I can certainly understand why many handicappers are viewing the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) on November 3rd at Churchill Downs as a two-horse race between #2 Abel Tasman and #11 Monomoy Girl.
At first glance, the race does look like something of a showdown between those two top contenders. They’ve already proven their worth at Churchill Downs by winning the last two renewals of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), and between them they’ve won ten Grade 1 races from coast to coast. Abel Tasman alone has competed in 11 such races (including ten in a row), and Monomoy Girl has crossed the wire first in five consecutive Grade 1 events.
But remember, this is Churchill Downs, and when the Distaff is held at Churchill Downs… strange things can happen. Like Round Pond crushing her rivals by 5 ½ lengths at odds of 13-1 in 2006. Or One Dreamer fighting on to win by a neck at 47-1 in 1994. Or Spain stunning the field at 55-1 in 2000.
Plus, I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to think that Abel Tasman and/or Monomoy Girl could run below expectations. Abel Tasman enters the Distaff off an illness-affected fifth-place finish in the Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I) at odds of 1-10, while Monomoy Girl will be facing older horses for the first time, which is always a question mark.
So why not think outside the box a bit and consider the chances of #10 Blue Prize? Sure, her form isn’t quite as flashy as that of the two favorites, but Blue Prize has compiled a solid 5-3-2-0 record at Churchill Downs and enters the Distaff off of three straight graded stakes victories. That includes an unusual win in the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, in which she swerved around dramatically through the homestretch, but still managed to win by three-quarters of a length.
I’m not sure why Blue Prize acted up so much in the Spinster, but in my opinion, if she had maintained a straight course to the wire, she would have won by a much larger margin and with much higher speed figures. Even as it stands, Blue Prize’s Beyer and BRIS speed figures aren’t that far off of those typically posted by Abel Tasman and Monomoy Girl. It’s also a plus that jockey Joe Bravo will be aboard her for a second straight race; if he learned some of Blue Prize’s quirks in the Spinster, he might be able to help her stay focused in the Distaff.
Therefore, I’m going to take a shot here and key Blue Prize in the first two spots of the exacta and trifecta. If she wins or finishes second, I should have a strong chance to make a nice score; if she loses out to Abel Tasman and Monomoy Girl, I’ll be fine knowing that I didn’t miss out on too big of a payoff.
I’ll also include #1 Champagne Problems, winner of the Groupie Doll Stakes (gr. III) and runner-up behind Blue Prize in both the Spinster and the Locust Grove Stakes (gr. III). She’s another that wouldn’t need to improve much to finish on the board at a nice price, and having drawn post position one, perhaps she can work out a perfect ground-saving trip under the Hall of Fame jockey Calvin “Bo-Rail” Borel.
$5 exacta: 10 with 2,11 ($10)
$5 exacta: 2,11 with 10 ($10)
$2 trifecta: 10 with 1,2,11 with 1,2,11 ($12)
$2 trifecta: 2,11 with 10 with 1,2,11 ($8)