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The Super Bowl of racing is a week away, and the stakes fields for the 2016 Breeders’ Cup are forming. he last two times the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies was contested at Santa Anita, it was a lucrative betting race. Thirteen promising youngsters were pre-entered in the contest. Last year, the overwhelming favorite, Songbird, didn’t disappoint. The voters were unanimous in bestowing Championship honors on the superstar.
This year’s field doesn’t have a stand-out, so let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each contender.
American Gal (Concord Point - American Story, by Ghostzapper)
Strengths: American Gal has captured her two starts by a combined 6 ¾ lengths. Bob Baffert trained American Gal’s sire to victory in the 1 1/8 mile West Virginia Derby. The filly’s dam American Story was also in the Baffert barn and placed second in three stakes between a mile and 1 1/16 miles. American Story is a half sister to Dubai Golden Shaheen hero Reynaldothewizard.
Weaknesses: American Gal has potential, but falls into “who did she beat” category. Her speed figure improved between her first and second start and she ran 6 panels in 1:10.45 without being asked. Additionally, she’s turning around in just 13 days to compete in the biggest test of her career.
Chances: Who knows how talented American Gal is? Can she rate if necessary? More questions than answers with this one, but she’s trained by Baffert. Could be one to keep in your exotics for a live longshot.
Champagne Room (Broken Vow - Lucky to Be Me, by Bernstein)
Strengths: Champagne Room enters the Juvenile Fillies with four starts under her girth. She’s competed with the best California fillies since July. Trainer Peter Eurton saddled his only Juvenile Fillies contender, Wemissfrankie, to a third place finish in 2011.
Weaknesses: Champagne Room was rank in the early stages of the Chandelier Stakes. Her jockey Mike Smith had to steady going into the first turn and kept the eager youngster under a hard hold behind the pace setter. He had to steady her again off of heels along the backside while in heavy traffic. When Smith finally asked for run, the filly was tired out from fighting and could offer only a minor response. Champagne Room finished a fading fourth, beaten 5 ½ lengths. Since the inception of the race, only two fillies that finished out of the money in their prep have won the Breeders’ Cup. One was via DQ.
Chances: Did Champagne Room learn from her last experience? She’s a nice filly, but after four starts, three in top company, Champagne Room may be ready for a rest. She could hit the board with a good trip if she relaxes, but I don’t see her as a win contender without a perfect trip.
Colorful Charades (Discreet Cat - Laila's Punch, by Two Punch)
Strengths: Colorful Charades was best of the rest in the Frizette, finishing over nine lengths behind the top pair. Her speed figure improved from her first start.
Weaknesses: Colorful Charades has a sprinter/miler pedigree, heavy on the sprint. She pressed the pace early in the Frizette, but couldn’t keep up with the top pair. Trainer Rodriguez is making his first foray into the Breeders Cup arena.
Chances: Colorful Charades appears a cut below the more accomplished fillies. She may press the early pace.
Daddys Lil Darling (Scat Daddy - Miss Hot Salsa, by Houston)
Strengths: Daddys Lil Darling has two starts at 1 1/16 miles under her girth. Her speed figures have improved with each start. Scat Daddy’s daughter captured the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) by a half-length under a well-timed ride by Corey Lanerie. Daddys Lil Darling was moving fastest of all in the stretch of the Alcibiades Stakes but ran out of ground. Fillies who placed in the top three in the Alcibiades have been in the money in four of the last six editions of the BC Fillies at Santa Anita. The last filly to win the Fillies after hitting the board in the Alcibiades was She Be Wild in 2009.
Weaknesses: Daddys Lil Darling has a stalking running style. She has a tremendous turn of foot, but she will be deploying her style against a full field of fillies over a speed favoring track. In 2013 Ria Antonia made a late charge to miss the victory by a head but was granted the victory due to a DQ.
Ken McPeek has sent numerous fillies to the Breeders’ Cup without success. He has an 11-0-2-3 record in the race. The last two times that McPeek has been represented in the Juvenile Fillies, his charges have finished third; Rosalind (2013) and Dothraki Queen (2015). Both fillies prepped with runner-up finishes in the Alcibiades Stakes.
Chances: Daddys Lil Darling could finish in the money at Santa Anita. She would need a perfect trip to win.
