Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf Preview
The 2015 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) has a standout on paper, and without finding any compelling reason to oppose her, we’ll try not to get too cute and overthink our top selection. Moreover, considering the lack of a corresponding standout on the U.S. side since the sidelining of Lady Eli, concerns about whether Stephanie’s Kitten just doesn’t like Keeneland, and how much Dacita (whom I would have been sure to include on firm turf) could be compromised by rain-softened ground, the international brigade could clean up here.
1ST – LEGATISSIMO (8-5) sets a lofty standard as the winner of the 1000 Guineas (G1), Nassau (G1) and Matron (G1), who was a head away from a classic double in the Oaks (G1) and unlucky when missing by the same scant margin in the Pretty Polly (G1). Not only is that by far the strongest form here, but she also gets “style points” for her manner of racing. The David Wachman trainee has traveled well before delivering the coup de grace, and unlike some others in here, this in-between 1 3/16-mile trip ought to suit her ideally. Given her dominance on yielding ground at left-handed Leopardstown last time, I don’t think Keeneland’s projected course condition will be a concern. The Coolmore colorbearer has also made a pleasing appearance on the track, telegraphing she’s in good shape despite the long season. Indeed, Legatissimo has been set for this target some way out, with Wachman being careful to give her about six weeks’ spacing between the Nassau and Matron and again to the Breeders’ Cup. Stablemate Curvy just succeeded in her transatlantic mission in the E.P. Taylor (G1), and Legatissimo should follow suit under all-world jockey Ryan Moore.
2ND – MISS FRANCE (6-1), the 2014 winner of Newmarket’s 1000 Guineas (G1), has the profile of a filly who’s been looking for a step up in trip – vaguely like another Andre Fabre pupil, 2001 Filly & Mare Turf romper Banks Hill. A slightly inconvenienced, dead-heat fifth in last year’s French Oaks (G1) in her only try beyond a mile, Miss France has since finished a good second in her four ensuing starts. Those include losses to two Mile (G1) contenders, Esoterique and most recently Impassable. In both, Miss France was simply outkicked by two high-class specialists at the distance. By Dansili and out of Group 1 winner Miss Tahiti, who placed in both the Prix Saint-Alary (G1) and French Oaks (G1) in 1996, Miss France also has the pedigree to suggest she needed added ground. Soft ground is no problem, and Frankie Dettori might opt to make use of her tactical speed in a race without an obvious pacesetter.
3RD – SECRET GESTURE (8-1) was clearly best over Filly & Mare Turf rivals Watsdachances and Stephanie’s Kitten in the Beverly D. (G1), so we don’t hold her disqualification against her. Most tellingly, the Beverly D. was contested in conditions – 1 3/16 miles on rain-softened ground – similar to what she’ll find at Keeneland. The rain has therefore been most welcome to Secret Gesture, who was fifth on quicker going at Santa Anita a year ago. Trained by Ralph Beckett, the daughter of Galileo also handled fellow British shipper Talmada in the Middleton (G2) back in May. Talmada’s possibly improved in the interim, but Secret Gesture has amassed several Group 1 placings over her honorable career, topped by the 2013 Oaks at Epsom, and may still have her measure. She’s another who figures to be prominent in a tactical race, and the booking of master tactician Florent Geroux is a massive plus.
Longshot: I was all set for Bawina as a soft-ground specialist who could punch above her weight. In her absence, I’ll give a shot to the other Wertheimer et Frere homebred, QUEEN’S JEWEL (12-1). It’s been a season of opposites for the Freddie Head filly, with a fantastic spring highlighted by a record-setting victory in the Prix Saint-Alary (G1), followed by big disappointments in the French Oaks (from the far outside post) and the Prix de l’Opera (G1). Head believes he’s got her back in good form now, though, and the daughter of Pivotal is in her element on soft going. Interestingly, Queen’s Jewel is out of Argentine champion Safari Queen, winner of the 2007 Bewitch (G3) here at Keeneland.
P.S. Perhaps I should keep DACITA (8-1) in the mix somewhere, just in case my fears about the ground are unfounded. After all, I'd written glowing things about her after she nabbed Mile (G1) contender Tepin in the Ballston Spa (G2).
Legatissimo photo courtesy of Lauren J. Pomeroy/Horsephotos.com.