Breeders’ Cup Photo
With just 4 1/2 weeks remaining until the Breeders’ Cup, several of the championship races are starting to come into clear focus. The Breeders’ Cup Classic is shaping up to be an exciting showdown between California Chrome, who is 6-for-6 this year with three grade I wins, and his younger rival Arrogate, who won the historic Travers Stakes (gr. I) in track-record time. The Breeders’ Cup Mile is expected to showcase the talent of defending champion Tepin, while the Breeders’ Cup Distaff is expected to feature a fantastic field led by the unbeaten Songbird, as well as champions Beholder and Stellar Wind.
But there’s one race that remains a blur of contenders with no clear standouts, and that is the $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I). All year long, the best female sprinters in the country have taken turns beating each other, setting the stage for a wide-open renewal of the Filly & Mare Sprint that promises to be one of the best betting races of the Breeders’ Cup.
At this point, the favorite will probably be Haveyougoneaway, a New York-bred filly that spent most of her racing career in the Midwest before shipping to her home state this summer, where she has since won three straight races. Her win streak culminated with a late-running half-length score in the Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, but although it was an admirable performance, she benefited from a hotly-contested second quarter-mile that helped set up her late rally.
Perhaps more of a concern is that Haveyougoneaway will not run again before the Breeders’ Cup and will enter the race off a layoff of slightly more than two months. Throw in the fact that she’ll be shipping to California for the first time, and the probable favorites looks vulnerable.
On the other hand, her opposition has questions to answer as well. Paulassilverlining has won three straight graded stakes races this year, including the Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) on October 1st at Belmont Park. But she also finished a tiring fifth in the Ballerina Stakes and might be better at distances slightly shorter than the seven furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
Wavell Avenue won the 2015 Filly & Mare Sprint with a strong late rally, but she’s gone 1-for-6 this year and could only finish sixth in the Ballerina Stakes and third in the Gallant Bloom Handicap. Can she rebound while shipping across the country to Santa Anita, a track with a speed-favoring profile that might not flatter Wavell Avenue’s late-running style?
Then there’s Stonetastic, a mare that has been known to turn in astonishing performances on her best day. She’s 3-for-5 this year, with her victories coming by a minimum of 3 3/4 lengths, and she also finished second in the Humana Distaff (gr. I). But her best races have come when she’s been able to secure a clear lead, and she’s been soundly beaten in the last two Filly & Mare Sprints when facing early pace pressure.
A new face in the division is Carina Mia, a three-year-old filly that won the seven-furlong Eight Belles Stakes (gr. II) against her own age group by an impressive six lengths. She also won the one-mile Acorn Stakes (gr. I) in similarly impressive fashion, but when she tackled older mares in the Ballerina Stakes, she dueled for the lead before tiring to finish third. No three-year-old has ever won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint; can Carina Mia make history and become the first?
By the Moon has only run three times this year, but won the Bed o’ Roses Handicap (gr. III) and was second in the Ballerina. Tara’s Tango is among the best in California and won the Rancho Bernardo Handicap (gr. III) at Del Mar with a solid late run, but will enter the Filly & Mare Sprint off a fourth-place finish behind champions Stellar Wind and Beholder in the 8.5-furlong Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I). Enchanting Lady was a close second in the Rancho Bernardo, but is 0-for-5 in stakes races this year, including defeats in the Humana Distaff and Madison Stakes (gr. I). Spelling Again was a game winner of the Princess Rooney Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park, but was subsequently seventh in the Ballerina Stakes and fifth in the Open Mind Stakes at Churchill Downs. Fioretti won the latter race by a half-length, but that victory was her first of the year and ended a six-race losing streak that included a 13th-place finish in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and an 11th-place finish in the Madison Stakes. Sarah Sis won the Chicago Handicap (gr. III) and the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (gr. II), but both of those races were on synthetic tracks; she’s 0-for-6 this year on dirt.
Are you confused yet? I certainly am. Fortunately, we’ve got 4 1/2 weeks to try and decipher this very competitive race, and hopefully we’ll be rewarded with a longshot winner that makes our effort worthwhile. Good luck!