Dancing Rags (Union Rags - Home Court, by Storm Cat)
Strengths: Dancing Rags has been in the money in all three starts. Her 5 ½ furlong debut on the Laurel turf a bit too short. Second time out, the daughter of Freshman Sire Union Rags stretched out to a mile and beat maidens by 1 ¾ lengths. Dancing Rags faced a full field in the Alcibiades. She got a rail directly behind the pace setter for most of the way. The bay filly noticeably quickened when asked to go by her jockey, Angel Cruz. She galloped under the wire a length in front with her ears cocked, showing that she could have done more. Dancing Rags’ speed figures have improved in every start.
Dancing Rags’ sire narrowly missed being crowned 2YO Champ by a desperate head. The following year, the massive colt captured the Belmont Stakes. His offspring have been later maturing and should mature into nice three-year-olds. Dancing Rags is a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes winner Coup De Grace. Their second dam is 1996 Breeders’ Cup Distaff heroine Jewel Princess.
Weaknesses: Quick, name the last filly to win both the Alcibiades and BC Juvenile Fillies. That would be Silverbulletday in 1998. Since then, two fillies who finished second or third in the Alcibiades won the Breeders’ Cup – Cash Run and She Be Wild.
Trainer Graham Motion has been represented twice in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; once in 2004 and again in 2009. Neither filly was in the money.
Chances: Dancing Rags has the running style and ability to be a serious win contender for the Juvenile Fillies.
Jamyson ‘n Ginger (Bernardini - Ginger Brew, by Milwaukee Brew)
Strengths: Jamyson ‘n Ginger won her last race by 15 lengths traveling a mile in 1:37.47 over a sloppy track.
Jamyson ‘n Ginger has a classy pedigree and should improve with maturity and distance. Her dam is 2008 Canadian Champion Mare, and a multiple stakes winner from 7F to1 1/8 miles. She finished second in the 1 ¼ mile Queens Plate against colts. Ginger Brew is a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes veteran Bourbon Bay, who captured the 14 furlong San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap twice.
Weaknesses: Jamyson ‘n Ginger had trouble in her second start. Yellow Agate won that race by over five lengths. Jamyson ‘n Ginger is jumping from maiden ranks into competition against the best.
Chances: Her speed figures have improved in each start as she stretches out. Distance won’t be a problem. How will she fit class wise? No filly in the history of the Juvenile Fillies has captured the event without having raced in a stakes.
New Money Honey (Medaglia d'Oro - Weekend Whim, by Distorted Humor)
First Preference - Juvenile Fillies Turf
Strengths: Both of New Money Honey’s starts were at 1 1/16 miles. She was very wide in her debut but made up ground to capture second place. In the Miss Grillo, New Money Honey rated behind a very slow pace, swung wide and opened up by 2 ¾ lengths.
New Money Honey is bred to handle 1 1/8 miles, and possibly longer. Her half sister Coconut Shrimp placed in a couple of turf stakes between 7F -8F. Their dam Weekend Whim is a full sister to Any Given Saturday, hero of the Haskell Invitational (G1) Brooklyn Handicap (G2), Dwyer (G2), etc. Weekend Whim’s half sister Bohemian Lady is a multiple stakes winner from 7F to 1 1/8 miles and placed in the 1 ¼ mile Ladies Handicap.
Weaknesses: New Money Honey will be racing on dirt for the first time in the Juvenile Fillies if she doesn’t draw into the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Her pedigree is varied enough that she could handle multiple surfaces. Kickback could be a factor and could keep New Money Honey from running her best race. Additionally, only one filly has been capable of capturing the Juvenile Fillies off of only two starts.
Chances: Lightly raced, is race fit and talented. She’s never run on dirt and won’t have pedestrian fractions of a two-turn turf contest to set up her run. Trainer Chad Brown hasn’t had a starter in the Juvenile Fillies. He’s captured the Juvenile Fillies Turf twice. New Money Honey could be worth a second look for a longshot contender play if she runs in the Juvenile Fillies.
Miss Grillo Stakes
Noted and Quoted (The Factor - Silver Cub, by City Zip)
Strengths: The daughter of Freshman Sire The Factor was a determined winner of the Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita in her first effort around two turns. Raphael Bejarano is 2-2 on the filly. He had Noted and Quoted pressing the pace in the Grade 1 event and was rewarded with a half-length score over stakes winner With Honors. Noted and Quoted’s best performances have been delivered while close to the pace. A pace setting/pressing running style and a victory over the distance/surface of the BC Juvenile Fillies counts in Noted and Quoted’s favor.
