Shades of 2002 Breeders' Cup Distaff Storylines in 2016 Edition

Profile Picture: Ed DeRosa

Ed DeRosa

October 3rd, 2016

In 2002, Farda Amiga earned champion three-year-old filly honors not because she won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff—in fact, she got beat 5 lengths by eventual Horse of the Year and champion older female Azeri—but because she finished ahead of the other three-year-old fillies in the race: a head to the good of Imperial Gesture and more than 8 lengths ahead of Take Charge Lady.

I prefer rewarding victories when considering my Eclipse Award votes, but sometimes the “race within a race” should be considered, as it was following that Distaff at Arlington Park where Azeri was the 9-to-5 favorite against multiple Grade 1 winners Farda Amiga, Imperial Gesture, and Take Charge Lady. Farda Amiga had won the most prestigious filly races in the Oaks and Alabama, but both Imperial Gesture and Take Charge Lady came into the Distaff off wins against older females.

None were a match for the might Azeri—a future Racing Hall of Fame inductee—but Farda Amiga proved best of the race in passing Imperial Gesture for second late in the proceedings while Take Charge Lady was a non-threatening sixth.

That race is germane to what might unfold in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff as certain champion three-year-old filly Songbird will be favored against some very good older females (and Eclipse Award contenders) in Beholder, Cavorting, Forever Unbridled, and Stellar Wind (see PPs for this season below).

It’s a classic East-West showdown, as both of Cavorting Grade 1 wins have come at the expense of another multiple Grade 1 winner in Forever Unbridled, and both of Stellar Wind’s Grade 1 wins have come at the expense of Beholder. Stellar Wind was last year’s champion three-year-old filly, and Beholder was last year’s champion older female (to go along with championships at two and three as well).

If any of these four horses upsets Songbird and wins the Breeders’ Cup Distaff then she will be the champion older female, but what if Songbird wins as expected? Is it enough to just be the best of the rest? Yes and no.

If Songbird wins but one of the other four is a clear second then the runner-up should be champion. If some longshot completes the exacta but one of the other four is third with even the flimsiest of excuses then she would still get the nod. If, however, they all whiff, then I could see the nod going to Stellar Wind, who twice defeated the mare everyone thought was best going into the season (Beholder) and who finished second to California Chrome in the Pacific Classic (and ahead of Dortmund).

These are four very good—perhaps even great—older females, and the fact that Songbird will be odds on against them is a huge testament to the respect the undefeated champion has earned, but it does make you wonder what kinds of prices we’ll get on multiple Grade 1 winners. Could Forever Unbridled be 20-to-1 in a race that should set up for her favorably?

The wagering strategy will come together as the race does, but for now this is looking like one of the best Distaffs in the 33-edition history of the race.