Easier company for Dona Bruja in Cardinal Handicap

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Alastair Bull

November 16th, 2017


Former Argentinian mare Dona Bruja should appreciate a drop in class when she contests the 1 1/8-mile Cardinal Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs Nov. 18.

Dona Bruja (Storm Embrujado) arrived in the United States this year having won eight of her 10 starts in Argentina, including a grade one and three grade two races, and there hasn’t been much drop-off in form since.

She won her first two starts, one of them at Churchill Downs in the Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap (G3), before dead-heating for second with Grand Jete in the Beverly D. Stakes (G1) at Arlington behind Dacita. At her only subsequent start she finished fourth in the one-mile First Lady Stakes (G1) behind Zipessa.

While Dacita, Grand Jete, and Zipessa all went on to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1), Dona Bruja instead tackles the Cardinal Handicap.

Stablemates Res Ispa (English Channel) and Linda (Scat Daddy), first and third, respectively, in a Keeneland allowance Oct. 13, loom as two interesting challengers. Linda finished fourth to Dona Bruja in the Mint Julep Handicap earlier in the year and won the Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs this time last year, while Res Ispa tackles graded stakes company for the first time.

Former English filly Beauly (Sea the Stars), like Dona Bruja, has also ran well against Dacita and Grand Jete; she was fourth, just behind those two, in the Flower Bowl Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. Earlier she won the Indiana General Assembly Distaff Stakes, beating both Linda and Res Ispa. She may benefit if there is rain.

Tricky Escape (Hat Trick), who beat Beauly in the Violet Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park Aug. 19, should also be in the mix. Fair Point (Smart Strike) has been a little disappointing this year, but she would have claims if she can regain the form that won her the Senator Ken Maddy Stakes (G3) last November.

Lovely Loyree (Cactus Ridge), who’s run just twice this year, could be one for odds. She won the Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap prior to finishing fourth in the Steve Morgan Memorial Stakes. An interesting contender is last year’s Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1) winner Weep No More (Mineshaft), who races on turf for the first time after three below-par efforts this year.

Dona Bruja has the disadvantage of the outside barrier of 12, is conceding at least four pounds to all her rivals, and may be better at a longer distance than 1 1/8 miles, but her class should take her a long way. She should be included in all multiples.