Lady Eli seeks sweet swan song in Filly and Mare Turf

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Alastair Bull

November 2nd, 2017

Europeans are often well backed in Breeders’ Cup races on turf, but if you like any of the raiders this year in the Filly & Mare Turf, you may get a good price.

The market for the 1 1/8-mile contest is dominated by Lady Eli, who is rated a 5-2 chance on the morning line in what's expected to be her final race. She’s been beaten just three times in her 13-race career, and she’s won her last three on end: the Gamely Stakes (G1), Diana Stakes (G1), and Ballston Spa Stakes (G2), all in good style.

One of Lady Eli’s defeats, however, was in this race last year, when British filly Queen’s Trust came from behind to get her at the finish. Queen’s Trust returns again, and though she hasn’t won since, she may well appreciate the return to California.

Heading the Europeans on the morning line at 8-1 is Rhododendron, from the stable of Aidan O’Brien. She’s been extremely consistent this year, her efforts including a second to stable companion Winter in the 1,000 Guineas (G1), second to Enable in the Oaks (G1), and most recently, a victory in the Prix l’Opera (G1).

Behind Rhododendron in the Prix l’Opera were a number of her Filly & Mare Turf opponents: Wuheida (fourth), Queen’s Trust (eighth), and Prix de Diane (G1, French Oaks) winner Senga (11th). Rhododendron may have benefited from the soft going, however, and all three defeated parties may appreciate firmer going at Del Mar.

Lady Eli’s trainer Chad Brown has two other mares in the race, both with some claims. Dacita and Grand Jete have raced each other twice this season: Dacita won the Beverly D Stakes (G1), beating Grand Jete into third, while Dacita finished second and Grand Jete third in the Flower Bowl (G1) behind War Flag, who also starts at Del Mar.

Avenge, third in this race last year, showed she’s still in good form by winning the Rodeo Drive Stakes (G1) Sept. 30. Goodyearforroses failed in that race, but earlier in the year finished second to Lady Eli in the Gamely.

Zipessa, fifth in the Filly & Mare Turf last year, is back after winning the First Lady Stakes (G1) at Keeneland. Cambodia has Del Mar form to recommend her, having won the Yellow Ribbon (G2) and the John C. Mabee (G2) at her past two starts. Argentinian grade one winner Birdie Gold, making her American debut, and Irish group one winner Nezwaah complete the field.

Lady Eli will again be hard to beat, and she will be a popular anchor in exotic bets. But the morning-line odds of 5-2 are arguably too short for her given the quality of the field. The Europeans must be considered – and if the going is firm, don’t be surprised if those beaten by Rhododendron in the Prix l’Opera turn their form around.

The trifecta and superfecta could be very good value – especially if Lady Eli doesn’t win.