2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf international scouting report: Just Wonderful, East top European hopes

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

November 1st, 2018

Unlike the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), where Europeans tend to prosper, the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) has been a haven for the home team. North American-based fillies have won eight of 10 runnings. Chad Brown is responsible for exactly half that total, and he has an exceptional case to make it five with Irish-bred Newspaperofrecord on Breeders’ Cup “Future Stars Friday.”

Europe’s undeterred with five contenders in the main body of the field, plus a useful also-eligible. The best challenges to the favorite may come from the first two listed here.

JUST WONDERFUL: Aidan O’Brien hasn’t won this race yet, but he just missed in the inaugural, and has had some hard-luck trips. The master of Ballydoyle tries again with another talented blueblood in Just Wonderful, a Dansili half-sister to Turf Sprint (G1) hopeful Lost Treasure and a niece of Filly & Mare Turf (G1) contender Athena.

Descended from the mighty Urban Sea, and thus a maternal relative of Galileo and Sea the Stars, Just Wonderful delivered one of the most visually impressive maiden wins of season. It was not the margin, but the manner of her success: tucked in the pack one second, whizzing to the front the next. That effort at the Curragh made her the favorite for Royal Ascot’s Albany (G3), but she fizzled behind Main Edition and La Pelosa in a case of too much, too soon.

While Just Wonderful did better when a mildly closing third to Marie's Diamond (Juvenile Turf [G1]) in the 6 1/2-furlong Anglesey (G3), the stretch-out to a mile made a difference next time in the Flame of Tara (G3). She put it all together with a last-to-first performance, on good-to-yielding ground, and reasserted her claims as a proper classic prospect. The form was boosted when third-placer Fleeting came back to win the May Hill (G2). Yet Just Wonderful did not follow through herself, running a flat seventh in the Moyglare Stud (G1).

Just Wonderful wheeled back 12 days later in the Rockfel (G2) at Newmarket and regained her terrific turn of foot in the seven-furlong “Win and You’re In.” She steamrolled Main Edition to prove the Albany result all wrong.

Interestingly, Just Wonderful’s dam, Wading, also won the Rockfel, but never raced again. O’Brien recently commented that jockey Ryan Moore remembered Wading, an indication of her glowing reputation. Just Wonderful clearly has inherited her dam’s high level of ability. Now all she needs to work on is consistency.

EAST: The first offspring of unbeaten phenom Frankel to compete in the Breeders’ Cup, Prix Thomas Bryon (G3) heroine East is two-for-two herself versus males. Her poor post 14 doesn’t necessarily have to dampen enthusiasm, since new rider Jamie Spencer might opt to drop back, make one run, and finish like a proverbial freight train.

After topping the Goresbridge breeze-up sale at €315,000, East attracted support in her debut despite facing a field full of experienced males, including two winners. The 9-4 second choice was the only debutante in that Hamilton novice, but you wouldn't know it the way she lowered her head, as if attacking the ground, and rolled past on the soft going. The beaten favorite, Happy Power, came back to romp in a Doncaster nursery. 

East chose to beat the boys in France last time. Looking a bit keen early in the Thomas Bryon, the rider got her to ease back, tipped out, and mowed them down in hand. 

The collateral form indicates it’s a good thing Juvenile Turf contender The Black Album opted to sit the Bryon out and train up to the Breeders’ Cup. Bryon third-placer Pure Zen had previously won the Francois Boutin, where The Black Album was a subpar fourth, and Ecolo, who just missed to The Black Album in the Prix La Rochette (G3), was a disappointing last as the favorite behind East. There’s also a tie-in with British stakes form courtesy of Bryon fourth Dubai Dominion, who was coming off a second to well-regarded Sangarius at Doncaster.

Since trainer Kevin Ryan immediately mentioned the Breeders’ Cup as a target, a trip to Louisville is no afterthought for this 20-1 overlay.

THE MACKEM BULLET: If you love O’Brien’s Fairyland as I do, the filly who's come close to beating her in both the Lowther (G2) and Cheveley Park (G1) logically demands respect. The hesitation is whether the daughter of Society Rock will duplicate that form in her first start beyond six furlongs, especially in testing conditions that likely put premium on stamina. 

Trained by Brian Ellison, also known for his success in the National Hunt game, The Mackem Bullet started out at five furlongs in a good Carlisle novice versus the boys. She stayed on nicely for sixth to Cosmic Law, the future Woodcote winner, and third-placer True Mason would go on to place in a trio of Group stakes highlighted by the Prix Morny (G1). The Mackem Bullet was then a troubled third in a Musselburgh conditions, also at five, but has thrived ever since going up to six furlongs.

Back at Carlisle, The Mackem Bullet vied early and drew off in a romp. Scratched from a York nursery with a vet's certificate, she was in fine fettle only two weeks later in the Princess Margaret (G3), where she was unlucky not to be second. The winner, Angel's Hideaway, drifted across her path while sweeping clear, and “Mackem” had her momentum briefly interrupted.

Reportedly a private sale to American interests was in the works, but didn't go through. Mackem made them regret it when she nearly pulled a 25-1 upset in the Lowther, giving Fairyland all that she could handle and possibly edging her, until the camera revealed she missed by a pixel. Now she was a truly hot commodity, and Katsumi Yoshida prevailed to buy her. 

