Photo: Four Footed Fotos
As the Breeders' Cup celebrates 30 years of existence, its definitive championship race for females on the grass, the Filly and Mare Turf, which carries a purse of $2 million observes only its 15th running. When the Breeders' Cup was inaugurated in 1984, it lacked a premier turf race for the distaff division. It wasn't until 1999 when the females finally got a principal turf race of their own. The first running, with a $1 million purse attached, was introduced at Gulfstream Park at 1 3/8 miles, with Soaring Softly getting home first. When course configurations permit, the Filly and Mare Turf is run at its prescribed 1 1/4 mile distance. The race has been carded at 10 furlongs at, Arlington Park, Belmont Park and this years site, Santa Anita, which is hosting the World Championships for the fourth time in six years and seventh overall.
The third-place finisher of last year’s edition, The Fugue, was cross entered here where she would have been a heavy favorite, and in the $3 million Turf where her connections have opted to run her versus the opposite sex. Nothing wrong with that call, she's proven herself against the boys having already defeated top males over in England. With her defection, favoritism could very well fall on Dank who dazzled the Arlington crowd by impressively winning the G1 Beverly D. Stakes in her initial North American journey. Another Euro making the trip is Romantica. She's hails from the stable of master trainer Andre Fabre, is a Group 1 winner in France and can't be dismissed lightly. The American's have plenty of firepower however, led by Tiz Flirtatious and Marketing Mix. The former is a 4-time course winner and the latter was second in this race last year. Both runners have battled each other twice already in 2013, each winning over the other by a mere head. The field is contentious, in addition, there are several other solid top older U.S. turf runners as well as a trio of 3-year olds, all looking to prevent the overseas invaders from capturing the top spot for the sixth time. Let's take a look at the lineup from the rail out.
1-DANK//Ryan Moore/Sir Michael Stoute--This amazing European filly has not raced since mid-August when she automatically qualified for this event by virtue of a brilliant North American debut at Arlington Park where she displayed strong late speed with powerful strides to score in the G1 Beverly D. Her winning time tied a stakes record, and also marked her initial G1 victory. The latest win was the longest race she's run and now makes this gal perfect in three starts beyond one-mile, having earlier annexed two 9 furlong events. She has won half of her 12 starts, with 4 being either Group/Graded events. Four-year old is improving with each outing, should have no ground concerns and gets her favored firm surface. Must travel an extra half-panel further, but nonetheless, she is going to very tough to deny. Seemingly impossible she'll get away at 3-1 odds like she did last out.
2-ROMANTICA/Maxime Guyon/Andre Fabre--Regally bred 4-year old filly has won three Group races in France, all at the 10 furlong distance. Although she owns a victory against Group 1 horses, the only two sub-par performances in her record came against Group 1 competition, in the Prix Vermeille last year, and last time out when traveling 12 furlongs against Treve, the eventual Arc winner. Don't disregard this girl lightly, she's at her best with firm ground and can contend with these with her best shot.
3-TIZ FLIRTATIOUS/Julien Leparoux/Marty Jones--This mare has done all her racing in California, where she was bred, and has NEVER been out of the money in 12 career runs. She has finished first or second in 11 of those races. Is a multi surface winner with 3 dirt/synthetic victories to go with her 5 turf conquests. She's a multiple G2 winner, and by virtue of a narrow margin of a head after a dramatic stretch run in the Rodeo Drive Stakes, she added her initial G1 score to a sparkling resume and earned a free birth into this event. In her previous two G1 contests, she lost by a length in one, and by a mere head in the other. She's a Santa Anita turf course specialist, having won 4 times over it, including last out at 10 furlongs. 5-year old mare is top class, consistent and possesses a remarkable late kick. All three facets afford her a excellent chance to take it all.
4-ALTERITE/John Velazquez/Chad Brown--A bit of a surprise entry, as her owners had to come up with $100,000 to supplement this girl as she is not Breeders' Cup nominated. Following her final start as a juvenile last season, the French-bred filly was a private purchase for her current owner who then kept this gal racing in France for half of this calendar year. She competed in the French Triple Crown for fillies during a five week time frame from May until June. The following month, she was shipped to the United States and arrived in the Brown barn, and her new conditioner got this one back to the races mid-September at Belmont Park. The time away did wonders as this talented filly made her North American bow a winning effort taking down the G1 Garden City Stakes, and then followed up a month later with a good second-place effort in the G1 Q.E.II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. 3-year old must now face her elders.
5-LADY OF SHAMROCK/Victor Espinoza/John Sadler--As a sophomore last season, this filly contested this event, but encountered some trouble both early and entering the lane, resulting in a 5th-place finish. 4-year old gal has truly been a model of consistency. Her only other off-the-board blemish in her last 15 runs was her latest in the G1 Rodeo Drive Stakes where she never factored after being unable to get her patented late run untracked. Ironically, both races came at the one-mile and one-quarter distance. However, to her credit, this multiple graded stakes winner has proven her affinity for the 10 furlong distance, having won twice. 4 of her 7 wins have been produced over this course. She fits on class, but must improve off her latest. If she does, look for her to be motoring late.
