Elate winning the Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) - Coady Photography

Elate winning the Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) – Coady Photography

As we head into summer, the top contenders for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) are beginning to build their credentials for the championship showdown at Santa Anita.

Elate has re-emerged as one of the favorites, following an impressive victory in the Delaware Handicap (G2), Midnight Bisou has continued her winning ways with a triumph in the Ogden Phipps (G1) and the 3-year-old Guarana has burst onto the scene with two easy wins in her first two starts.

How do you rank the top contenders for the 1 1/8-mile Distaff? Here’s my top 5.

  1. Elate

After a slow start to the season, Elate has gradually rounded back into form, with victories in the Fleur de Lis Handicap (G3) and the Delaware Handicap (G2). The latter race clearly demonstrated how Elate is back to her best, as she effortlessly roared past her rivals on the far turn and powered clear down the stretch to win in hand by 4 1/2 lengths. If she’d been urged to the finish, she might have won by even more, but as it was she easily trounced the graded stakes winners Escape Clause and Blue Prize and posted a 101 Beyer speed figure.

  1. Midnight Bisou

Midnight Bisou has done everything right this year and remains the division leader thanks to her four consecutive graded stakes victories. She defeated Elate twice at Oaklawn Park and followed up with a dominant score in the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, where she clocked 1 1/16 miles in 1:39.69 to earn a 103 Beyer. She figures to square off against Elate once more in the Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, but first she’s heading to Monmouth Park for the July 20 Molly Pitcher Stakes (G2).

  1. Monomoy Girl

Last year’s Distaff winner saw her 2019 debut significantly delayed because of a colic episode in the spring, but she returned to Brad Cox’s barn July 15, a big step in her return to training. Assuming all goes well, Monomoy Girl should have time to squeeze in a prep run before the Distaff.

  1. Guarana

Two starts, two impressive victories. Guarana might be lightly raced, but this 3-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper is undefeated and unchallenged so far. She parlayed a 14 3/4-length debut victory at Keeneland into an eye-catching six-length romp in the Acorn Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. Trained by Chad Brown, Guarana has yet to prove herself beyond a mile (or around two turns, for that matter), but with Beyers of 93 and 99 under her belt, it’s obvious she is a very talented prospect.

  1. Point of Honor

Call it a hunch, but I believe Point of Honor has the potential to step up and be a serious runner this summer and fall. As a daughter of Curlin out of a Bernardini mare, this 3-year-old filly is bred to improve with distance and maturity. Certainly she relished 1 1/8 miles in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) at Pimlico, where she unleashed a rally to win narrowly with a 90 Beyer, and I’m optimistic Point of Honor will show further improvement as she matures. We’ll see if she’s on the right track when she faces Guarana in the July 20 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga.