The disqualification of Monomoy Girl. The no-show effort from Abel Tasman. The season-ending injury to Elate.
Suffice to say, the top contenders for the November 3rd Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downs have had some setbacks in recent weeks, with the loss of Elate from the prospective field being a particularly unfortunate blow. But from a betting perspective, at least the race is shaping up to be a little more wide-open and competitive, so with four weeks to go, here’s how I rank the top Distaff contenders….
Although in the Cotillion Stakes (gr. I) she reverted to her old habit of losing focus on the lead, which caused her to drift around sharply and ultimately lose the race via disqualification, Monomoy Girl still hasn’t been beaten to the wire this year, a streak that includes five straight Grade 1 races. Following Abel Tasman’s disappointing run in the Zenyatta, Monomoy Girl has arguably taken over the role as the projected wagering favorite for the Distaff.
There’s no doubt that her fifth-place finish in the Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I) was a major disappointment; she was favored at 1-10, but was sluggish out of the starting gate and never really picked up her feet after that. Then again, there has been an illness working its way through trainer Bob Baffert’s barn, and it’s possible that it could have affected Abel Tasman. In any case, her victories earlier this year in the Ogden Phipps (gr. I) and the Personal Ensign (gr. I) remain two of the best races run by any filly or mare this year, and if she can regain that form in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, she would still be the horse to beat.
This Argentinean-bred mare reiterated her affinity for Churchill Downs by returning from a three-month layoff to win the Locust Grove Stakes (gr. III) in determined fashion, pressing a modest pace before finishing the final five-sixteenths of a mile in a strong :30.23 seconds. She continues to fly under the radar, but that could change if she wins the upcoming Spinster Stakes (gr. I) on Sunday at Keeneland.
Thanks to the wanderings of Monomoy Girl, the late-charging Midnight Bisou was awarded the victory in the Cotillion Stakes (gr. I), though you can make a case that if Monomoy Girl hadn’t lost her focus, Midnight Bisou might never have gotten close as she did. But in any case, the Cotillion marked a nice step forward for Midnight Bisou, placing her firmly back among the main contenders for the Distaff.
It was a long time between wins for Vale Dori, but she finally regained her old form in the Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I), tracking the pace before taking the lead and holding off a late run from La Force to essentially “save the day” for stablemate Abel Tasman. It was the seventh graded stakes win and the third top-level victory for the six-year-old daughter of Asiatic Boy, who had lost four straight races to start the season.
This up-and-coming daughter of Ghostzapper has made great strides in Kentucky this summer, winning the Groupie Doll Stakes (gr. III) at Ellis Park by 3 ¼ lengths before finishing just a nose behind Blue Prize in the Locust Grove Stakes. Like her Locust Grove conqueror, Champagne Problems hasn’t attracted much national attention yet, but she’s quietly compiling a solid record and has run well at Churchill Downs, making her an intriguing longshot contender for the Distaff.
La Force isn’t a frequent winner, and she hasn’t quite been able to topple the best fillies and mares in California, but after finishing second in the Beholder Mile (gr. I), the Clement L. Hirsch (gr. I), and the Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I) this year, La Force has found a home at the Grade 1 level and possesses a solid late kick that makes her a player wherever she runs.
True, Wow Cat was no match for Abel Tasman and Elate in the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, but those two ran out of their skin that day and Wow Cat’s third-place finish was arguably good enough to have won a lot of graded stakes races around the country. Trained by Chad Brown, this Chilean-bred daughter of Lookin at Lucky seems bound for the Beldame Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
The runaway winner of the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) did get a great pace setup in that Saratoga classic, but the way Eskimo Kisses crushed a deep field that included the next-out winners Midnight Bisou and She’s a Julie suggests that maybe she’s just starting to mature into a very talented filly.
She’s a Julie
Speaking of She’s a Julie, the Alabama Stakes runner-up came right back to win the Remington Park Oaks (gr. III) last Sunday with a pace-tracking trip. Perhaps she’s not at the same level yet as Monomoy Girl, but at this point She’s a Julie has held her own against just about every other prominent three-year-old this year and would seemingly be a good fit for the Distaff field.