Lady Eli takes centerstage in what is likely the final start of her tremendous career in the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf, but she’ll have to deal with a very talented stablemate.
Audio – We previewed the Saturday races with Steve Falk.
Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf
This race has traditionally been run at 10 or 11 furlongs, 10 when the race is at Santa Anita, where it was last year. Del Mar, however, cannot accommodate 10 furlong turf races, but rather then going to 11, they went down to nine, almost as if they had Lady Eli in mind. The popular five year old makes her career finale here, capping what has been a marvelous career that has included not just five Grade 1 wins, but overcoming laminitis. That said, while she is certainly the horse to beat, this race is no walk-over.
Queen’s Trust nosed out Lady Eli in a thrilling version of this race last year, and you can safely toss her last race on soft turf – she wants firm ground. We’ll note that in her fourth place finish in the Prince of Wales’s at Ascot in June, she finished behind three horses that are running in the Breeders Cup Turf later on [update – two as Ulyses was scratched but the point remains]. The problem, however, is distance. Where Lady Eli benefited from this race being run at nine furlongs – she can handle nine or 10 without a problem – Queen’s Trust wants to go farther. You can’t be totally surprised if she wins, but because of the distance, this is a much tougher challenge than it was last year.
The pace in this race shouldn’t be too fast, and maybe that could help Zipessa and Avenge. Zipessa won the First Lady last time stalking but beat a field that is not nearly as good as this one. She would be a big surprise. Avenge, meanwhile, ran a huge race in this event last year, cutting out fast fractions and getting beaten only a length for the whole thing, and that was going 10 furlongs instead of today’s nine. Her race in the Rodeo Drive was fine, but she was helped by a slow pace in there. Still, she has two wins at Del Mar and she will be in our play.
Cambodia has won three of her last four races, including two at Del Mar, but nothing against the caliber of horses she’ll face in this race.
That brings us to the horses exiting the Flower Bowl at Belont. War Flag won the Flower Bowl with a perfect trip behind a contested pace, and like Queen’s Trust, this race feels like it’s a bit shorter than her best. Dacita was second in that race, besting Grand Jete, but it’s the latter horse that we’ll be backing here. Dacita and Grand Jete are both trained by Chad Brown and have faced each other in their most recent two starts. Two-back in the Beverly D, Dacita swpt by on the outside while Grand Jete was totally bottled up in traffic. Then last time in the Flower Bowl, Grand Jete was put on the lead and unexpectedly pressed through what turned out to be solid fractions (especially a 23 second third quarter) and she faded late. Further, the 10 furlong distance of the Flower Bowl might have been a bit too far for Grand Jete, and she is better suited to this nine furlong trip. She should be in a good spot pressing a moderate pace and is in position to get the jump on her late running stablemates Lady Eli and Dacita.
There are a few other viable Europeans. One is Nezwaah. You can totally toss the EP Taylor three weeks ago on very soft turf. Before that, she was only beaten a head going 12 furlongs by Queen’s Trust when they were all left in the wake of subsequent Arc winner Enable. This trip too might be a touch short for her but she’ll appreciate the firm turf and will be a big price.
Senga might be a cut below but did win a Group 1 in France in June when last seen on firm turf. Rhododendron won a Group 1 in France last time but that was on soft going and she drew terribly in post 14. Wuheida was supposed to run in the QE II at Keeneland three weeks ago but had a small injury. She has a few races on firm turf that might be good enough to put her in the mix and she’s been stuck on yielding turf over her last few races.
#8 Grand Jete (6-1)
#9 Lady Eli (5/2)
#11 Nezwaah (20/1)
#12 Avenge (8-1)