BC Internationals: Filly & Mare Turf contender Senga

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

November 1st, 2017

Blame, who famously spoiled Zenyatta’s grand finale in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), could crash the farewell party of another beloved mare in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) – through his daughter Senga, who takes on Lady Eli at Del Mar.

Unlike defending champion Queen’s Trust, Rhododendron, and Nezwaah, all of whom have various reasons to prefer a longer race, Senga may be quite happy at 1 1/8 miles. And she’s drawn much better than they are in post 2.

As a Niarchos Family homebred, she sports the silks of six past Breeders’ Cup winners. Her trainer, Pascal Bary, has sent out two of the Niarchos victors, Domedriver and Six Perfections, in back-to-back runnings of the Mile (2002-03). The family’s other Breeders’ Cup stars include Mile legend Miesque and Turf (G1) champion Main Sequence, and current Turf threat Ulysses seeks to add to their trophy cabinet.

Senga’s pedigree is filled with American influences. She is out of Beta Leo, a daughter of A.P. Indy and French highweight juvenile filly Denebola, by Storm Cat. Senga’s third dam is the Mr. Prospector mare Coup de Genie, also the top two-year-old filly in France and a full sister to another French champion juvenile in Machiavellian – the sire of Street Cry (who gave us Zenyatta and Winx). Among the many stars arising from this family is 2004 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) hero, Bago.

During a promising juvenile season, Senga was second in her Deauville debut (click link for replay) before beating Andre Fabre’s odds-on colt Last Kingdom in a Saint-Cloud conditions race. She took a class hike for the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1), where she rattled home for fourth from too far off a steady pace. The victorious Wuheida (whose Filly & Mare Turf profile is forthcoming) benefited from her tactically advantageous position.

Senga won her reappearance in a classic trial, the April 16 Prix de la Grotte (G3), after securing better early position. Runner-up La Sardane came right back to win (see below), and third-placer Lady Frankel eventually captured the Prix de Lieurey (G3), so the form was solid enough for an early-season prep.

Favored in the French 1000 Guineas (G1), Senga for the first time had the misfortune of running into rain-softened ground. In fact, the Deauville going was labeled “very soft.” She was in contention in the center before fading to 11th. Another to labor in the conditions was BC Mile contender Roly Poly (sixth).

Senga next lined up for the Prix de Sandringham (G2) and finished a strong-closing third to La Sardane, the filly she’d beaten previously. Note the Chantilly course was good-to-soft, and Senga was ridden perhaps overconfidently at the back. By the time she got going, it was too late.

In any event, Bary blamed himself for running her back at a mile, and believed he should have stretched her out instead. So he wheeled her back two weeks later for the French Oaks (G1) at about 10 1/2 furlongs – and on much better ground.

Senga worked out a trip in a messy race, marred by Rhododendron’s pulling up, Onthemoonagain’s falling (she went on to race again), and traffic woes for the fast-finishing second Sistercharlie, and concluded by a stewards’ inquiry that made no change.

What to make of the form? Subsequent results don’t offer much help. Sistercharlie just missed in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1), when trying to close from far back, but hasn’t been seen since. Third-placer Terrakova, Goldikova’s daughter, headed to the sidelines and then reportedly retired. Shutter Speed, fourth as the favorite, raced only once more and totally lost her form. Unbeaten going into the French Oaks, Shutter Speed had won the Musidora (G3). At that time, she appeared John Gosden’s leading fillies’ classic contender, not Enable, whom she’d actually beaten in their mutual reappearance. We see how that worked out.

If it’s tough to decipher exactly what Senga’s French Oaks amounts to, at least we can conclude that she traveled well, had the gears to seize the initiative in upper stretch, and sustained that move for the duration. She proved capable of winning a major on good going in a solid time of 2:05.97, more than two seconds faster than Racing Post standard for the track and trip.

The French Oaks becomes all the more important in analyzing Senga because she’s encountered rain-softened ground in her two ensuing starts. In the August 19 Prix de la Nonette (G2), she ranged up alongside Godolphin’s Sobetsu but couldn’t quicken in that 10th furlong and ultimately folded to third. Sobetsu, who had earlier won the Prix Saint-Alary (G1), was coming off a third to Winter (and future E.P. Taylor [G1] winner Blond Me) in the Nassau (G1), so she’s pretty decent herself.

Senga next appeared in the Prix de l’Opera (G1) on Arc Day, on soft going, and floundered home in 11th behind Rhododendron and Hydrangea. Lady Frankel, whom Senga had defeated in her reappearance, was third, underscoring that this was not her true running.

While firm turf is just what Senga’s looking for, I think that the turnback from 1 1/4 miles will also help. She’d looked smart at a mile on the right ground too, and nine furlongs could be her golden mean. The trick is how to evaluate her comparative merit against rivals brandishing less ambiguous formlines. But European form is part of the story, the rest being translating it to the American idiom, and that could be the decisive point for Senga.

Photo courtesy of Breeders' Cup via Twitter