Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese
There are many times in racing when the long term anticipation for a big race falls far short of what you actually get on race day. The 2012 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic does not look it will fall into that unfortunate category. Quite the contrary, with each passing week, the race seems to be getting stronger and stronger. Last week it was the trio of Awesome Feather, My Miss Aurelia, and Questing who wowed racing fans and grew anticipation for the Ladies’ Classic. This week it was Royal Delta, with a powerful performance in the Grade 1 Beldame, and a four-year-old filly that crossed the country to flaunt her speed against the best of the West. Frankly, a little over a month ago, Love and Pride was not a filly on my big picture radar. Sure I knew she was, but I did not give her too much consideration when talking about the year-end championships. Now just 4 ½ weeks from the Breeders’ Cup, I would be crazy not add her name prominently in what is shaping up as one whale of a horse race.
Five weeks ago, Love and Pride scored a major upset over, at the time, the two highest rated older females in the nation in Royal Delta and It's Tricky. The victory in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign was a fantastic performance, but on the other hand, both of the favorites had obvious excuses for the upset. How would Love and Pride prove that the big win at Saratoga was no fluke? How does traveling to the other end of the country and dominating a grade 1 stakes grab you?
Sent off as the 4-1 third choice in a field full of the West’s best hopes for the Ladies’ Classic, Love and Pride set decent early fractions under new pilot Marin Garcia, after grabbing her customary position in the front immediately after leaving the gate. From there she led the nine-horse field on a merry chase for a mile and a sixteenth over a fast Santa Anita main track. Never looking like she was in danger of being caught, the daughter of A.P. Indy covered the trip in a solid 1:43.09 to win the Zenyatta Stakes by 3 ¼ lengths. Joyful Victory edged out Include Me Out and Via Villaggio for second money.
Bred by Stud TNT of Kentucky, Love and Pride is a dark bay a filly out of the graded stakes-placed Storm Cat mare Ile de France, meaning she has impeccable bloodlines. After not racing at two, Love and Pride could only manage an overnight stakes win at three, but really seems to be coming into her own now for trainer Todd Pletcher. She has four stakes wins in eight starts this year, the last two of course, being of the grade one variety.
So up next for Love and Pride will be the ultimate test on November 2nd. Detractors will point to the speed favoring nature of Santa Anita’s surface on Saturday as reason to continue not to believe in her, but you know what? It’s the same track she will run on in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. Can she win the big one? I’m still not 100% sold considering the quality she will face, but I will surely not discount the filly with sharp speed and that is obviously getting very good at just the right time.