Today’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which has just six starters, is the best Breeders’ Cup race of the entire weekend. Four of the six fillies and mares have combined to win 11 Grade I stakes this year. One of them, Royal Delta, is seeking to win an unprecedented third consecutive Distaff, which was called the Ladies Classic the previous two years.
Five Breeders’ Cup races will be contested today and nine on Saturday. At stake is just about every divisional award and certainly the Horse of the Year title. Here are today’s picks.
CEASE Third in the 2012 Grade I Woodward, Cease has always shown ability. He was claimed three starts back for $100,000 by trainer David Jacobson and RAP Racing, and, with blinkers added, won his last start vs. softer impressively. WORLDLY He’s been in the money three straight, but is 0-for-8 the last two years. POOL PLAY Is just 1-for-12 the last two years. He beat Cease by a half-length winning the Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup in 2012. COMMANDER Speedster has won 10 of his last 15 starts, but was awful in this race last year. Saver: Suns Out Guns Out.
OUTSTRIP Godolphin gray colt was second and first in a pair of Group 2 stakes, then third at 9-5 in a Group 1 in his last start. BOBBY’S KITTEN Chad Brown colt followed a fast-finishing third in his debut with an easy maiden score and then a 6 1⁄4-length romp in the Grade III Pilgrim Stakes. He’s America’s best hope in this race. BASHART Returns to turf off a strong second in a Grade III stakes on synthetic. He won a Grade II grass stakes the race before. AOTEAROA With Lasix added, he won a $100,000 Santa Anita Stakes in his turf debut at 13-1 in last. Saver: Bon Accord.
PANTS ON FIRE He’s really stepped forward winning a Grade II and a Grade III stakes in his last two starts, defeating a couple of other contenders in here. BRUJO DE OLLEROS He finished fast when second by three-quarters of a length to Graydar in the Grade II Kelso at 11-1 in last. VERRAZANO Disappointed as our pick in both the Kentucky Derby and Travers. This is shorter and easier, but he’ll be tough to take at low odds. GOLDENCENTS He followed an 11th in the Kentucky Derby and a fifth in the Preakness with three consecutive close seconds in two Grade I and one Grade II stakes. Saver: Taptowne.
JUVENILE FILLIES TURF
CHRISELLIAM Won a Group 1 stakes in England at 24-1 in a much-improved last start. AL THAKHIRA Won a maiden and a Group 2 stakes in Great Britain in her only two starts. TESTA ROSSI French filly won her fourth consecutive race, the Grade III Miss Grillo at Belmont, in her first start with Lasix. CLENOR Since shipping to California from Ireland, she’s won three straight, the last an ungraded $101,000 stakes at Santa Anita at 3-5. Saver: Sky Painter.
PRINCESS OF SYLMAR She stretched her Grade I stakes winning streak to four by defeating Royal Delta by two lengths in the Beldame in an impressive first start against older fillies. She has eight wins and a second in her last nine starts, the lone miss a second to Close Hatches in the Grade II Gazelle. BEHOLDER Last year’s speedy Two-Year-Old Filly Champion comes into this race off a powerful victory in the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes and two incredibly strong workouts. She is 5-for-6 with one second at Santa Anita, but she did finish second by a half-length to Princess of Sylmar in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks. ROYAL DELTA She is the reigning Champion Older Mare, but she’s only won two of her last five races. CLOSE HATCHES She’s won two straight Grade I stakes and has split two decisions with Princess of Sylmar, beating her by 3 1⁄4 lengths in the Gazelle, then finishing a distant seventh to her in the Kentucky Oaks. Saver: Authenticity.
BEST BET: Outstrip, Juvenile Turf
BEST LONG SHOT: Pants On Fire, Dirt Mile