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The Sheepshead Bay and New Directions

The Kentucky Oaks is three weeks in the past, the focus on three year old fillies has shifted forward and much like the headlining events for the sophomore fillies the focus of this blog has also changed direction. It starts with the title, Kentucky Oaks Runner will return next year when the Kentucky Oaks trail once again resumes but for now The Distaff Runner takes over and everything filly and mare holds precedence. Sprints and distance races, juveniles and up, fillies and mares, ladies and distaff, The Distaff Runner will cover it all. The new header features two of the most outstanding female runners of the last decade that represent the very best of their divisions.

Indian Blessing was, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest female sprinters of the last 20 years, while Zenyatta was one of the most talented closers and classic distance runners in decades. My hope is that over the next seven to eight months, before January rolls around once again, readers and writer alike will be able to takeoff on an exciting and eye-opening journey that sees us witness countless epic moments in the sport and the emergence of the next great distaffers. The Distaff Runner now rises from the ashes like the phoenix reborn, Kentucky Oaks Runner no more; it’s time for a new direction.

Most of the action this holiday weekend through Monday will be swirling around the Metropolitan Handicap and the male milers but both Arlington Park and Belmont Park will host two signature Graded stakes events on Saturday that will showcase solid filly and mare competition. Arlington Park features such players as Upperline, Pachattack, Milwaukee Appeal, Satans Quick Chick and It’s Tea Time in the 2011 running of the Arlington Matron Stakes (Gr.3) but  it the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Stakes that we’ll be taking a look at. The Sheepshead Bay (gr.2) features a short field of six female runners headed by the Graham Motion trained La Luna de Miel and Grade 1 winner Hibaayeb.

A European import, La Luna de Miel  won two consecutive races at Gulfstream Park in February and March, including the Orchid Stakes (gr.3) at 1 ½ miles on the turf before finishing fourth behind Keetana in the Bewitch Stakes (gr.3) on April 28th after failing to sustain her drive in the stretch. She gets a bit of a class relief in the Sheepshead Bay Stakes even with the presence of Hibaayeb and should be able to move up for her second graded stakes win of the year if she proves good enough.

Also from Europe, Hibaayeb won the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at 1 ¼ miles in her first US start in early October before finishing a dull 8th in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr.1). She started the year finishing third behind Breeders’ Cup winner Tapitsfly in an Allowance Optional Claiming race at Gulfstream Park. The 1 3/8 miles shouldn’t be a problem for her but she will need to show a more sustained run than she has in her last two starts if she wants to win.

Yet another European runner who comes into the Sheepshead in good form is Cheetah who enters off two consecutive wins, including a 3 ¾ length tally in her United Stakes debut at Keeneland in a 1 5/8 mile Allowance race last month. She doesn’t have a graded stakes win to her name and will be making her graded stakes debut in the Sheepshead but she appears to have a very good chance to win and has great recent form.

Giants Play has finished third to La Luna de Miel in her last two starts and also hails from Europe. Tarrip was last seen finishing fourth to La Luna de Meil and is on a seven race losing streak. Belle Watling will be making her fourth US start as a native of Chile. She finished dead last in the Apple Blossom Stakes (gr.1) behind Havre de Grace in her most recent start. Choice Play won a claiming race at Gulfstream Park in late March but might not like the marathon-type distance of the Sheepshead.

La Luna de Miel appears to be in fine form right now and was on a roll earlier in the year, but if you’re looking for a little bit of value try taking a look at Cheetah, she appears to have the most upside.

It’s mostly the second tier fillies and mares taking center stage this weekend but in less than three weeks time the big guns will return with a vengeance, most notably Turbulent Descent in the Acorn Stakes on Belmont Stakes day, June 11th. Another race to keep an eye on this weekend is the 1 mile Little Silver Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sunday that features two solid three year old fillies in Ruthenia and Salary Drive.
Photo Courtesy of Benoitphoto.com


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Older Comments about The Sheepshead Bay and New Directions...

Oh nice, have fun at the races! Definietly have to love the fillies, especially this year!
Love the new look, Brian! The Sheepshead Bay should be fun, but I will be at the Arlington Matron in person ... gotta love the fillies!

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