By: Eric Solomon
Race #9: The Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Dirt – 1 1/8 Miles) 3 YO+ Fillies & Mares
Purse: $2 Million
Todd Pletcher is looking to secure his third Breeder’s Cup Distaff win, and the dynamic duo that is sending out this year might give him a great chance to do just that. Nest (#6, 9-5 ML) and Malathaat (#1, 3-1 ML) are two fillies that are as blue-blooded as they come and they are the primary contenders in an eight-horse race, covering nine furlongs on the Keeneland main track. Malathaat was narrowly defeated in this race last year when she finished third, beaten only a half length. The pace that afternoon was blistering fast, and the closers had a definite advantage. Her trip was not ideal, as she was covered up, allowing Marche Lorraine to get first run on the tiring pacesetters. She has come back to have a strong four year old campaign, winning three times, and finishing second twice to Clairiere, who is also a part of this compact, but deep field. She is undefeated on this course, winning the Ashland last year, and both the Doubledogdare and the Spinster this year. There’s not as much speed signed on this year, but the horses that want to be forward are in the outside stalls. Her rail post should ensure that she finds a decent spot, likely tucked in behind the early speed, sitting midpack.
Nest is the 9-5 morning line favorite and is definitely the “now” horse coming into this race. Since finishing second in the Kentucky Oaks and the Belmont Stakes, she has won for fun in prestigious races like the Coaching Club America Oaks, Alabama, and the Beldame Stakes. Now she’ll be tasked with facing the deepest field that she’s seen so far. She has inside position on both Search Results (#7, 9-2 ML) and Society (#8, 6-1 ML), so Irad will have a decision to make if he wants to secure the rail and challenge them early, or defer and track the leaders. She is definitely a player in this race, but at 9-5 or lower, I think there’s better value on the board.
Search Results and Society are pace factors in this race. Search Results kept Letruska honest this year by pushing her hard in the Odgen Phipps and then keeping her in range in the Personal Ensign. She’ll break directly outside of Nest and inside of Society, who is coming in off a strong gate to wire in the Cotillion at Parx. I do believe that some of the other fillies in this race are a bit better than both of these runners, however, it’s worth mentioning that it was a significant advantage to be on or near the front end in dirt routes at the Keeneland Fall Meet. Over 70% of the two turns races run on the main track this fall were won by horses that either led gate to wire or were stalking the early pace. If it looks like that trend is continuing on Friday and Saturday, I would consider upgrading both of these fillies, especially if their price goes over their morning line figures.
Conversely, Clairiere (#4, 4-1 ML) might find herself up against it from a pace scenario in this race. Closers did not fare well at this meet and that’s the running style that has served this well-bred filly the best. She was a close 4th in this race last year, coming with a seven wide charge. She’s been very good in four of her five starts this year, which have been well-spaced by Asmussen. He closed well to run down Letruska and Search Results, while holding off Malathaat in the Odgen Phipps. She was the best horse in the Shuvee, coming from last to beat Malathaat once again. She was acting up prior to the Personal Ensign where she finished last of five as the beaten favorite. She’s listed at 4-1 on the morning line here. She’s beaten Malathaat on the square twice in her last starts. However, in their seven career head to head battles, her rival has finished in front of her five times. I’d need 6-1 or better to start thinking about her on top.
This race was won by a huge longshot last year when the Japanese invader, Marche Lorraine, pulled off the 70-1 shocker. There are three outsiders in this race, Blue Stripe (#2, 20-1 ML), Secret Oath (#3, 15-1 ML), and Awake at Midnyte (#5, 30-1 ML). Of that trio, Blue Stripe, the California invader, is the one that interests me the most. She lost badly in this race last year, finishing well behind the winner. However, she’s run three solid races in Southern California this year, winning the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch in her last start. I do think she’s better at longer distances, and the nine furlong trip here suits her better than some of the others. Realistically, I think she’s an interesting player at the bottom of the trifectas, but if her odds float over 30-1, I could see myself taking a small chance with her.
Top Pick: Malathaat