Breeders’ Cup Distaff cheat sheet

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The 2016 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff is the main event of the Friday, Nov. 4 card at Santa Anita Park and a worthy headliner. The field for the 1 1/8-mile race is so deep that a three-time Eclipse Award winner and previous Distaff winner, Beholder, could be the third betting choice thanks to the presence of undefeated superstar 3-year-old filly Songbird and Stellar Wind, who defeated Beholder in July and October.

The Distaff is a horse racing fan’s dream: star power, depth, Hall of Fame trainers and jockeys and an abundance of speed that might make strategy a big key to success. Let’s take a closer look at the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

1. Songbird (6-5)

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Owner: Fox Hill Farms

Career record: 11 starts – 11 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $3,372,000

Earnings per start: $306,545

Pedigree: Medaglia d'Oro – Ivanavinalot, by West Acre

Color: Dark Bay or Brown

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Unbeaten in 11 career starts, Songbird has emerged this year as a bona fide superstar with seven wins by a combined margin of 38 ½ lengths. Her biggest “scares” this year were a pair of 3¾-length romps in the spring. For much of the year, the big knock on Songbird was that while she was visually impressive, she had not been posting big speed figures. That changed when she earned a 122 Equibase Speed Figure in her final Breeders’ Cup prep race when winning the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes by 5 ¾ lengths. Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Songbird is in great hands, in impeccable form and is 5-for-5 on the main track at Santa Anita. She figures to be a heavy favorite for very good reason, but keep in mind that the Distaff will be her first time facing older females and she’ll have plenty of company near the front. Neither of those factors really matters if you believe she’s the best horse on the planet, which many people do.

 

2. Land Over Sea (30-1)

Jockey: Mario Gutierrez

Trainer: Doug O'Neill

Owner: Reddam Racing

Career record: 12 starts – 2 wins – 5 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $726,500

Earnings per start: $60,542

Pedigree: Bellamy Road – Belle Watling, by Pulpit

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: On paper, Land Over Sea looks overmatched in the Distaff, especially considering she’s lost her last two starts by a combined margin of 32 ¼ lengths and is facing one of the deepest Distaff fields in recent memory. On the other hand, she is one of the few closers in the field and could be doing her best running late after the others are running on fumes after contesting what figures to be a hot early pace. Land Over Sea is from the barn of Doug O’Neill, who trained dual classic winner I’ll Have Another and 2016 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands winner Nyquist and owns five career Breeders’ Cup wins. Land Over Sea has not won since posting a career-best 102 Equibase Speed Figure when winning the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March. It feels like she’s in deep water here…
3. Curalina (12-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners

Career record: 12 starts – 6 wins – 3 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $1,515,940

Earnings per start: $126,328

Pedigree: Curlin – Whatdreamsrmadeof, by Graeme Hall

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Pacesetter/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Curalina is one of several consistent, elite racemares lined up for the Distaff who, in an ordinary year, might vie for favoritism. She’s won six of 12 career races, including three Grade 1s, and has finished in the top three in 11 of those starts. Curalina finished third in the 2015 Distaff at Keeneland. She earned a career-best 118 Equibase Speed Figure for winning the 1 1/8-mile Shuvee Handicap in July at Saratoga and enters off a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes. She typically races just off the pace. In a race that could feature an abundance of speed, Curalina is fortunate to have the services of Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, a master at judging pace and making in-race adjustments.

4. Corona Del Inca (30-1)

Eclipse Sportswire
Jockey: Pablo Gustavo Falero

Trainer: Guillermo J. Frenkel Santillan

Owner: Stud Dona Pancha

Career record: 10 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $70,718

Earnings per start: $7,072

Pedigree: Luhuk – Inca Brava (ARG), by Acceptable

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker/closerNotable achievements and interesting facts: The Argentine invader is a true wild card in the Distaff. She closed from far back at 11.25-1 odds to win the Gran Premio Criadores, which earned her an automatic starting spot in the Distaff via the “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series. That race on May 1 was only her second start in a stakes race after she finished sixth, beaten by 30 ½ lengths, in a Group 2 race in March. She has been training well in Southern California, but this is a tough year to tackle this race with unbeaten Songbird, three-time champion Beholder and champion Stellar Wind topping a deep group of females in elite form.

