Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese
As a great fan of thoroughbred horse racing, a race like the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic is what it is all about. With quality in every nook and cranny of the eight horse field, Friday’s big one promises to be as good a race as any at this year’s World Championships. Not only is there an abundance of quality, but the entire field enters in fine fettle. Only two of the fillies come in off a loss, and one of those, Questing, lost by a heartbreaking head last time. So who is going to win the $2 million, nine furlong, champion making affair? That’s easy … it will be the one with the strongest will to win. AWESOME FEATHER - 3-1 (Jeffrey Sanchez) Perfection is fleeting. No matter how good you are there is always the chance to finally succumb to the competition. As a perfect 10-for-10, and facing by far her toughest test to date, Awesome Feather has every reason in the world to succumb. Every reason but one that is, she does not know how to lose. Her courage and determination is special, and in what figures to be a real dog fight with Royal Delta and the rest, I will take my chances with the little filly that has a heart of a giant. She has the perfect running style to stalk and pounce just like she did when rolling in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies of 2010. She has since done nothing wrong despite physical setbacks. Her hot hand trainer, Chad Brown has been telling everyone that would listen that she was doing great all summer, and she confirmed that belief with a dazzling 1:32 3/5 mile at Belmont Park. She’s ready, and I think she is going to win. ROYAL DELTA – 9-5 (Mike Smith) Last year’s champion is hard to ignore. She may have only three wins in six starts this year, but I think it is safe to say that she is even better this year than she was in 2011. Her wins in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs and in the Grade 1 Beldame were things of dominating beauty. I regard Bill Mott as highly as any trainer in the nation, so she should be ready to fire her best shot on Friday. The strong early pace should also allow her to relax early before making a strong rally. With all these positives, you would think she would be my top selections, but no, in this case I think the favorite is only the second best four-year-old filly going. MY MISS AURELIA - 4-1 (Corey Nakatani) Like my top pick, she comes into the race as an undefeated champion. The determination she demonstrated in taking it to Questing in the Cotillion Stakes, before outdueling her to the wire was extremely impressive. Having said that, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champion has only two races so far this year, so my feeling is that after only a sprint and a very tough race, it might be a bit too much to ask to expect her to beat the best older females in the land. She’s not going to be a major play for me in this one, but I have a great deal of respect for her, and if she ends up in the winner’s circle, I will tip my hat and hold her in even greater esteem. INCLUDE ME OUT - 15-1 (Joe Talamo) The filly that dominated West Coast ladies earlier in the year, including two big wins at Santa Anita, seems to have lacked her best punch as of late. Maybe she is just not quite good enough to beat the best, but on the other hand, maybe she has been in need of a fast pace setup over a traditional dirt track. These are two things that she will enjoy on Friday. If the pace is hot, and rider Joe Talamo allows her to sit back early, well off the leaders, I could certainly see this daughter of Include making a big late run. She may not win it, but as one of the longest shots on the board, she is a filly to seriously consider in the exotics. LOVE AND PRIDE - 8-1 (John Velazquez) This front running filly was by no means good enough to think that she could threaten these tigers earlier this year, but that was then, and this is now. The daughter of A.P. Indy seems to be getting better with each successive start, and now has a strong performance over the track in the bank. It also seems that she has enjoyed the equipment change of removing the blinkers in her last two starts. She beat the favorite in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign two starts back, but on that day she had the perfect trip as opposed to the fillies she beat. The pace should be strong, so there will be no relaxing early like in the Zenyatta, but another big performance would come as no surprise. QUESTING - 4-1 (Irad Ortiz) It pains me to rate such a talented filly this low on the totem pole, but that just goes to show how much quality is in this year’s Ladies’ Classic. She looked like an absolute world beater with front running romps in the Grade 1 Coaching Club America Oaks and then the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes this summer. Both of those races were at Saratoga though, so until she wins a stakes race away from the Spa, I have to wonder if she is as good away from those friendly confines. There was nothing wrong with her second place finish in the Cotillion, but with more speed in here and and much more competition from the older girls, I will be taking a stand against her.
GRACE HALL – 10-1 (Javier Castellano) First for the bad news … she has already failed as the favorite, or near favorite, in her three most important tests of her career, the Kentucky Oaks, Alabama and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The good news is that she continues to demonstrate her talent by winning everything else in impressive fashion. The daughter of Empire Maker is coming off what very well may have been her best performance of her career when she romped home in the Grade 2 Indiana Oaks, while running quite a bit faster than the colts did in the Derby that same day. Will she finally break through on the biggest of stages? My guess is no, but I wouldn’t fault anyone who wanted to try her at what is certain to be easily her highest odds of her career. CLASS INCLUDED – 30-1 (Russell Baze) Who? Unless you follow racing in the Pacific Northwest, you may never have heard of the second daughter of Include in the field. Although as the winner of 10 of 16 lifetime races, and never having finished worse than second in any of her races, she is a filly worth knowing. Considering the huge jump up in class she will be making on Friday, I have to rank eighth of eight in here, but she’s fast, consistent, and has good tactical ability. She also is coming into the race the right way with four straight easy stakes wins on her most recent form. A win would be a surprise, but clearly she is a very nice filly who should not be completely ignored.