My initial thought was that Mackem was fortunate to get that close at York, considering Fairyland hadn't raced in a couple of months and the whole Ballydoyle yard was just emerging from the virus. Apparently that was a widespread thought because Mackem was ignored at 25-1 again in their rematch. But Mackem backed up that effort in the Cheveley Park. Pushing Fairyland to hold her off by a neck, she also outfinished Juvenile Turf Sprint contender So Perfect.

Jockey Oisin Murphy reportedly said that The Mackem Bullet is looking for a mile now. The maternal side of her pedigree endorses it, and I’d be more willing to envision it on good ground. Sire Society Rock handled soft, but his progeny tend to excel in better conditions. If the forecast verifies, the Juvenile Fillies Turf will be a slog, and a tough spot to step up to a mile. On form, though, she’s right there.

LILY’S CANDLE: The day after selling to Martin Schwartz for €390,000 at the Arqana Arc Sale, Lily’s Candle upset the “Win and You’re In” Prix Marcel Boussac (G1). The Fabrice Vermeulen trainee has claims with her two-for-two mark at a mile and form on a rain-affected surface. 

Moving forward off a debut sixth at Saint-Cloud, Lily’s Candle beat males in a Marseille Borely maiden, in decisive stalk and pounce fashion over a mile. She successfully transitioned to stakes company for the Prix Jouvenceaux et des Jouvencelles (as the name implies for boys and girls), but on the cutback to seven furlongs on Vichy’s soft going, it was a much closer call. Lily’s Candle attended the pace, and despite traveling best as she struck front, didn't put the race away and was all out to keep her nose in front. Off that evidence she wanted to return to a mile. Nevertheless she stuck to seven furlongs for the Prix La Rochette. Although she couldn't outsprint them once it turned into a mad dash to the line, she was only beaten a length in fourth by The Black Album.

In the Boussac, finally her first try at a mile since her maiden, Lily’s Candle proved just how good she is at her trip. Accompanying her change to the Schwartz silks was a change in tactics. She was held up in last off a solid pace and once getting to the outside, she unleashed a rally to get up. Her time of 1:38.98 was slightly faster than Royal Marine (1:39.10) clocked in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) one race later.

The quibble revolves around the depth of the Boussac form. Runner-up Matematica has great potential but she is still a maiden, and the best British and Irish fillies were not there. That presents a few counterfactuals – e.g., what if East had run in the Boussac instead of the Bryon two days earlier? Those questions aside, Lily’s Candle is totally logical.

LA PELOSA: The Godolphin filly paid her way with a “Win and You're In” score in the Natalma (G1), but had hit a plateau in the British features before looking abroad for easier pickings.

Fittingly as a daughter of noted juvenile sire Dandy Man, La Pelosa showed speed and precocity to post a front-running debut over Kempton's Polytrack in May. She was not among the leading fancies for the Albany at Royal Ascot, but outperformed her 12-1 odds to miss by just a neck to Main Edition, with Fairyland in a better-than-appears-third. Fairyland "won" her race on the far side of the course and likely couldn't see or respond enough to the top two racing far away from her. 

La Pelosa garnered much more support when dispatched as the 5-2 favorite next time in the Duchess of Cambridge (G2), only to be the victim of severe interference. Although not keeping up with vastly improved winner Pretty Pollyanna, La Pelosa was going well enough for a placing, until wayward runner-up Angel's Hideaway veered over and caused a chain reaction. La Pelosa, on the stands' rail, had nowhere to go as she was buffeted, and fortunate not to be brought down, en route to her fifth-place finish.

Odds-on to rebound on the class drop in the Star S., La Pelosa was restrained early in her first try over seven furlongs. That left Look Around to steal it up front as La Pelosa settled for third. In her rematch with Main Edition in the Sweet Solera (G3), La Pelosa could not peg her back in a repeat of the Albany exacta - except Main Edition was giving her three pounds and beat her more convincingly on good-to-soft.

La Pelosa’s seven-furlong experience stood her in good stead around the one-turn mile at Woodbine. Produced from off the pace, she blitzed them in 1:33.70 on firm.

Conditions will be quite different at Churchill Downs. Also, La Pelosa arguably took advantage of the fact that leading Natalma rivals My Gal Betty and Stillwater Cove (Juvenile Turf Sprint) were stretching out for the first time from sprints. Thus she’s not certain to confirm the form with a savvier My Gal Betty here, especially on softer ground. 

PIVOTTINA (also-eligible): The sneaky fourth in the Natalma should move up on soft, if she draws in for new trainer Graham Motion.

Her original trainer (and owner), Ludovic Gadbin, bought her for only €8,000 as an Arqana November yearling, and raced her in open company in her first three. Pivottina won her debut in an Angers conditions race at 5 1/2 furlongs on soft, and promptly picked up a new owner in Andy Smith. In a similar event at Le Lion-d'Angers, she closed stoutly from last to finish second. Both efforts were encouraging signs since the Vision d’Etat filly is bred to go much farther.

Up to a seven-furlong listed stakes at ParisLongchamp, the Prix Roland de Chambure, Pivottina was another fine second to the Wertheimer colt Harmless, who’d previously beaten The Black Album. The filly covered more ground on the outside while Harmless benefited from an inside trip.

Pivottina warranted a crack at a higher level in the Prix du Calvados (G2) at Deauville, but got outpaced when it turned into a sit-sprint and wound up fourth to Godolphin's Beyond Reason. Now the subject of another private purchase and export, she made her debut in the Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners silks in the Natalma. Far back early before improving position, she wandered around in the stretch, possibly feeling the unfamiliar firm ground, but got her bearings late and nearly snatched third. 

East photo by Jamie Newell/