5. Stellar Wind (5-2)

Eclipse Sportswire
Jockey: Victor Espinoza

Trainer: John Sadler

Owner: Hronis Racing

Career record: 11 starts – 7 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $1,353,200

Earnings per start: $123,018

Pedigree: Curlin – Evening Star, by Malibu Moon

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Last year’s 3-year-old champion  filly and Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff runner-up really cemented her place among the elite female racehorses by defeating three-time champion Beholder in back-to-back races when she won the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes in July at Del Mar and the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes in October at Santa Anita. What was most impressive was that in both races she looked Beholder in the eye and outdueled her to the finish line. Since finishing third in her debut, Stellar Wind has won 7 of 10 races with a pair of seconds. Her only off-the-board finish was the result of a troubled trip when fourth in the 2015 Kentucky Oaks. This is an elite racemare at the absolute pinnacle of her ability. She’s won 4 of 5 starts at Santa Anita and looms as the biggest threat to Songbird in a Distaff that is absolutely loaded with talent. Stellar Wind also has shown the ability to drop a little bit farther off the pace than some of the other contenders and still win, which could be valuable in a race loaded with speed.

6. Forever Unbridled (12-1)

Eclipse Sportswire
Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Owner: Charles E. Fipke

Career record: 13 starts – 5 wins – 3 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $1,411,600

Earnings per start: $108,585

Pedigree: Unbridled's Song – Lemons Forever, by Lemon Drop Kid

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Trainer Dallas Stewart pulled a 47-1 upset in the 2006 Kentucky Oaks with deep closer Lemons Forever, who just so happens to be the dam (mother) of Forever Unbridled. With so much speed in this year’s Distaff, it should set up perfectly for Forever Unbridled to pass tiring horses in the stretch while trying to dust off a little of that Stewart upset magic. Forever Unbridled has been terrific this year with three wins, one second and a third in five races, including a pair of Grade 1 wins. She enters the Distaff off of a score in the Grade 1 Beldame Stakes. Forever Unbridled's got class and talent, figures to get a perfect pace setup and should have very attractive odds considering her ability.

7. I’m a Chatterbox (12-1)

Eclipse Sportswire
Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Larry Jones

Owner: Grayson Farm

Career record: 16 starts – 8 wins – 3 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $2,209,614

Earnings per start: $138,101

Pedigree: Munnings – Chit Chatter, by Lost Soldier

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Pacesetter/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A three-time Grade 1 winner from the barn of trainer Larry Jones, I’m a Chatterbox will look to improve upon an eighth-place finish in the 2015 Distaff. She sandwiched a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign between clear victories in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap in July and the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes in October. I’m a Chatterbox is a little more versatile than some of the other entrants in that she’s won from on the pace and closing from as far back as 10th. This year’s Distaff is a tall task for I’m a Chatterbox.

8. Beholder (5-2)

Eclipse Sportswire
Jockey: Gary Stevens

Trainer: Richard Mandella

Owner: Spendthrift Farm

Career record: 25 starts – 17 wins – 6 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $5,056,600

Earnings per start: $202,264

Pedigree: Henny Hughes – Leslie's Lady, by Tricky Creek

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Beholder will attempt to join Goldikova as a three-time Breeders’ Cup winner. Unlike Goldikova, who won the Breeders’ Cup Mile three straight years, Beholder’s previous wins came in different races: the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2012 and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 2013. With another win in the Distaff, Beholder would join Royal Delta (2011, 2012) and Bayakoa (1989, 1990) as two-time winners of the race. A three-time champion – 2-year-old filly in 2012, 3-year-old filly in 2013 and older female (dirt) in 2015 – Beholder eclipsed the $5 million plateau in career earnings when she finished second in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes in her final warmup for the 2016 Distaff. Her Hall of Fame trainer, Richard Mandella, has won eight Breeders’ Cup races, all at Santa Anita Park, which is the host venue this year. Mandella won four Breeders’ Cup races during a storybook 2003 World Championships.

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