BC Internationals: Distaff contender Corona del Inca
Corona del Inca looks up against it in an epic renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) against unbeaten champion Songbird, dual Breeders’ Cup heroine Beholder, and another true champion in the stronger-than-ever Stellar Wind. At least one, possibly two, future Hall of Famers are on that list. In other words, it’s not the best year to take up your Argentinean “Win and You’re In” offer.
But we’ll start by mentioning what Corona del Inca does have in her corner. Argentina is responsible for the only foreign-bred Distaff winners – Bayakoa (1989-90) and Paseana (1992). Of course, they were both Hall of Famers who were based here with Ron McAnally, so there’s no real parallel.
Of greater relevance, Corona del Inca’s connections have already had Breeders’ Cup success at Santa Anita with a contender who booked his spot in an Argentinean “Win and You’re In.” Calidoscopio, hero of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2), was likewise campaigned by Juan Carlos Echeverz’s Stud Dona Pancha and trained by Guillermo Frenkel Santillan. Corona del Inca and Calidoscopio even share the same sire, the Forty Niner stallion Luhuk.
Finally, Corona del Inca brings a feel-good story. Jockey Pablo Falero was sidelined by injury for Calidoscopio’s Breeders’ Cup. Now the winner of more than 8,000 races gets an improbable second chance at BC glory.
Nevertheless, Corona del Inca doesn’t have the same profile as Calidoscopio. That longtime graded veteran was in his comfort zone at an extreme distance on dirt, in one of the newer (and weaker) Breeders’ Cup races. The Marathon played to his strengths, while putting high-class Europeans at a disadvantage on the surface, and exposing the limitations of the North Americans at the trip.
Corona del Inca, in contrast, is meeting a star-studded field in optimal conditions for her rivals. And although she exits a career-best performance, her qualifications are also rather thin compared to Calidoscopio’s.
At this time last year, Corona del Inca only had a Palermo maiden win to her credit. After being unplaced in a pair of minor conditions races at San Isidro, she went to La Plata last December and racked up a pair of confidence boosters. Second in a handicap back at San Isidro, Corona del Inca next took a big class hike for the March 12 Arturo R. y Arturo Bullrich (G2), and finished a tailed-off last as the longest shot on the board.
Undaunted, her connections brought her back for the May 1 Gran Premio Criadores (G1), a “Win and You’re In” over the same 1 1/4 miles at Palermo. Corona del Inca rewarded their audacity by springing an 11-1 surprise at the expense of well-fancied Kiriaki.
As Turf Diario reported, the six-horse field was missing a pair of top contenders in Kalithea (sidelined by injury) and Conviction (sold). The sophomore Kiriaki ran a mighty race to chase the pace, and forge clear, only to get nipped on the line in a heartbreaker.
Corona del Inca, who’d been relaxing in the rear on the inside, needed every yard to get up in time. Note that she also flashed her tail a few times before prevailing by a whisker.
Kiriaki went on to dominate the June 25 Gran Premio Estrellas Distaff (G1), giving Corona Del Inca a form boost back home. It’s questionable whether that advances her Breeders’ Cup credentials.
Now hosted by the Mike Puype barn, Corona del Inca has been a regular on the Santa Anita worktab since mid-September, including a trio of quick half-mile moves.
Yet for the Breeders’ Cup, she’ll have to cut back a furlong while facing the best rivals she’s ever laid eyes on. It’s difficult to see how she could work out a trip to catch the world-class leaders on a likely speed-conducive surface, or outfinish a closer the caliber of Forever Unbridled. Barring a pace collapse of Biblical proportions, a participation badge is the likeliest outcome.
Corona del Inca (left) courtesy of Palmero, shared via Twitter by Longines WBRR