Sophomore fillies peaking towards Distaff
The imposing duo of multiple Grade 1 queen Forever Unbridled and champion Stellar Wind headline the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Del Mar for good reason. The former is the top dirt distaffer in the East while the latter is surely the queen of the West Coast. After finishing third and fourth, respectively, behind a pair of all-timers in last year’s Distaff, Forever Unbridled and Stellar Wind have comfortably moved their way to the top of the division in 2017.
But with each of the stalwarts being lightly raced this year and entering the Distaff off lengthy absences, the race looks ripe for an upset in my opinion.
Three of the past six editions of this affair have been taken by a sophomore filly and I will shed light upon a trio who might be up to the task in less than six weeks.
ELATE has clearly taken that next step since the spring and could be a serious horse going forward. A game second in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) two back, the Bill Mott trainee was last seen running the best race of her lifetime, dominating the stretch run of the Alabama S. (G1) at Saratoga. Homebred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro registered a whopping 108 BRIS Speed number demolishing a strong field, with runner-up It Tiz Well coming back to flatter her in last Saturday’s Cotillion (G1) at Parx, and Mott deserves serious respect when it comes to the Distaff, winning five previous editions including a pair with three-year-olds. Elate receives her final tune-up in Saturday’s Beldame S. (G1) at Belmont.
ABEL TASMAN is still a work in progress according to her connections, though being a three-time Grade 1 vixen to this point says a lot. Bob Baffert took over her training earlier in the year and daughter of Quality Road rolled to a trio of wins at the highest level, including the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Kentucky-bred has a habit of breaking slowly and then getting head strong, so for her to be beating the best in her division while doing so indicates how much raw talent and fight she has in her. Barn hinted that they might remove the blinkers for her next outing and considering Abel Tasman didn’t experience the best trip when second in the Cotillion, it may prove to be an ideal prep for the Distaff. Her BRIS Speed figures are nearly good enough to match with the best in the Distaff and she only needs slight improvement to be taken seriously as a win contender. I think Abel Tasman will run the race of her life at Del Mar.
Jerry Hollendorfer’s IT TIZ WELL is the perfect example of a filly who has never been better in advance of the biggest assignment of her career. Daughter of Arch is coming on at the right time, stringing together a trio of strong races in advance of the Distaff that was capped by her first Grade 1 tally, a two-length decision in the Cotillion. Dark bay gamely held for second in the Alabama two back and has paired up 100+ BRIS Speed numbers of late. It Tiz Well is one who has blossomed with the combination of blinkers and added ground, and she might be of great value at Del Mar.
Some bettors may view the Distaff as a two-horse race between likely favorites Forever Unbridled and Stellar Wind, but I will take my chances with the late-blooming sophomores.