1) Close Hatches - She’s got tactical speed, she’s improved from three to four (remember she was unraced at two), she’s run well at Santa Anita, and she is coming off the biggest victory of her career. No wonder Close Hatches currently sits atop this loaded division. Her big Phipps’ win was by no means easy, but for all the reasons already listed, it’s hard to imagine her anywhere but in the thick of it when the real running of the Distaff begins.
2) Beholder - Is her fourth place finish in the Phipps a signal that the reign of the two-time Breeders’ Cup champion is coming to an end. That’s possible, but back home in California, she remains the filly that everyone needs to knock of the heep. She will get a little break after coming out of her New York trip a little worse for wear. It’s no easy to task to win at the Breeders’ Cup three straight years, especially with this group looming, but taking this speedy champion lightly would seem nothing short of foolish.
3) Princess of Sylmar - Wait a minute. What is my favorite filly doing down at #3? Because of the California factor, that’s why. As good as she has been east of the Mississippi, her one race out West was a disappointment. In fact, she might not even make the trip out this year. Having said that, with a new dirt track going into Santa Anita this year, it could be a far more fair main track for this year’s World Championships. Her two races this year have been typically excellent, and she just needed one more jump or two to get by the top one at Belmont.
4) Untapable - Currently, she stands head and shoulders above her three-year-old contemporaries. She has been nothing short of dominant in her only three races in 2014, and if she can continue that dominance, beginning with Saturday’s Mother Goose, then she will surely be asked to take on either older or the boys, or perhaps both. This older group is a strong one, so I am not convinced she is ready for them yet, but further improvement, and a little more maturing could make it a special three-year-old season for the Oaks winner.
5) Iotapa - I’ve long thought of this consistent Afleet Alex filly as a nice one, but her last run was better than just nice. The Vanity might not have been particularly strong for a grade 1, but her ten-length undressing of the field sure was, as was the final time of 1:47.64 for the nine furlongs. Run at the same distance and over the same track as the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, I am now taking Iotapa seriously as a real Distaff contender.
6) Midnight Lucky - I’m not sure if the nine furlongs of the Distaff is the direction they will go, and she has had only one race in the past 12 months, but still I have her ranked in the top half-dozen on this loaded list. That is just how much respect I hold for the talent of this daughter of Midnight Lute. Right now, the BC Filly & Mare Sprint seems like the more likely target, but if this one does make the field for the more lucrative Distaff, she becomes a real threat to win the whole thing.
7) Antipathy - The lightly raced and well intended Godolphin filly ran a huge race when a close third as a rank outsider in the Ogden Phipps, breaking up the Big 3 party. It is not farfetched to believe that this result could become the rule rather than exception. She is clearly on the improve, and the daughter of A.P. Indy’s upside is large.
8) Molly Morgan - It’s possible that she just loves Churchill Downs, but you have to respect what Molly Morgan has done in her last two races. In the Grade 1 La Troienne, the daughter of Ghostzapper finished full of run to get up for second, and then in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis, she rallied powerfully to blow the doors off a solid bunch of fillies and mares. Sometimes horses just put it all together a little later, and this one seems to be trending that way. Fast early fractions certainly do not hinder her chances.
9) Sweet Reason - Like Midnight Lucky, she may be destined for the Filly & Mare Sprint, rather than the Distaff, but a grade 1 winner at a mile in her latest, she would only need to stretch out one more furlong for the Distaff. Either way, I have her listed as the second three-year-old filly in the nation, and I can see her doing well at either distance. She’s pointing for the seven furlong Test next, so we will have to wait and see what happens after that one, to get a better idea of her Cup plans.