Breeders’ Cup Distaff 2017: Mott goes for six with Elate

October 03, 2017 10:52am

With her big 8¼ length victory in the Beldame, Elate is likely headed to Breeders’ Cup Distaff 2017, where she will give her Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott a chance to win this race for the sixth time.


Mott is the leading trainer in the history of the Distaff with his five victories. His most recent success came when he won three consecutive editions from 2010-2012 in what was then known as the Ladies' Classic. In 2010, Mott found the winner’s circle with Unrivaled Belle and then the great Royal Delta won the next two. His other two Distaff titles came back-to-back in 1997 and 1998, with two Allen Paulson owned fillies Ajina and Escena. Overall, in this particular Breeders’ Cup race, Mott has a career record of 13: 5-2-1.


I witnessed Elate’s very impressive debut maiden victory on the Cigar Mile undercard in November at Aqueduct. It was a wow performance for the then two-year-old to win the mile contest by 12 ½ lengths and I expected big things from the young filly. Seven months and five more starts were needed before this daughter of Medaglia d’Oro would find the winner’s circle again.


Bill Mott is a trainer known for his patience and he would need a lot of it with her. Elate was put into stakes races to start her three-year-old campaign. There was plenty of reason to expect her to pick right up after that rousing maiden victory, but she struggled. There was a second at Tampa in the Suncoast and then third in the Honeybee (G3) at Oaklawn. At Keeneland, in the Ashland (G1), she was pulled up and vanned off. 


“I was surprised early in the year that she didn't come on quicker than she did,” Mott said looking back.


With no serious problem found after the Ashland, Elate was back to get second in a Churchill Downs allowance a month later on Kentucky Oaks Day. An overnight stakes race win at Delaware Park served as a confidence builder and she was finally ready to show her best for Mott.


In the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga, Elate faced a loaded field as she battled the division leader, Abel Tasman, down the stretch only to lose by head after she ran in very tight quarters on the rail. In my view, she was the best horse that day. In the Alabama, all questions about the Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider runner were answered when she beat It Tiz Well by 5 ½ lengths. It Tiz Well would come back and defeat Abel Tasman in the Cotillion, further flattering Elate.

Defeating older fillies and mares in the Beldame was the reward for Mott’s patience with Elate. "She's really come on the second half of the year I'd say," he commented. "She's kind of ready for her job now. Her form indicates that too, she's coming the right way. She's learning how to use her speed. I think that part of her has improved as the year's gone on.”

This year’s Distaff is once again shaping up to have one of the most competitive Breeders’ Cup fields. With the likes of Stellar Wind, Forever Unbridled, Abel Tasman, Vale Dori, Paradise Woods, and It Tiz Well it will be no easy task for Mott to win Distaff number six.


Mott has done it before; that is, win with a three-year-old. He got his first Distaff victory when Ajina was just three and Royal Delta won her first of two as a sophomore. He has also won twice while shipping to the west coast, first with Ajina and then with Royal Delta’s second victory.


Mott also knows how to pull the upset in the Distaff as he did with Unrivaled Belle when she defeated a stellar field, at odds of 7.50-1, that included Havre de Grace, Blind Luck, and Life At Ten.


Elate is peaking on the race track heading into the big race, while others are waiting in the barn for the big challenge on November 3. She is likely to be the fourth betting choice and that means great value on a horse that is putting all the pieces together. With Mott, the master of the Distaff, in charge; I like her chances. 


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Meet Matt Shifman

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs, Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

Since 2012, Matt has been a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

Recently, Matt helped launch Derby Day Racing, a new 2-year-old racing partnership, that just purchased a promising Lookin At Lucky filly named Sooner Schooner.

You may also know Matt by his Twitter, Facebook, and HRN screen nameAndyScoggin.

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