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Homeracing

BC Internationals: Filly & Mare Turf contender Wuheida

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

November 2nd, 2017

Once prominent in the classic antepost market before a springtime injury ruled her out, Godolphin’s Wuheida has been hinting of a breakthrough in the second half, and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) could be just the spot for her resurgence.

The homebred is a daughter of past Godolphin celebrities Dubawi and Hibaayeb. Her dam garnered a major event at two – the 2009 Fillies’ Mile (G1) – when trained by Clive Brittain. After joining Godolphin, Hibaayeb added the 2010 Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot and Yellow Ribbon (G1) at Santa Anita, but finished eighth in that fall’s Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs. Her last win came in the 2011 Sheepshead Bay (G2) at Belmont Park.

Wuheida, her second foal, immediately served notice on debut for trainer Charlie Appleby. Favored in a seven-furlong maiden at Newmarket last summer, the chestnut handily defeated a next-out winner in Spatial.

In her first stakes test in the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) on Arc Day, Wuheida had the tactical speed to advance into a pace-prompting position. That proved decisive as she was on the premises when front-running favorite Dabyah tried to put the race away in the stretch. Wuheida was close enough to stay in the hunt before ultimately outstaying her to the line. She also got the jump on Promise To Be True, who just grabbed second from Dabyah, and the deep-closing Senga in fourth.

Wuheida thereby emerged as a prime contender for this spring’s 1000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket, for which she was the antepost second favorite to Coolmore’s Rhododendron. But the clash didn’t materialize as Wuheida sustained a stress fracture to her right hind that shelved her until midsummer.

Ready to return in the July 14 Falmouth (G1), Wuheida showed that she retained all of her ability with a solid second to Roly Poly. That Aidan O’Brien trainee had a couple of advantages. Not only was she reaching her peak after four races already this term, but Roly Poly’s natural speed going a mile – particularly on the July Course – figured to be too sharp for the comebacker. So it was all the more encouraging when Wuheida offered a challenge that forced Roly Poly to pull out extra to see her off.

Wuheida was among those in the line-up for a superb renewal of the Nassau (G1) at Glorious Goodwood, but like Nezwaah, she was withdrawn thanks to the monsoon that turned the ground too soft. With kindlier weather, we could have been treated to a fascinating showdown with Winter and Queen’s Trust, in Wuheida’s first try at 1 1/4 miles.

Her fallback position was the German Oaks (G1) three days later. As luck would have it, Wuheida caught a rain-affected track anyway. That, plus stepping up to 1 3/8 miles, and trying to deal with the intricacies of Dusseldorf, added up to getting overturned as the 11-10 favorite. She didn’t corner too well into the first turn, but regrouped and swept to the fore in the homestretch, only to get outstayed by Hamburg trial winner Lacazar and 28-1 shot Megera.

Reverting to a mile for the September 9 Matron (G1) on Irish Champions weekend, Wuheida ranged up menacingly to accost Hydrangea and Winter but couldn’t keep pace with them late. She lost third to the fast-finishing Persuasive, but had a subpar Roly Poly behind her in sixth and comebacking Rhododendron in seventh.

The Matron looked like a strong race at the time, and it’s only gotten better in hindsight. Roly Poly bounced back to take the Sun Chariot (G1) over Persuasive, who in turn earned a career high next time by toppling Ribchester and Churchill in the Queen Elizabeth II (G1).

Rhododendron and Hydrangea came back to run one-two in the Prix de l’Opera (G1), with the hardy Hydrangea later going on to add the British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1). Wuheida renewed rivalry with them in the 1 1/4-mile Opera on Arc Day, finishing a close fourth again on ground softer than ideal for her. She appeared to be traveling well just behind the Ballydoyle pair as they commenced their duel, but once switched out, she couldn’t lift as well as they did.

If it weren’t for the ground, the Opera could have given us all sorts of Filly & Mare Turf clues, with Queen’s Trust and Senga also in the field. They couldn’t handle the going at all, however, rendering their unplaced efforts meaningless for Del Mar.

Wuheida’s Opera tilt was something of a change in plan, at least according to publicly available information. The Matron was reportedly to be her springboard to the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland. She instead took a detour to Chantilly for the Opera, just 13 days before her intended target at Keeneland. Since the Breeders’ Cup was also being discussed, that smacks of a pretty busy schedule for a filly who isn’t accustomed to it.

While at Keeneland, Wuheida developed a corn on her foot and accordingly scratched from the QEII. But it may have been for the best because she now gets a month’s spacing from the Opera, instead of trying to squeeze in three Group 1s in a compressed time frame. Although she missed some training time, she was back on the Keeneland worktab October 24, and made a good impression in her six-furlong drill in 1:15.40 over the Del Mar turf October 31.

Appleby is making an equipment change that could galvanize Wuheida: adding cheekpieces. If a wandering mind is contributing to her recent losses, she could improve markedly with newfound concentration.

If so, the Godolphin filly might well end up staking the best international claim on the Filly & Mare Turf. Older foes Queen’s Trust and Nezwaah likely want more ground than 1 1/8 miles, Rhododendron is marooned in post 14 that complicates her life, and Senga has to leap forward in American conditions to avenge two losses to Wuheida.

Appleby is expecting a bold show, telling Godolphin.com:

“I feel she is ready to run a big race.”

Photo courtesy Jamie Newell/Horsephotos.com

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