Weaknesses: Noted and Quoted proved that she needs to be close to the pace to deliver. The two times that she sat farther back than fourth resulted in losses. In both of those starts, Noted and Quoted’s debut and the Del Mar Debutante, the pretty gray filly was piloted by Mike Smith. She was guided to her dual victories by Raphael Bejarano.
Bob Baffert is a fixture on the Southern California racing circuit and always has a herd of classy two-year-olds in his barn. He has sent 20 juvenile fillies to the Breeders’ Cup. Only two have won, but four have placed second.
Chances: Noted and Quoted has a good chance of giving Baffert his third Juvenile Fillies trophy.
Sweet Loretta (Tapit - Ithinkisawapudycat, by Bluegrass Cat)
Strengths: The daughter of Tapit is undefeated in three starts. She won her maiden at Monmouth, galloping away from the field by seven lengths. A month later, she was off slow in the Schuylerville (G3) but easily defeated the field by 4 ¼ lengths. In the Spinaway, Sweet Loretta dead-heated with Pretty City Dancer for the victory.
Sweet Loretta is carrying on the stakes winning tradition within her family but may be distance challenged. Her sire gets winners at all distances, but Bluegrass Cat’s few blacktype runners haven’t won beyond a mile. Sweet Loretta is the first foal out of a stakes placed sprinter. Her dam is a half-sister to Canada’s 2012 Champion 2YO Filly, Spring in the Air, who was successful up to 1 1/16 miles over dirt and turf.
Weaknesses: Sweet Loretta has gate issues. She broke awkwardly in her last two starts. She raced greenly in the stretch of the Spinaway, ducking and drifting out in the stretch to the point that she bumped Pretty City Dancer so hard that that one’s hind end knocked sideways and the game filly almost lost her footing. Sweet Loretta was struggling in the deep Saratoga track in the Spinaway. Her final 1/8 was clocked in 13.47, compared to the 13.16 of Pretty City Dancer. Was it the track or will she have trouble navigating two turns?
Sweet Loretta’s pedigree and conformation indicate that she may be distance challenged beyond a mile. Her sire gets winners at all distances, but Bluegrass Cat’s few blacktype runners haven’t won beyond a mile. Sweet Loretta is the first foal out of a stakes placed sprinter. Her dam is a half-sister to Canada’s 2012 Champion 2YO Filly, Spring in the Air, who was successful up to 1 1/16 miles over dirt and turf.
Surprisingly, the east coast giant Todd Pletcher hasn’t been able to add a victory in the Juvenile Fillies to his resume. Pletcher has sent a dozen fillies to the post; four have finished second, and two each have placed third and fourth. Last year Pletcher-conditioned Rachel’s Valentina to a second place finish behind the spectacular Songbird.
Chances: Sweet Loretta will need to have a clean break in the full field of the Juvenile Fillies and learn to run straight through the stretch. 1 1/16 miles appears to be a suspect distance for the game daughter of Tapit after her tough performance in the Spinaway. She’ll have to do all of this off of a 63-day layoff.
Union Strike (Union Rags - Classic Strike, by Smart Strike)
Strengths: Union Strike has done a lot in her first two starts. She broke slowly in her debut at 5 ½ furlongs, but gained ground to finish second behind American Cleopatra, our Triple Crown winner’s little sis. Union Strike ran a tremendous race in her second start in the Del Mar Debutante. She sat wide the entire way in the 7-furlong event. American Cleopatra, Noted and Quoted and Champagne Room were in the mix, but couldn’t hold off the powerful stretch drive of Union Strike. The daughter of First Crop Sire Union Rags captured the Del Mar Debutante by a widening 2 ¼ lengths.
Union Strike has the breeding to handle middle distances, and perhaps longer. She’s a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes veteran Handsome Mike, a winner between seven and nine furlongs.
Weaknesses: Union Strike will enter the Breeders’ Cup off of a 63-day layoff and only two starts under her girth. Will she be fit enough to endure the rigors of racing? The last filly to win the Juvenile Fillies off of a long layoff was Tempera in 2001. However, unlike Union Strike, Tempera had four starts before winning the Breeders’ Cup. Union Strike was moved from the barn of Shelbe Ruis after her victory in the Debutante, and the filly will be making her first start for Craig Dollase. She is Dollase’s second Juvenile Fillies representative. His first charge, Cash Included, placed fifth in 20006.
