Best Division Could be the Female Turf
2015 was American Pharoah's year. There's no doubt that the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup Classic winner garnered the public's attention in an unbelievable way. 2016 figures to be back to horse racing business. The Triple Crown is great. It's the one event along with the Breeders Cup that people other than horse racing fans pay attention to every year. But horse racing is a day to day endeavor for horseplayers.
That reality, the horseplayers' reality, got me thinking about what the best division in horse racing might be this year. I'm not seeing a more interesting division, outside of the usual Kentucky Derby race, than what could happen in the Female Turf Division. The division is loaded. Horseplayers over the Atlantic and Pacific might decry the lack of great grass horses in the U.S. in the Male Turf Division. But, no one will doubt the quality of female turf runners this year.
Top Female Turf Division Runners
1. Tepin - The Breeders Cup Mile winner was awesome in 2015. Any other year and she would have gotten votes for Horse of the Year. That's how fantastic she was when winning the Mile. 2016 could be better for the Mark E. Cassee trainee. Expect Tepin to make another run at the BC Mile, winning a number of graded races along the way. She's possible for the Grade 3 Endeavour Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs at 1 1/16 miles over the turf in February. In 2015, Tepin won 3 Grade 1 races, she won a Grade 2, finished second in a Grade 1 and she finished second in a Grade 2.
2. Photo Call - Why would you buy the fifth place finisher in the 2015 Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf for $3 million? You'd buy her if you planned on sending her to the best trainer on the planet outside of Mr. Baffert, Todd Pletcher, and if you planned on taking over East Coast racing on the grass. That has to be the plan for Photo Call who was purchased on Nov. 3 for a cool $3M by Crupi's New Castle Farm. Previously trained by Graham Motion, the now 5-year-old mare should come into her own in 2016. In 2015, she won the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes at 1 1/4 miles over the turf at Santa Anita. The Breeders Cup is at Santa Anita this year. Expect big things from Photo Call in 2016.
3. Lady Eli - Hopefully, this brilliant daughter of Divine Park will get back to racing soon. According to Chad Brown in an interview on Jan. 14 her progress is "coming along well". Before suffering a bout of laminitis in her front feet, Lady Eli had won 6 races in a row including the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks. If she comes back as strong as she was before getting sick, she could definitely go head to head against any turf runner in the female division.
4. Sentiero Italia - It's not often that a horse goes from finishing 7th in a Maiden Special Weight race in March, to winning an allowance race in May, to winning a Grade 2 in September and then to finishing 4th in the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf to horses like Stephanie's Kitten, Legatissimo and Queen's Jewel in early November. That's what this Godolphin color bearer trained by Kiaran McLaughlin did in 2015. She could be a devastating runner in 2016. It's hard to imagine that she won't improve.
5. Dacita - Another Chad Brown trainee, Dacita bounced terribly in the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf, finishing 9th to Stephanie's Kitten, after beating Tepin in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga in August. She may have needed another race. But, who am I to be giving Chad Brown advice, right? It's hard to see this talented runner not turning it up a notch in 2016. Her closing kick is one of the best in the division.
6. Her Emmynency - I had to put a 6th horse on the list. Usually, the list would only have 5 but I was really impressed with this daughter of Successful Appeal out of a Joyeaux Danseur broodmare, Chic Dancer, in 2015. Trainer Michael Stidham could have the surprise runner in the division in 2016 with Her Emmynency. In 2015, she finished second to Sharla Rae and ahead of Prize Exhibit in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks in August. Stidham thought enough of that run to put her into the Grade 1 QE II Challenge Cup at Keeneland where she beat Miss Temple City and Sentiero Italia. She deserves some mentioning as a dark horse in a loaded division.
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