Breeders’ Cup Distaff Draws Eight

Champagne Room winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (photo by Jim Safford).

Champagne Room winning the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (photo by Jim Safford).

Friday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) drew an all-star field of eight representing the best of the older fillies and mares division. Seven of the eight set to go postward in the nine-furlong main track test are Grade 1 winners, including two champions.

Last year’s Eclipse Award-winning juvenile filly Champagne Room will lead the field to post and will be joined by fellow champion Stellar Wind and Kentucky Oaks (GI) heroine Abel Tasman. With the fairly recent retirement of division leader Songbird and last year’s winner Beholder safely in foal to Uncle Mo in Kentucky, the Distaff may be one of the most wide-open races where literally any runner can win.

One of only two to have ever defeated the great, aforementioned Songbird is Forever Unbridled, who nosed out her champion rival last out in the Personal Ensign Stakes (GI) at Saratoga on Travers Day in August in what was that rival’s final career start. Though the Dallas Stewart-trained daughter of Unbridled’s Song largely avoided Songbird throughout their careers, one mostly racing in the East and the the other mostly out West, that’s not to say this talented daughter of Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever hasn’t faced her share of tough competition.

The Chuck Fipke hombred — at her best — is capable of posting big speed and pace figures and has never had a problem facing tough rivals, always rising to the occasion when asked having only finished worse than third twice in 14 career starts. She’s a confirmed off-the-pace type who can be placed depending on pace, and always saves her best running for the stretch. She’s always been a a good work horse and she’s shipped a lot with great success. She won’t need to improve much to better her third from a year ago and with the two who finished in front of her now out of the picture, this may be Forever Unbridled’s race to really shine.

Stellar Wind’s best asset is that she’s won all three starts over Del Mar’s main track, her worst trait is that she’s never won at this nine-furlong distance, putting up her best performances at about a sixteenth of a mile shorter. Also a consistent type, the John Sadler-trained daughter of Curlin has the ability to log some unbelievably big speed figures well into the 107 to 110 range, and she’s tactical, preferring to sit just off the early pace but also versatile enough to drop farther back if the pace scenario dictates. She’s only finished worse than third twice in 15 starts, has already earned an Eclipse, has beaten the best in her division (Beholder last year) and has proven to run well fresh, which she’ll be doing in here after three months on the sidelines. She’s been training great and arguably has never looked better, so if the distance question isn’t a big deal, make sure to bet her heavy at what may be the best price, albeit still low, she’s offered in a long time in what will likely be her curtain call as she sells next week at Fasig-Tipton in Kentucky.

Abel Tasman spent all spring as the best sophomore filly after winning the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks and Acorn Stakes before being defeated by It Tiz Well to finish second n the Cotillion Stakes (GI) at Parx six weeks ago. Fans noticed the daughter of Quality Road has had some issues with making a bold mid-race move to surge to a premature lead, which was successful until her last race, something that hopefully trainer Bob Baffert and regular jockey Mike Smith have worked on. She could use some improvement in the speed and pace figure department, which is good to know she still has room to improve, and she’s been working exceptionally well at her home base of Santa Anita for a while. She will probably get a pace to run at and if she can be patient, should have some fuel left in her tank to give her rivals all they can handle down the lane.

Elate won the Alabama Stakes in convincing fashion (photo via NYRA).

Elate won the Alabama Stakes in convincing fashion (photo via NYRA).

Elate boasts some big connections in the ownership partnership of Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm, as well as Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who is looking to saddle his sixth Distaff winner in this daughter of Medaglia d’Oro. This nine furlongs is right up this sophomore filly’s alley and while she’s never broken any speed and pace figure records, she also has room for improvement. Regular jockey Jose Ortiz is back and the filly should get her patented mid-pack trip before making her assault on the lead at the top of the stretch.

Paradise Woods is the reigning princess of California racing, having won the Santa Anita Oaks (GI) and the Zenyatta Stakes (GI) against older in her most recent start by5 ¼ lengths. The biggest question mark is the company she’s kept and facing the toughest field in her six-race career. She has the connections in her Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella and leading local rider Flavien Prat. She’ll be heading right to the lead from the break no doubt, but can she hold off her older, more experienced rivals?

Champagne Room likes Del Mar and this distance and after an injury and long break returned to win the rich Remington Park Oaks against a somewhat suspect field. It’s a good thing she likes the lead as she will need to gun it from her inside post, but it’s never wise to second-guess trainer Pete Eurton, who has really done a good job managing this daughter of Broken Vow’s career and running her when she’s in tip top shape.

Romantic Vision won the Spinster Stakes (GI) in her last race to qualify for this event and carries a two-race win streak into here. However, she’s another with questions about the company she keeps who will need to prove she’s tough enough to win against the best.

Mopotism is a solid Grade 2/Grade 3 filly who needs softer company if her connections expect a win. She should be a good longshot for exotic wagers with her best performance.

Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.

She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law known as the “Borell Law.”

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, two Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.

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