Chances: This talented filly has beaten Noted and Quoted and Champagne Room. Her lack of experience and possible fitness is concerning, especially if she has to take the scenic route through the race on the outside. Would have liked to have seen this one have a prep, even if it was just an allowance race, like Beholder had in 2012, before capturing the Juvenile Fillies. In addition, Dollase is 0-12 this year in graded stakes.
Del Mar Debutante
Valadorna (Curlin - Goldfield, by Yes It's True)
Strengths: Valadorna won a maiden contest over a full field at Keeneland. She captured the 1 1/16 mile race in 1:44.47 by six lengths. There’s little blacktype in Valadorna’s distaff line. Her dam is a half sister to Springside, winner of the 2008 Demoiselle Stakes (G2) at 1 1/8 miles.
Weaknesses: Since 2001, trainer Mark Casse has entered seven two-year-olds in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The best placing was by Delightful Mary, who was third in 2010. Valadorna is a promising youngster and has experience in a full field. She’s taking on more experienced fillies
Chances: Valadorna’s speed figures aren’t as strong as the graded stakes winners. She’ll have a lot to overcome to beat this field.
With Honors (War Front - All Her Class, by Street Cry (IRE))
Strengths: With Honors has a pace setting running style which conforms to the Santa Anita track bias. She was second, batten a half-length in the Chandelier Stakes by Noted and Quoted. The Chandelier was the first defeat, and the first time the well-bred daughter of War Front raced on dirt. Previously, she captured the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes. In the stretch of the Chandelier, With Honors was in tight on the rail and a little intimidated by Noted and Quoted, but she gathered her courage and was coming back at her rival just before the wire.
With Honors’ dam is a stakes placed half-sister to the stakes winning sprinter Fast Anna, who placed in King's Bishop (G1). With Honors’ second dam is 2006 BC Juvenile Fillies winner and Champion 2YO Filly Dreaming of Anna. The third dam Justenuffheart is a multiple stakes winner and a half-sister to Champion Turf Horse and top sire Kitten's Joy.
Weaknesses: With Honors has contested the lead in every start. Can she rate if necessary, or will she get caught up in a speed duel in the Juvenile Fillies? The Desormeaux gained valuable experience in the Chandelier.
Desormeaux had an entrant in the last two Juvenile Fillies. Danette was fifth at Santa Anita in 2014 while Right There was ninth last year at Keeneland.
Chances: With Honors has the talent to be a serious win contender for the Juvenile Fillies, but will have to show that she can rate or avoid a front-end speed duel. She doesn’t appear to be headstrong or speed crazy. She has first preference for the Juvenile Fillies Turf but could be a tough contender in either race.
Yellow Agate (Gemologist - Lemon Sorbet, by Lemon Drop Kid)
Strengths: Yellow Agate is undefeated in two starts. She sat off of a quick early pace in a close-up fifth-place before making a three-wide move around the turn. Manny Franko aggressively pushed her through the stretch to catch the front-running Libby’s Tail by a head at the wire.
Yellow Agate hasn’t raced around two turns, but she has the pedigree and conformation to handle classic distances. The second and third generations of her distaff line is filled with international stakes turf routers. Her damsire won the Belmont Stakes; Second damsire Sadlers’ Wells was one of the top stallions in the world, and third damsire is Kentucky Derby hero Foolish Pleasure.
Weaknesses: Yellow Agate made her second career start in the Frizette. The only filly to win the Juvenile Fillies in their third start was Indian Blessing in 2007. In the Frizette, the daughter of First Crop Sire Gemologist appeared eager early, but settled down by mid-race. She was green in the stretch, flapping her tail, and didn’t seem intent on targeting the front runner.
Yellow Agate will be trainer Christophe Clement’s first charge in the Juvenile Fillies. The veteran trainer is noted for conditioning top-level turf horses, yet is 0-29 across all divisions of the Breeders’ Cup. His charges have placed second five times.
Chances: Yellow Agate is a promising young filly. She could mature into a top race mare over multiple surfaces. Her Frizette Stakes victory was concerning in that this filly is still growing mentally and could find the large field of the Breeders’ Cup overwhelming.
This isn’t a strong Breeders’ Cup contest and could set up for a big payout to start the day off right.