6-MARKETING MIX/Gary Stevens/Tom Proctor--Canadian-bred mare was a solid runner-up in this event in 2012. Began her career unsuccessfully on dirt before transitioning to synthetics, where she broke her maiden and was stakes placed twice before finding her niche on turf. She's been kept racing strictly on grass for well over two years with excellent results, finishing first or second in 12 of 13 races prior to her start two back in the Beverly D. In that event, bettors respected her impeccable race record, including a runner-up finish in the 2012 running, and sent her off as the even-money choice, but her effort this year was only good for a fourth place finish. In her most recent outing, where she went off as the public's choice once again, she surged late along with rival Tiz Flirtatious, only to lose by a head to that nemesis during a thrilling stretch run of the G1 Rodeo Drive Stakes. This top-notch 5-year old female knocked off the boys back in July in the G3 Sunset Handicap. A dual G1 winner that should be right in "mix".
7-LAUGHING/Jose Lezcano/Alan Goldberg--Irish-bred mare has been perfect in 4 starts, all in graded contests, including two G1 wins. She must now venture West after having done her 2013 racing at Eastern-based tracks. Her latest win in the Flower Bowl earned her an automatic berth in the race, but having spent the early part of her career in Europe, she wasn't an original Breeders' Cup nominee. Therefore, in order for her to participate, her connections have paid the $100,000 supplemental fee. Has demonstrated her versatility by setting fast, slow, and moderate fractions in her wins this year. She once again looks to be the controlling speed in this contest.
8-EMOLLIENT/Mike Smith/Bill Mott--Three-time G1 winner this year, but two of those wins were over synthetic. 3-year old possesses strong grass breeding which was evident in her winning turf bow in the G1 American Oaks at this very distance back in July. Filly turned in a dismal performance on the grass two back in the Garden City, before rebounding big-time in her latest on the Keeneland poly. After careful considerations by her connections, the Spinster Stakes winner is entered in this spot as opposed to the Distaff where she would come up against stablemate Royal Delta.
9-QUSHCHI/Edgar Prado/Graham Motion--Most experienced gal in the lineup with 27 career starts. Accumulated the bulk of her racing in Great Britain, where she was bred, before journeying stateside in March of this year. Since arriving, she's been unplaced just once in six runs, and that occurred in her most recent outing in the Flower Bowl Invitational, her only G1 showing where she was beaten just 2 lengths in a 4th-place finish. Her other graded appearance was a 3rd-place finish in a G3 event. 5-year old mare probably prefers more ground to cover, and easier company where she has been very consistent. Appears better suited to lower grade events.
10-KITTEN'S DUMPLINGS/Joel Rosario/Mike Maker--Since a fifth-place finish in the G1 Ashland Stakes over the Keeneland poly back in the spring, this 3-year old filly has done very little wrong since returning to the weeds. She has recorded 4 stakes victories in 5 races, 3 of them graded. Overall, she has won half of her dozen starts, including last out when she registered a come from-behind victory in the G1 QEII Challenge Cup that continued an unbelievable run for her red-hot sire (Kitten's Joy). 3-year old gets her first crack against older. Deep closer is dependent on the pace which will need to be favorable up front to provide her a solid win chance.
LAUGHING will no doubt go to the lead and be tough on the front end attempting to wire this group. She's completed the job in her last three races, with her last outing at the 10 furlong distance. However, this is by far the toughest field he has faced to date, so can she do it again? If you feel she can, your handicapping is complete, and she is your play. If not, the question becomes who to support from off the pace. In turf route racing, emphasizing relative class is important, but the number-one priority to look for is the fastest finisher against the best opposition.
Given that credo, DANK deserves top call in here. At Arlington, she scorched the highly-rated Beverly D field with a devastating late kick to register a strong late final fraction and earned a Beyer speed figure that is above par for this race. After that win, she has been pointed specifically to this event, therefore, the two-month layoff should be no concern. She arrives fit and fresh and appears to be a notch above these rivals.
TIZ FLIRTATIOUS and MARKETING MIX are G1 California horses who both have some dynamite in their stretch kick, and have recorded final fraction ratings that can propel them to victory, especially the former who is in top form. The Marty Jones mare is a multiple G1/G2 winner who relishes the Santa Anita grass where her record must be highly respected. The latter was a solid second in last year's edition of this contest. The two have exchanged narrow wins against each other this season, but may have to run even quicker in the last quarter-mile to knock off the top choice.
ROMANTICA is a G1 winner arriving from France making her third start off a long layoff, often a horses beat effort. She exits the highest rated European race for fillies, where the winner was Treve who went on to glory in the Arc. She has a solid chance to upset.
Longshot selection: EMOLLIENT will probably be overlooked by bettors. She's a G1 turf winner in her lone grass start, and last out beat older girls when she came flying through the stretch in the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland.
DANK to win and in an exacta box with TIZ FLIRTATIOUS and ROMANTICA. There is .50 cent trifecta and .10 cent superfecta wagering, making mulitple combinations of those exotics affordable. In playing those wagers, add in all the contenders listed in the analysis above plus any others of your choosing.
Good luck and as always, enjoy the race!