Juvenile races have always been the toughest ones for me to handicap. The Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr.1) has produced a full field of 14 promising fillies this year, sorting out the good from the bad is perhaps not as challenging as it appears when looking at the entries. I believe there are five fillies with a good chance to win, and three with a decent chance to hit the board. I hate to say it, but I think this one is all about the favorites for the win. There has been a lot of consistency among the top five contestants this year, hence the reason for three undefeated, Grade 1 winners entered in the field.
My Miss Aurelia is the deserving morning line favorite for the race off the strength of her 5 ½ length romp over Stopshoppingmaria in the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes early last month at Belmont Park, but it’s an undefeated daughter of Empire Maker that I like the most right now. Grace Hall won her debut at Delaware Park by three lengths in late July before winning the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes over the gifted Judy the Beauty. She followed that win up with a easy three length score in the Blue Hen Stakes at Delaware Park on October 1st, winning in a hand ride after contesting the lead. So far all three wins by Grace Hall have been accomplished with just a hand ride, implying there is much more to this filly than we have seen so far.
My Miss Aurelia ran a huge race in the Frizette, capturing the race in front-running fashion by more than five lengths, and defeating Stopshoppingmaria handily for the second time in her three race career. She also defeated third place finisher Miss Netta in the Frizette, a filly I think has a lot of potential to movfe forward in the Juvenile Fillies today. My Miss Aurelia is a daughter of Smart Strike and is owned by Barbara Banke, wife to the late Jess Jackson of Curlin and Rachel Alexandra fame. I think the greatest weakness for this filly could be her front-running tactics, even though juvenile fillies have fared very well in recent years running on the front end, I think there are some very classy fillies behind her this time that will not let her run away in the stretch.
Weemissfrankie is the undisputed leader of West Coast juvenile fillies after back-to-back Grade 1 wins in the Del Mar Debutante Stakes and most recently in the Oak Leaf Stakes where she ran down the very talented Candrea, who is also slated to take part in the Breeders’ Cup. She could not have been more impressive in her Oak Leaf score where she ran down Candrea just before the wire, closing from fifth place and coming into the stretch four wide, while still catching the leader and winning by half a length under a vigorous hand ride. She ran a fantastic :59.20 five furlong work one week ago at Santa Anita to signal how fit and ready she is to run.
Miss Netta has raced just two times in her short career so far, but has shown incredible potential. She broke her maiden at first asking, taking a six furlong at Saratoga in late August but almost three lengths, running on the lead from gate, to wire. Her next start came in the Frizette Stakes (gr.1) at Belmont Park where she just happened to run into the monster we know as My Miss Aurelia, finishing a distant, but decisive third. On paper her performance looks back, but it was actually very good. She broke awkwardly, immediately dropping four lengths off the field and running very greenly for jockey Rajiv Maragh. By the time My Miss Aurelia was approaching the far turn, Miss Netta was far more than twelve lengths off the back of the pack, but began to eat up the ground and settle for Rajiv Maragh as they entered the far turn. Coming into the stretch My Miss Aurelia was pulling well clear of Stopshoppingmaria up front, but Miss Netta was flying home fastest of all, running an incredible race to get up for third, finishing almost three lengths ahead of Holiday Soiree in fourth. She could be sitting on a huge race at Churchill Downs today and her :46.87 bullet work at Belmont last weekend proves she is coming into this race very sharp.
Candrea ran a big race in the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr.1), a race that in most cases would have been a winning race if not for Weemissfrankie. She pressed the pace in second, took over from the pacesetter coming into the stretch and began to draw off and accelerate approaching the wire. Unfortunately for her, Weemissfrankie was just too good and flew by her on the outside late to snag the win by half a length. This Bob Baffert trained filly won the first two starts of her career by a combined 7 ½ lengths. She likes to sit close to the pace and launch her bid off the turn, tactics that will keep her close to the front-running My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies if she has the speed. She had a good :48.80 half mile breeze at Churchill Downs recently and is another that looks like a candidate to run a good race.
Since I don’t have time to handicap the entire field, I tried to choose three long-shot fillies that I think have the best shots at hitting the board for a price. My first is two-time stakes winner, Say a Novena. This filly has won three of her six career starts so far and most recently captured the Brandywine Stakes at Parx Racing after missing by one length in the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park in early September. Her biggest problem is that she has never run past seven furlongs yet, but in all of her stakes tries, which make up her last four consecutive starts, she has finished running well and never tired late. She could be a nice value if she runs well today with morning line odds of 30-1.
Awesome Belle has taken the same course to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies that 2010 Juvenile winner Awesome Feather took, and they just happen to both be daughters of Awesome of Course. Awesome Belle enters the Juvenile off a 7 ½ length romp in the 1 1/16 mile My Dear Girl Stakes at Calder Race Course. The My Dear Girl Stakes is the final race in the Florida Stallion Series which Awesome Feather won last year. This year Awesome Belle didn’t fare as well, finishing fifth in the Desert Vixen Stakes after a bad trip in the stretch, and finished third in the Susan’s Girl Stakes after finding herself in tight quarters and unable to catch the top two. I think she’s beginning to improve and really good shot to hit the board. Her morning line odds are 20-1 and her most recent work was a :48.20 half mile move at Calder.
Rockey Twentyone is undefeated in two starts, but most recently captured the Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes (gr.2) at Arlington Park on September 10th. The one thing she will seriously need to improve on is her speed is she hopes to finish in the top half of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies field. She ran the one mile Arlington-Washing Lassie in a slow time of 1:39.13, and has been working up to the race equally as slow. As a daughter of Indian Charlie you know she has a chance to improve, but it’s highly doubtful she can win. Maybe hit the board, and with odds of 20-1 it might be worth a shot.
[Will My Miss Aurelia be de-throned atop the HRN 2-year-old Filly Standings after the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies?]
So there are my three long-shot choices, of the three I like Awesome Belle much the best. Of the top five fillies in the field I like Grace Hall, Miss Netta, Weemissfrankie, and My Miss Aurelia in that order. Of the five favorites, Mis Netta seems to present the best value withe best chance to win. Good luck to all and enjoy the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Friday card.