The Friday feature is a sensational rendition of the Breeders Cup Distaff, featuring two excellent older horses meeting three excellent three year olds.
Audio – I previewed the Friday races with my friend Steve Falk. You can listen here:
Breeders Cup Distaff
The Breeders Cup at its best gives us great matchups of three year olds with the top older horses in the country, and that is what we get in an excellent rendition of the Distaff. Three year olds Abel Tasmen (the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn winner), Paradise Woods (the Santa Anita Oaks and Zenyatta winner), and Elate (the Alabama and Beldame winner) square off Unbridled Forever and Stellar Wind in the Friday feature.
Stellar Wind is the horse to beat. She is 3-3 over the Del Mar track and will come into this race on a 90+ day layoff that was designed by trainer John Sadler. Sadler is 4-30 with a $0.94 ROI on 60-120 day layoffs in dirt routes over the last five years (per DRF Formulator) but three of those wins are Stellar Wind herself. There were, however, some questions about her last workout and I can’t say I’m thrilled to take a short price on a horse in this quality of a race off a three month layoff, designed or not.
Forever Unbridled has run just twice this year, and hasn’t run since an August 26th Personal Ensign win in which she ran down a loose Songbird in a tremendous performance. She was third in this race last year and put in a big run when the pace didn’t really develop as expected and the while the pace should be solid here, it might not be blazing. She’ll be far back and have to pass a lot of good horses, and that is our big concern.
The biggest wild card in this race is Paradise Woods, who has blowout wins in the Zenyatta and Santa Anita Oaks, both at Santa Anita. She is a speedy front-runner who might get pushed a little bit here but she is going to be loose. She’ll have to get the nine furlongs and she is facing a much tougher field than she ever has before. Still, we’ll use defensively knowing full well she might finish last – but with her speed and her ability, she’s capable of taking this field all the way.
Abel Tasmen comes in as the Kentucky Oaks winner and was last seen running second at Parx in the Cotillion (to the injured It Tiz Well). In that race, she got a very bizarre, early, inside move (on a weaker rail) and she tired in the stretch. That was a move that worked for Mike Smith in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga, but was probably ill-advised on the deeper Parx rail. Still, in that CCA Oaks, she moved up into a slower pace, and then hemmed Elate in, probably limiting her finish. She’s good, of course, but her Kentucky Oaks and Acorn wins were earned with very good trips, and we think she’s probably at best the fourth most likely winner here.
Our pick is Elate. She was always cut out to be a good one for Claiborne and Bill Mott, and probably should have won the CCA Oaks three starts back. Since then, she has registered blowout wins in the Alabama and Beldame. In the Beldame, Jose Ortiz threaded a very small needle and she burst through to win easily (albeit against a weak field). Elate also has enough speed where she won’t be compromised if the pace is slow. We’re taking her as the “now” horse.
#5 Elate (3-1)
#2 Stellar Wind (5-2)
#7 Paradise Woods (9-2)
#6 Forever Unbridled (4-1)