BC Internationals: Filly & Mare Turf contender Nezwaah

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

November 1st, 2017

Out of luck in her two visits to Woodbine, Nezwaah hopes that Del Mar is more congenial. The firm turf is a welcome certainty, but the nine-furlong distance of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) injects a less welcome variable.

Trained by Roger Varian, the daughter of Dubawi began her career with two straight wins on the British all-weather in early 2016. Her future obviously lay beyond the limitations of that circuit, for she was odds-on in both her Chelmsford maiden and ensuing Wolverhampton handicap.

Nezwaah made her turf and stakes debut in the Oaks Trial at Newbury (click link for replay), finishing a useful third while crossing the wire in tandem with the inconvenienced fourth-placer – future Filly & Mare Turf winner Queen’s Trust.

Back to the all-weather for the Hoppings at Newcastle, Nezwaah again displayed her affinity for that type of surface by rolling to a handsome three-length decision over older distaffers. She tried to gain Group black-type in the Prix de la Nonette (G2) on the Deauville turf, but trailed well behind unbeaten dual classic star La Cressonniere.

Nezwaah at last turned the corner on turf in the John Musker Fillies’ S. at Yarmouth. Her half-length second to highly regarded So Mi Dar, then still undefeated in her return to action, suggested that Nezwaah was herself a Group performer in the making.

Varian found a suitable opportunity for Nezwaah abroad in last fall’s E.P. Taylor (G1) at Woodbine. Unfortunately, she got off to a slow start, relegating herself to a poor tactical position. She didn’t do badly to go down by all of two lengths in seventh.

For her 2017 debut, Nezwaah was all set for the May 7 Dahlia (G2) at Newmarket – until she broke through the gate prior to the start. That miscue resulted in her being withdrawn. While she would have had her hands full with Aidan O’Brien’s surging Somehow, it would have been informative to see how much closer Nezwaah may have gotten to her.

So instead Nezwaah was off to Ayr for the Rothesay, which might as well have been a piece of work in company. She hacked up as the class of the field.

After contemplating taking on elite males in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot, where she would have tried her luck against the likes of Highland Reel, Decorated Knight, Ulysses, and old foe Queen’s Trust, Nezwaah took the more straightforward option of the Curragh’s Pretty Polly (G1). It was the right call for certain as she stormed to a new career high.

As outlined in her profile ahead of this year’s E.P. Taylor, however, a few of the principals in the Pretty Polly failed to fire, including Zhukova (the Man o’ War [G1] winner) and Journey. Nezwaah was so emphatic that she may well have beaten both of those 12-furlong aficionados over the 1 1/4-mile trip of the Pretty Polly, but she also caught them on an off day. And although runner-up Rain Goddess went on to finish second to Enable in the Irish Oaks (G1) in her next start, she hasn’t run up to that level in her other outings, making it hazardous to read too much into it.

Nezwaah’s proper test would have come in the Nassau (G1) at Glorious Goodwood against O’Brien’s star Winter and Queen’s Trust. But the atrocious weather made the ground too soft for Nezwaah. She scratched, as did Filly & Mare Turf rival Wuheida (whose profile is forthcoming).

Stepping up to 1 1/2 miles for the Yorkshire Oaks (G1), Nezwaah was held up well off the pace dictated by Enable. Queen’s Trust took up the chasing role in second, and Coronet was in range too. Hence it wasn’t that surprising that Nezwaah couldn’t entirely bridge the gap with them, never mind with the future Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner. She soldiered on, over good-to-soft ground, to draw close to runner-up Coronet and almost snatched third from Queen’s Trust. Since neither Nezwaah or Queen’s Trust was running in their preferred conditions, and given how much effort Queen’s Trust had already put forth going after Enable, I don’t think the narrow margin between them is a sure guide.

An older, wiser Nezwaah returned to Woodbine for the EP Taylor, and her typical 1 1/4-mile trip, only to be foiled again by soft going. Watch how the victorious Blond Me outmoves her on the turn, clear evidence that Nezwaah simply wasn’t gaining enough traction. She kept on in a one-paced fifth, more than nine lengths adrift.

Would Nezwaah have advanced to the Breeders’ Cup if Woodbine had turned out differently? Since the spring of her three-year-old season, she hasn’t raced at anything short of 1 1/4 miles. Granted, her intended reappearance in the Dahlia would have been over 1 1/8 miles, but there’s a world of difference between Newmarket’s demanding straight and the turning circuit of Del Mar.

Varian himself notes that the configuration isn’t ideal:

While the ground is a plus here, her draw in 11 and the sharp nine furlongs might make it tough for her to show her very best form, but she is a Group One winner (Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh) and I don't think that was a fluke.

She has to bounce back but there's every chance in my view that she will.

As if the Filly & Mare Turf weren’t deep enough, trying to extrapolate 1 1/4-mile form to 1 1/8 miles at Del Mar makes it all the more challenging to disentangle the European contingent. My instinct is that Nezwaah’s signature win still leaves her with something to prove. But it’s all about who adapts most effectively on the day, and from that perspective, I may be underestimating her capacity to flourish. After all, Nezwaah was in career-best form before the weather turned against her, and she could have more up her sleeve.

Photo by Jamie Newell/