informed Decision
4. Indian Blessing
5. Game Face
I look at this race and I can't help but choke on a bit of chalk dust. None of my top 5 fillies would be longshots but even still I felt like I was really reaching to come up with 5 horses for this race. Indian Blessing has been an admirable horse for years now but 7f and synthetics have never been her best game. It's hard to envision a scenario where she beats last year's winner Ventura.
Game Face ran a good race at Presque Isle and that should be enough to book her Santa Anita ticket but can she really beat Informed Decision who has handled her so easily twice? It's a real stretch but Game Face is still one that could hit the frame.
Carlsbad is a legitimate threat to the big two in this race because she is the speed of the speed. I think she can out foot Indian Blessing and she can certainly run big races when she gets in front. She is not yet nominated but I think connections will want to take that shot with her. She's a win machine and she deserves a chance to compete with the best at her best distance and surface.
I have Ventura over Informed Decision but it's a really close call. Not much separated them at Keeneland when they met and there will likely be little to find at Santa Anita for the rematch. What I like about Ventura is actually her lighter campaign. Frankel has been very choosy with her this year and she's likely to run in the Woodbine mile then go straight to Santa Anita to prepare for the Sprint. Informed Decision has not exactly been running every other weekend but she has had significantly more racing over the summer and may not be quite as fresh. She is also not a Californian and that might play into it. In the past I thought Informed Decision had the advantage because of her tactical speed but I think those other factors outweigh the tactical speed issue. This should be a hotly contested race and a great event to watch.
2. Mi Sueno
3. She Be Wild
4. Blind Luck
Anyone that sees this race clearly is encouraged to drop me a line. I certainly had a very difficult time figuring out who to put on top. Mi Sueno is the logical choice. She's regally bred, based in California and is now a multiple stakes winner. But something about her has me less than convinced. She's not that fast at present and I do wonder if the best fillies are out West. It is a good sign that she's winning without having totally figured it out yet. Her trainer must have had quite a scare last time as she looked beaten in the stretch but it turns out that she just hadn't decided to run yet. Once she picked it up she was able to score a bit easily but stunts like that have to be corrected. Good horses won't give you multiple chances to catch them.
Hot Dixie Chick looks like a glaring omission but I consider her highly unlikely to participate. The Jackson/Asmussen team are not going to send many horses to California. They have already made noises about just running her in the Frizette if anywhere else at all. In her absence I decided to go with Beautician as my #1. There is something Ashado-esque about this filly as a juvenile. She had a sparkling maiden then got crushed by Hot Dixie Chick. The rematch had the same result but I thought that Beautician looked much better than she had in the Schuylerville. She doesn't have the same quick move as the Dixie Chick but she chased her hard all the way to the line without being asked all that hard. It looked to me like a great stepping stone to a two turn race. McPeek is good with juveniles and you can almost guarantee that she'll go on synthetics next in Keeneland's Alcibiades. I think Beautician has a big future.
She Be Wild is a pint size conundrum from the Mid-West. Trained by Wayne Catalano she has done nothing wrong and has been extremely impressive. But is she that fast? How good was her competition? With talk of her training up to the Juvenile Fillies will she be a good bet without any two turn experience. It's too early to answer all of those questions. For now we simply respect what she's shown.
Blind Luck is a filly trained by Jerry Hollendorfer who looked fantastic in her debut then followed that up with a clunk up second behind Mi Sueno at Del Mar. Her second race was not nearly as good as her first but horses often regress off a big maiden score. To finish that closely to Mi Sueno while looking less than spectacular is a notable feat and if she continues to improve she should be a main contender in the Oak Leaf and Juvenile Fillies.
Midst is a Canadian based horse that I've been waiting on for a while. She earned a 90 Beyer in June at Woodbine but hasn't made it to the track since. That was a huge figure for Polytrack at that time of year. She was sent to Saratoga but never got in a start there so there could be some fitness issues. I'm excited about her as a talent though and she still has plenty of time to get another start in before the Breeders' Cup.