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Local perspective on Breeders’ Cup
The feature race on Friday is the Distaff and a tough field of fillies and mares are slated to contest this championship race.
The headline acts among the older mares are Forever Unbridled and Stellar Wind. They were third and fourth, respectively, behind the great Beholder and Songbird. Stellar Wind underperformed that day and she has shown by racing unbeaten this year that she could be third time lucky in 2017 (second and fourth in 2015 and 2016 respectively).
The younger generation is led by Elate, Abel Tasman and Paradise Woods. Elate has taken all before her in some of Distaff Group ones on the East Coast – the Beldame and the Alabama – but gives the impression she is a bit below the best fillies and mares.
Abel Tasman was the clear leader of her generation after wins in Kentucky Oaks, Acorn and American Oaks but lost some of her lustre when beaten in the Cotillon. She could still bounce back. The beaten favourite for the Kentucky Oaks, Paradise Woods, showed she was on her way back with an impressive all the way score in the Zenyatta on her last start. She has to show that she can excel away from Santa Anita. On the balance of form, Stellar Wind, stands out as the best horse in the Distaff and is taken to win.
The Fillies and Mares Turf brings together top class contenders from both sides of the Atlantic. From Europe, we have Rhododendron, who won the Prix de l’Opera in his last start, Nezwaah, last year’s winner Queens Trust and Wuheida. All of these would have a chance on their best form. Confronting them from the US are their star mare, Lady Eli, narrowly beaten in the 2016 Fillies and Mares Turf after winning the 2014 Juvenile Fillies Turf; War Flag and Dacita fought out the finish of the Flower Bowl to book their tickets to the dance.
Both would need to improve significantly to figure her but War Flag is trained by Hall of Famer, Shug McGuaghey and has a pedigree to die for. She will be another sporting tip to upset the others.
If we look at the other eight races over the two-day Festival some of the likely major contenders are as follows. On Friday, the Juvenile Fillies Turf will be expected to be dominated by the Aidan O’Brien
East Mucurapo Secondary captain Kevon Edwards, second from left, celebrates with his teammates following their victory over Valencia Secondary during SSFL Championship Division action last Sunday. East Mucurapo was promoted to the Premier Division following their win over Chaguanas North Secondary, yesterday. PICTURE CHEVAUGHN CHRISTOPHER/CA-IMAGESpair of Happily and September though the North American trained Chad Brown pair of Rushing Fall and Significant Form will not be walkovers.
There is always the fear that this race comes at the end of a long season for European two-year-olds and both O’Brien fillies have been heavily raced in 2017. As such, I like Rushing Fall to upset the odds.
The Juvenile Turf should be fought out by the European contenders, James Garfield and US Navy Flag with slight preference for the former. The Dirt Mile is a North American benefit and Mor Spirit who won the Metropolitan Handicap doing handsprings should be way too good for his rivals.
On Saturday, we should look no further than last year’s winner Drefong in the Twinspires Sprint while Lady Aurelia should be way too fast for her rivals in the Turf Sprint though if she burns herself out the fast finishing Disco Partner could be interesting.
The most exciting horse on display on the day might actually come in the Fillies and Mares Sprint where Unique Bella, who was touted as the best three-year-old filly in the US before injury sent her to sidelines continues her comeback. She is one for the future for sure and could be as good as her former stable companion Songbird, which will be more than good enough to win this race.
The two main track Juvenile events could also herald the appearance of a couple of champions, Bolt D’Oro looks a notch above his rivals in the Juvenile while it is an East vs West battle in the Juvenile Fillies with Separationofpowers and Moonshine Memories bringing top class form to the table from both coasts.
Separationofpowers’ front running style could make her a sitting duck for the more stalking style of Moonshine Memories and I will go with the latter to come out on top on this occasion. All in all a great two days are in prospect.
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